Thursday, August 18, 2011


John Derek is a star crime reporter for the New York Express, a once-respectable newspaper that is now a sensationalistic tabloid run by the brusque Broderick Crawford. Stockholders don't like the direction the paper has taken, believing they are pandering to the tastes of "base morons." Feature writer Donna Reed is sweet on Derek but also hates the paper's direction and Derek's sneaky ways of getting a story. One night, at a lonely hearts dance sponsored by the paper, Crawford meets up with his wife (Rosemary DeCamp), a woman he dumped years ago, after which he changed his name and hid his past; still bitter, she threatens to expose him but during a vigorous argument, he accidentally kills her. Of course, Derek jumps on the story and Crawford has to simultaneously encourage him to find the killer while staying one step ahead of him, and Reed, and the cops.

This B-thriller with a noir touch is a little gem. There are plot elements from THE BIG CLOCK (the killer boss whose employee is investigating his crime) and DOUBLE INDEMNITY (the older guy mentoring the younger guy). Crawford gives a sterling performance, all sweat and bluster and fear; Derek (pictured above) is handsome and sincere; DeCamp's role is small but she makes a strong impression as a bitter, desperate woman near the end of her rope. Reed is OK--her role is the weakest--but veteran supporting player Henry O’Neill is a standout as an alcoholic ex-reporter who gets involved in the case, with tragic results. Based on a book by Samuel Fuller and directed by Phil Karlsen (KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL). Maybe not a great movie but a very good one, and required viewing for noir fans. [TCM]

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