Friday, March 28, 2014


The day before an atomic blast test is scheduled to take place in the Yucca Basin in Nevada, Stephen McNally and Paul Kelly break out of a Carson City prison. With Kelly wounded, the two pick up another convict and wind up at a gas station where McNally pistol whips and eventually kills the owner, taking Alexis Smith and her boyfriend hostage. Meanwhile, reporter Keith Andes, who has been assigned to cover the breakout, is on the road having picked up Jan Sterling, a showgirl heading for Reno. Their path soon crosses that of the crooks, and when Smith's car runs out of gas, McNally forces everyone into Andes' car. Even though Smith is estranged from her husband, McNally finds out that he's a doctor so he forces Smith to send for him to patch up Kelly; the whole group holes up in a ghost town waiting for him, unaware that they are at ground zero for the atomic blast which will take place at sunrise. This is a solid, tense thriller that briefly makes you think they might actually blow everyone up, good guys and bad. Aside from the novelty of the setting, the cast of B-actors is the most interesting thing here. Kelly always provides reliable support, especially as a villain; I'm always happy to see the handsome Andes (pictured with Sterling) pop up, and Alexis Smith is one of my favorite B-level leading ladies of the classic era. McNally is serviceable, though as he is the lead baddie, I wish he and Kelly had switched roles. Richard Egan shows up briefly as the doctor and Robert Paige is fine as Smith's lover. My favorite line—socialite Smith to chorus girl Sterling: "You must run into a lot of men in your line of work"; Sterling to Smith: "I run into a lot of men when I’m just loafing." Dick Powell directed; even though the tension comes and goes, it's worth sticking around for the ending. [TCM]

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