Tuesday, July 23, 2013


George Madison owns the Woodland Tavern on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, a nice, friendly town that is in the process of being overrun by a crime syndicate. A couple of thugs named Joe and Larry visit Madison and want him to install their pinball and gambling machines. When he refuses, they send out some phony labor protesters to picket in front of his establishment.  George holds out for a while until they threaten to throw acid in the face of his teenage daughter Ruth. He gives in and soon the Tavern is hopping, although it's been overrun by gamblers and loud jazz music. Ruth's boyfriend Benny assumes that, because of her father's business, she's a girl of loose morals and one night, he tries some hanky-panky with her in the woods. She sends him away but is then cornered by Joe, who has done time for fooling around with underage girls—"Hopheads aren’t nothin' compared to what ails him," another character says—and he assaults her, though George saves her before Joe can get very far. George sends his wife and kids away and gets in contact with some labor union leaders who are also fighting against the mob. He agrees to pretend to cozy up the thugs while wearing a wire to get evidence against them but soon the thugs smell a rat, and when Ruth reconciles with Benny and returns to Portland to attend a dance with him, she winds up in the middle between her dad and the bad guys.

This B-crime thriller isn't really in any way, shape or form film noir, but that’s how it's being sold on DVD. Hard-core noir fans won’t find much here but as a down-and-dirty crime melodrama, it's quite watchable. The setting, in a city but in a rural wooded area, is interesting. Edward Binns, familiar from well over 100 TV supporting roles, is serviceable as the average-Joe hero. Virginia Gregg, another TV face, doesn’t have much to do as his wife; Carolyn Craig is OK as the daughter, and the actor playing Benny is better (but uncredited). It's the villains that make this worth watching: Larry Dobkin (as Larry, at right) makes his character seem like a slow-witted goon but vicious and smarter than he looks, and Frank Gorshin (the original Riddler on TV's Batman, above left) is spectacularly slimy as the child-molesting Joe. Joe Flynn (the captain on McHale's Navy) has a bit part as a good guy. There's a fun scene in the last half involving a sweet old lady who is actually a madam arriving in Portland to start up a business; she wants only good girls, "no dipsos, no hopheads." [DVD]

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