Saturday, May 21, 2011


In a small California town, a thuggish hobo named Frank (known by reputation as the West Coast Kid) arrives and asks his father, kindly and respected storekeeper Joe, for another handout. Joe, fed up with his son's bad ways, refuses, so Frank splits and decides to get some cash another way: he murders Pops, a drawbridge operator, and Bill, a railroad paymaster, so he can get his hands on the payroll money. A railroad agent, Rod Kendall, comes to town to investigate. All he has to go on is a fingerprint and the knowledge that the killer has a nervous habit of chewing on toothpicks. Rod gets some help from town doofus Elmer, who can identify the killer, and from Bill's grieving sister Martha. Frank, in hiding in hobo camps and on railroad cars, finds out that because the serial numbers of the stolen bills have been released by the authorities, all that money is useless to him. It isn't long before Joe realizes that it's his son who is the main suspect, and soon everything is tidied up in a climax involving a shootout and a chase up the drawbridge.

This hour-long crime film sounds better in summary than it plays out. The plot is decent, the production values are mid-to-low B, and there is some clever dialogue here and there, but the acting is fairly weak, especially from the leads, Kent Taylor as Rod and Sheila Ryan as Martha (who, to be fair, is given almost nothing to do except marry Rod at the very end). The reason to watch is Mickey Knox (pictured) who gives a solid performance as the vicious, nervous Frank. Morris Carnovsky is good as the father, and Sid Melton is bearable as the sparingly-used comic relief character Elmer. This film actually has Knox say, "Come and get me, copper!" and "They'll never take me alive!" Best dialogue: when Elmer, collecting evidence in a notepad, asks a woman her name, she says, "None of your puny business!" As she walks away, he replies, "How do you spell puny?" That's as funny as it gets. [DVD]

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