Saturday, May 14, 2016

CRIME AGAINST JOE (1956)


Handsome John Bromfield plays the title character from a neighborhood where everyone has known him since childhood. It is a familiar story of guilty until proven innocent. In a nod to the twenty-first century, the nearly thirty-year-old Korean War vet still lives with mom. The neighborhood sees him as an out-of-work artist bum and frequent heavy drinker. He is so disgusted with his talent, he tells mother he is going to get drunk. Like his late father. She is very understanding.

His car ends up at a burger joint where his high school alum, Julie London, works as a car hop. Obviously drunk, she suggests he call a taxi from there. He requests his cabbie pal, Henry Calvin, to come and get him. Calvin keeps addressing London as his girl. That may be the first hard to believe moment. That London and rotund Calvin are an item. The second might be Bromfield as a drunk. It is a borderline comedy routine. Stumbling home in the early morning hours, he encounters Patricia Blair sleepwalking and kindly sees her home, her father answering the door. 

Not being depressed enough about his artistic talents, a girl is murdered who happens to have in her possession a high school class pin. Like the one Bromfield cannot locate. Blair’s father is called in as Bromfield’s time alibi. He is so embarrassed over his daughter’s sleep disorder he denies seeing ever seeing him. Bromfield’s past sessions for “battle fatigue” also go against him as does his frequency to destroy his unsuccessful female portrait paintings. Painting is hard. With no solid evidence but he being their only suspect, the condescending district attorney thinks they have their man. He does not understand art either. The third hard to believe moment is that the whole neighborhood thinks Bromfield should be run out of town on hearsay like so many other opinionated movie extras.  

London shows up with a bogus alibi to free him. The DA is incensed. Bromfield and London narrow down the high school pin suspects to a handful of former buddies. All of them prominent movers and shakers and none willing to help him. The film’s closing moments offer up a rapid twist, revealing the murderer.

Bromfield is always solid in his Bel-Air Production projects. His best probably being, “Hot Cars.” This film also benefits from location shooting, adding an historical look back for Los Angeles natives. I can forgive he is five years older than Joe is supposed to be. London is not as polished. She just does not seem that interested in the role but most posters try to sell the movie on her sultry figure. At seventy minutes, this is an okay B-movie despite the overused “railroaded” script device. I was particularly amused by this poster, repeated to promote the "psycho effect," in which the advertising department tries to sell Bromfield as a serial killer. Not only does the script railroad him so does this poster.

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