Thursday, June 20, 2024


We see insurance investigators Joe (Charles McGraw) and Harry (Louis Jean Heydt) wrap up a case in a Cincinnati hotel. At the airport, as Joe waits for his flight, a young woman named Diane tells the clerk that she’s Joe's wife so she can get half off on her fare. Next to him on the plane she confesses her plan and Joe lets it slide. When the plane has to make an overnight emergency landing, they are booked into one hotel suite. He flirts with her but she says she has ambitions beyond someone like him. (Can you catch the film noir femme fatale scent yet?) Later, in Los Angeles at Christmas, Joe and Harry are assigned to investigate Kendall Webb, a wealthy but shady man who is thought to be the mastermind behind a big fur robbery. Webb’s mistress turns out to be Diane who, despite having been given two furs by him recently, is sure that Webb is not who they're looking for. Thrown back together, sparks fly between Joe and Diane, so much so that he goes crooked. He lets Webb know about a big cash delivery that his company is protecting, and helps him to get the cash in exchange for a part of the booty so he can treat Diane in the manner to which she has become accustomed. The robbery is a success but a postal clerk is killed so the heat is on. Joe and Harry are called on to investigate, and thanks to Double Indemnity, we know how it all will turn out.

Shown as part of the Criterion Channel's Holiday Noir series, the holiday scenes are minimal, but the noir content is solid. Joe is a likable nice guy, led astray by a greedy woman, and has to hide his double life from his partner Harry who is ultimately instrumental in bringing Joe down. Peopled with lesser-known B-actors, the cast is still quite strong. McGraw had a lengthy career, often playing a gangster, and here his gruff quality works well in keeping us on our toes about his behavior: he's a good guy but it seems obvious from early on that he will let lust blind him to his morality. Joan Dixon (Diane) excels as a golddigger who is a bit gruff herself, but seems genuine later when she tries to stop Joe from helping to pull the job. This is the most screen time I've ever seen given to Louis Jean Heydt, who is recognizable in Gone With the Wind, The Big Sleep, Commandos Strike at Dawn, and The Great McGinty, among dozens of other small roles. Milburn Stone is a detective tracking Joe. The last car chase is a good one, shot in the Los Angeles river culvert which is familiar from Grease, Cleopatra Jones and Them! It’s nice to see a movie marketed as a film noir that actually is. Pictured are Dixon and McGraw. [Criterion Channel]

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

looks like a good one, putting it on my list! Thanks, TR B-movie Gazette