Saturday, May 07, 2011


An unofficial remake of the pre-Code melodrama SAFE IN HELL, this time with a male lead. Jimmy (Dick Purcell) is an ex-con taxi driver who gets shanghaied by some crooks into driving a getaway cab in a jewelry store robbery. After a clerk is killed, Jimmy knows the cops won't believe that he was forced into participating, so he escapes to a Caribbean island where he is beyond the laws of extradition. Smuggler Rocky Crane helps Jimmy get settled, but then wants Jimmy to help him run guns to the local revolutionary group and Jimmy refuses to join in. He gets a job at a hotel run by the crusty Mother Haines, and falls for her daughter Sally (June Travis), who is worried about Rocky's evil influences on her brother Danny (Alan Baxter). There's also Colonel Gomez, the ruler of the island, who thinks that Jimmy and/or Danny might know the names of the chief revolutionaries. Eventually, Rocky is busted on a gunrunning trip thanks to his wife Rita (Veda Ann Borg) who is sleeping with Danny on the sly. Rocky breaks out of jail and comes to kill Danny, but Danny kills Rocky instead. The political and the personal mix when Jimmy is arrested for Rocky's murder; Gomez doesn't seem to care all that much who gets executed for the murder, but he does still care about the shadowy rebels.

This is typical Warners B-movie fare for the time. The good news is that there is a fair amount of action and it's all over in just under an hour; the bad news is that the potentially interesting plot is rushed through. The interesting news (SPOILER!) is that the film ends with Jimmy able to stay on the island, not having to return to the States to make the case for his innocence, a far cry from the downbeat ending of the original, in which the main character was a prostitute charged with the death of a client. The unwholesome atmosphere of the original was one of its pluses; here, everything has been sanitized and questions of morality mostly simplified. The romantic leads are boring; Alan Baxter (pictured) shows some promise in his early scenes, but he isn't given much to do. Directed by John Farrow, Mia's father. Worth a look for B-movie fans. [TCM]

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