Friday, July 03, 2015


On a cruise ship, slick card sharp Mike Sarno (Kane Richmond, pictured) observes a poker game and notices that the supposedly wide-eyed innocent Fay (Bernadene Hayes) keeps winning; he realizes she's fleecing the men, so he gets into the game and fleeces her. Later, she confronts him and asks for a part of her winnings back, and they wind up partnering, posing as brother and sister so they can double their gains. We learn that Sarno has a brother who owed a $4,000 debt to gambler Morelli and is in jail for embezzlement—he stole bank funds to pay the debt and was caught, though he managed to hide the money. Sarno tells his brother that he'll get the money and feed it a little at a time to his wife, but instead he takes the bulk of it for himself. Three more plotlines develop: 1) Sarno and Fay take on a long-term fleecing project on John Randall, eventually running him into near-bankruptcy; 2) Sarno starts romancing Ruth (Gloria Warren), who is dating Randall's son Bob (Peter Cookson) who works in the DA's office, making Fay jealous; 3) Sarno catches Morelli trying to cheat the patrons of his gambling establishment by faking a robbery, so he wrests control of the casino from Morelli. It should come as no surprise that Sarno, having made a few enemies, winds up dead, but who’s the killer?

This plot-heavy Monogram B-movie (not really a noir as some claim) should be more fun than it is, and I think it's that twisty plot that’s the problem. It’s easy to follow, but at 70 minutes, not much gets developed past the bare bones so there's little at stake for the audience in terms of caring about characters or situations. The acting is good, however, especially Richmond (who reminded me of a low-budget Jon Hamm), Philip Van Zandt as Morelli, and Charles Trowbridge as Ruth's guardian. For this to work as a film noir, we'd have to be more invested in the Sarno character; as it is, when he's killed, I didn't really care a bit. OK, but not very compelling. [DVD]

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