Tuesday, December 06, 2011


This short B-film feels like a cross between a TV show and a movie, specifically Father Knows Best crossed with Double Indemnity. It begins in sit-com land around the suburban breakfast table with Dad (Jeffrey Lynn), Mom (Martha Scott), and the two kids. When the kids go off to school, conversation gets around to the problems the couple is having making ends meet. She talks him into asking his boss (Richard Gaines) for a raise, but as it happens, Gaines tells Lynn that he's about to be let go—the company is in dire financial straits. Over drinks that evening, Gaines makes Lynn a proposition: Gaines plans to kill himself so his family can get his life insurance money, but he asks Lynn to come to the house that night after the fact to shoot a gun through the window to make it look like murder and robbery so the insurance company will pay out. Gaines offers Lynn $10,000 so Lynn reluctantly agrees. The plan goes off alright, but when the police start suspecting Gaines' business partner (Henry O'Neill), who had been arguing with Gaines recently, Lynn doesn't know what to do: if he clears O'Neill, he could be arrested on a felony charge and Gaines's family will be destitute; if he remains silent, an innocent man might be charged with murder. But as the cops keep investigating, it starts to look like it might not have been suicide after all.

Though blandly directed, the plot is compelling enough to keep your attention for 70 minutes. Lynn, typically a supporting actor, is a big zero in the lead role, and Scott's character is underdeveloped, so that I ended up not caring what happened to the two of them, but Gaines (who had a small role in DOUBLE INDEMNITY as the clueless head honcho at the insurance company) is good, and even better is Harry Morgan (pictured above, on the left with Lynn in the back seat) who enters halfway through as the police inspector who solves the case (he's given a limp and a cane, though they serve no plot purpose). Katherine Emery is fine as the widow, and Michael Chapin, who plays Lynn's son, is the real-life brother of Lauren Chapin, who played "Kitten" on, to bring this review full circle, Father Knows Best. [TCM] (Note: Tomorrow, I'm off for the Turner Classic Movie cruise, so there'll no reviews for a week or so.)

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