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Ordinarily you'd expect Lloyd Bridges to be tracking down perennial
villain John Hoyt. But here the usual roles are reversed-- Hoyt's the
government agent and Bridges the small time hood. The movie itself is
pretty typical of the docu-dramas of the period. It's the Treasury
Department's turn to get the Hollywood treatment with the usual glowing
introduction and stentorian narration. Though, like the stellar
docu-drama T-Men (1947), the docu part soon gives way to big city noir.
However, this film lacks importantly the former's grotesque air of
Director Fleischer and the writers manage a couple of nice twists,
particularly at the beginning. Nonetheless, the script makes a basic
error in switching the action from Stewart (Bridges) to Sylvester
(James Todd) in the climactic part. (Was Bridges taken ill or otherwise
made unavailable.) Unfortunately, Todd simply lacks the screen presence
to intimidate an audience or make us loathe him, whereas Bridges can
snarl and menace with the best of them. Thus the last third fails to
generate the kind of mounting dread required of an A-grade suspenser.
Then too, Hoyt's basically cold demeanor and cruel looks don't arouse
much natural sympathy that would encourage you to identify with him.
Thus, the suspense is further weakened by what should be an emotional
interest in the treasury agent's fate. The casting here really is a
departure from the expected and to the movie's detriment.
Note how the culminating shootout takes place at an industrial site--
the overnight barn for LA's late, lamented trolley system, where we get
a look at what could have eased LA's horrendous traffic problem.
Actually, industrial sites crop up in the climax of a number of crime
dramas of the period-- White Heat (1949), 7-11 Ocean Drive (1950),
Union Station (1950), et al. I guess producers of the time figured
running around big machines and shooting at each other would make for
colorful audience excitement. Of course, the movie's also notable for
the presence of notorious Hollywood bad-girl Barbara Payton, who was
involved in several tawdry Hollywood scrapes and apparently ended her
brief life as something of a cut-rate call girl ("Hollywood Babylon").
Whatever the direction of her private life, she's quite good here as
Bridges' shapely blonde moll.
Anyway, for its type, the movie's average at best.
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