Thursday, September 29, 2011


Cheapie Monogram mystery with a few good supporting performances and a moderately clever plotline to recommend it. As convicted murderer Ralf Harolde is led to his death, he tells a roomful of men gathered to witness the execution that he's going to name the man who paid him to commit the murder, but a poison dart kills him first. DA Ricardo Cortez makes the men submit to a strip search but finds nothing. The field of suspects is quickly narrowed down: is it Gavin Gordon, a representative of an anti-death penalty group (which consists solely of himself)?; is it Harry Holman, a candy-store owner who knew Harolde when he was a kid and who had in his possession a cigarette holder that could have been used to shoot the dart?; maybe it's George Pembroke, a laid-back (maybe a little too much so) businessman who has just recently been appointed to the parole board. Cortez enlists a reporter he's sweet on (Joan Woodbury) to help him crack the case, and together they do. I usually like Cortez, but he comes off as bland and colorless here. At least Woodbury has some energy. Both Gordon and Pembroke are good, as is Iris Adrian as the dead man's ex-girlfriend who knows a little too much for her own good. George Breakston, who had a modest career in the 30s as a child actor, has a couple of nice comic relief scenes as Cortez's switchboard operator who has all kinds of theories about the case, based on true crime books he's reading. A point of interest for librarians: the clue that cracks the case open involves a library book call number. If you overlook the bare-bones production values and style (except for a nifty use of triple-split screen during a phone conversation), it's diverting enough. [TCM]

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