Monday, April 11, 2016


Dr. Frank Addison (Gene Barry) is a nuclear physicist who lives with his family at Los Alamos, which even after the war is a high security community. His wife Martha (Lydia Clarke) is concerned that their young son Tommy (Lee Aaker) uses the phrase, "If I grow up…" instead of "When I grow up…" and is frustrated about living at Los Alamos. One day during a school field trip in nearby Santa Fe, Tommy vanishes. The frantic teacher contacts Frank who tells her that he picked the boy up and forgot to tell her, but actually Tommy's been kidnapped by someone who wants Frank to deliver atom bomb secrets in exchange for their boy. Even though he's been told not to tell authorities, their friend Russ (Michael Moore) gets suspicious and soon the FBI snags Frank who was about to sneak some useless, outdated information out to the kidnappers. The agent in charge (Milburn Stone) agrees to the plan; the drop is made and the man who picks up the papers is followed, but it turns out he's just a patsy, and the real crooks, who are holding Tommy in an abandoned cliff dwelling, soon figure out that the info is no good. The FBI catch the bad guys' trail, but will they get there in time to save Tommy?

The title would seem to promise science fiction, or a film noir in the style of KISS ME DEADLY, but this is just an average crime melodrama with the unusual setting of Los Alamos and the hills of Santa Fe as background. As such, though, it works fairly well, building slowly to a tense finale which makes good use of the Puye Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico. The earlier scene of the stakeout as they follow the pick-up man is also well done. Gene Barry, whom I mostly know from the 60s detective show Burke's Law, is a little goofy looking and doesn't seem fully committed to his role, but everyone else is fine, especially 9-year-old Lee Aaker who would find more fame as Rusty on the 1950s Rin Tin Tin TV show. I often see Milburn Stone in comic relief parts but he's fine as the FBI man, and an actor named Michael Moore—not the current-day documentary director—gives good support at the family friend. This isn't exactly a cold-war propaganda piece—the atomic plans and the Commie crooks are mostly McGuffins here—but as a small-scale 50s crime movie, it's worth your time. Pictured above from left: Moore, Clarke and Barry. [DVD]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I'm oddly fond of Gene Barry. He doesn't get much attention but he did a few very worthwhile movies, especially the fine film noir The Houston Story (1956).