Saturday, September 12, 2015

CRY DANGER (1951)



Lending a noir flavor to this movie is a speeding passenger train at night beneath opening credits. Getting off the train is Dick Powell, a man sent up to prison for a robbery and murder he did not commit. His sentence drastically shortened when an alibi is provided. This film is great fun thanks to Powell's performance.

Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures for Olympic Productions, this is a tidy crime drama with lots of fun dialogue as Powell seems to be carrying over his Richard Diamond radio character with its glib humor, acting more like an experienced P.I. than a blackmailed ex-con. Though there is a heavier dose of sarcasm here. The lines roll off him second to none. Few had his ability to spit out these comebacks so charmingly yet with a tough guy hidden underneath. But he is not the only witty character written in by screen writer, William Bowers. The guy providing the alibi, Richard Erdman, turns out to be a total stranger to Powell, neither serving in the same division during the previous war as he alluded. Erdman, a war amputee, confesses that he is simply hanging around Powell in hopes of getting part of the 100K if it is recovered for his reward. Powell is suspiciously grateful for Erdman's fake alibi. Powell sets out to clear himself and another inmate—the husband of Ronda Fleming's character—sent up for the same crime. Causing some speed bumps along the way is a detective, Regis Toomey, who shadows Powell with his every step.


Powell and Erdman end up sharing a grungy mobile home in the trailer park where Fleming is living. Erdman is attracted to a sunbathing neighbor, Jean Porter, almost as much as he is to alcoholic beverages. Powell's humor pops up now and then in an effort to curb is roommate's reliance on strong drink. Porter plays the scene-blasting bimbo, who, when not modeling, is a highly trained pickpocket. A late example in the movie of Erdman's wit is when he is recovering from a gunshot wound and subsequent car crash. A case of mistaken identity as the hit was meant for Powell. Never lend a car to a pal. He delivers a gem, mockingly demanding the police chief provide him with a new wooden leg. In knotty pine. To match his den. 


Adding a dangerous element, not surprisingly, is William Conrad, the double-crosser who apparently is the one responsible for Powell's incarceration. There is a tough scene between them as Powell plays Russia Roulette with Conrad's head, who is flat on his back on top of his desk. Powell tells Conrad they get along better when he is on his back. Most of the time Fleming looks blandly aloof with a voice resembling a comforting cup of hot cocoa. Toomey has plenty of reasons of why he is following Powell and it includes Fleming.

Toomey would revive a similar role during the first season of television's "Richard Diamond." David Janssen carried the Diamond torch at the suggestion of Powell.


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