Saturday, August 6, 2016


For the first twenty-five minutes this barely noir film appears to have potential with its dark shadows and the moody, waiting game atmosphere of poker. The film starts strong with a wounded criminal, a girl who belongs somewhere and the whine of Dan Duryea’s voice. But it all falls apart in the vast middle, becoming a predictable romantic melodrama. It is as if you changed channels and watched another movie before returning for the final ten minutes of noir. Even with a couple of A-list actors, this disappointing film goes nowhere but Mexico City. The opening music theme is befitting a soap opera, which should have been my clue.

Perennial bad guy, Duryea, plays the gangster mastermind of a recent bank job. His partners are William Conrad, King Donovan and Jack Elam. The latter in such a brief role, it is irrelevant here. The mobsters travel with their own doctor, James Mason, who immediately has to attend to Conrad’s flesh wound. In the mix is Marta Toren, who is supposed to be Duryea’s girl but she loves Mason. Mason does not trust the group. Toren in general, Duryea specifically. The slickest scene in the film has Mason giving Duryea something for his headache. Over the years a standard procedure after a tense heist. Mason closes his medical bag and also the matching bag with the 200 grand. He intends to walk out with the loot and Toren wants to go with him. Guns are drawn on Mason but he tells Duryea the “aspirin” he took will actually put him into convulsions in under two hours if he is not given the antidote. Without it, he will die. Since Mason has the knowledge about the antidote, all three watch Mason and Toren leave. Sweating, Duryea hopes Mason’s long distance call with the antidote will come true. Donovan is particularly out of sorts over his disappearing share of loot and in a rage attempts to shoot him from their second story apartment. Duryea, literally, calls the shots in the gang and a bullet releases Donovan’s share. The King is dead.

The nervous couple is off to Mexico as quickly as possible because the pill Mason gave Duryea was a placebo. The next forty-five minutes is a completely different film. But you will have plenty of time to fix that sandwich or wash your car. Mason’s medical practice becomes useful to the locals and as he warms to Toren’s advances, both appear to be living happily ever after. One wonders if Duryea and Conrad have already started work on their next picture because it does not appear as though we will see them again in this one. Thankfully, Mason and Toren want to be free of their past and both think it best to return the money and end this film noir like it started.

Mason arrives on a dark, rainy night to find that Conrad has double-crossed Duryea, mortally wounding him. Conrad demands Mason take the stack of bills out of the leather bag and place them on the table. Stack after stack, Mason complies. But a surprise awaits Conrad with a bullet out the bottom of the bag. Mason and Toren meet in the pouring rain and happily embrace. With great relief he confesses, “I really thought my number was up today.” Never say that at the end of a predictable film noir. Let us just say he should have looked both directions when crossing the street, especially if it is not a one way street.


  1. Thanks for submitting to The Classic Movie Marathon Link Party

  2. You mined humour out of the disappointment of a noir gone wrong. And you did it very nicely. My read of the day!