Saturday, May 21, 2016

THE TURNING POINT (1952)


This film grabs you from the start with escort sirens blaring as district attorney, Edmond O’Brien, arrives in court with breaking news about inroads in bringing down a crime syndicate. Not as optimistic is news reporter and childhood friend, William Holden. He is skeptical of O’Brien’s approach to bring down crime boss, Ed Begley, who has half of San Francisco in his pocket and Holden can confirm it. Caught between Holden and O’Brien is the latter’s assistant and possible girl, Alexis Smith. Holden and Smith get off to a rocky start but it is clear her future could result in better looking children than with O’Brien. 

When O’Brien’s father, career cop Tom Tully, is selected as lead investigator he balks at first. We quickly learn why as cynical Holden decides to tail him to meetings with Begley and crew. Meanwhile, O’Brien is grilling Begley in a hearing and the situation looks bleak for Begley. The DA reveals his shadow company, on the ground floor of multi-purpose apartments. Begley’s books are located there. With the DA aligning the facts and soon connecting the dots, just burning the books is an obvious option. He makes the snap decision to blow up the entire building. Everyone will blame it on a recent report that the building had faulty gas lines. But even his henchmen, Ted De Corsia for one, is appalled he would do such a thing. In a ruthless, selfish and terrorist act, the entire building is set ablaze with surviving men, women and children moaning and crying in the explosion’s aftermath. One of the justifications for having the poster’s encircled advisory. O’Brien soon arrives and this becomes a pivotal scene for him and places an otherwise standard script over the top.

O’Brien feels his pressure on Begley is responsible for the carnage and he is ready to throw away all his hard work. Holden challenges him not to give up and in a huge blow of truth, reveals his father’s involvement and his demise which was planned by Begley, not a random robbery shooting. Enter Neville Brand, in his usual early psychotic hitman role, hired to take out their most dangerous foe, Holden. In the midst of a boxing arena. Good luck. Brand’s choice of weapon from a difficult vantage point and range is not his only frustration. The match ends quickly in a knockout, leaving Holden obscured by the exiting crowd.

Stellar performances by A-list actors is the main reason this film might be outside the B-movie category. “The Turning Point” is a well-worn script but an excellent, believable and fast-paced movie with standout roles for O’Brien, Holden and Begley. O’Brien especially reigns in his acting skills to a perfect level. Unsurprisingly, Ray Teal is in this film as he seemingly was in every film for over forty years. A Ray Teal film festival could run 24/7, two months straight.


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