Saturday, November 5, 2016

COUNTERPLOT (1959)


Forrest Tucker and Allison Hayes together at last! A stale tale of murder, a conniving  lawyer and an expressionless boy in one sleepy location, Puerto Rico. The United Artists film is, literally, a real sleeper with opening music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter that has all the sentimentalism deserving this movie. Jackie Wayne plays the young errand boy looking out for Tucker who is in hiding for an assumed murder. Judging by the dark makeup, Wayne is supposed to be a native San Juanian. He seems to worship Tucker and he likes their “just guys” arrangement. No icky women around. Tucker frequently scolds him for not doing what he is told, however.


Nightclub singer and icky woman, Hayes, has a past with Tucker and Wayne thinks she is the reason for Tucker’s trouble. Upon her arrival, she and Wayne spot each other but he does not acknowledge her at first. His lie about Tucker’s whereabouts are not convincing. Hayes is soon addressed by another familiar face, corrupt lawyer, Gerald Milton, the San Juan Shyster. The burly actor with his clear, commanding voice never uses contractions when speaking. It reminds me of one who commands people to do their bidding. A delivery that is two-thirds sultan and one-third Tonto. Even though Hayes says she is back to perform at her former gig, he suspects she is in town to find Tucker. Their cat and mouse conversation reveals more about Milton than the location of Tucker.

Milton comes to Tucker’s legitimate aid, however, keeping his hiding place secret from the adhesive-moustached Richard Verney, business partner of the man murdered. With a tempting offer to represent him legally, Milton gets Verney to spill his guts about who actually committed the murder. All the while being secretly recorded by Milton. Tucker had decked Verney’s partner during insults and feared his fall to the floor accidentally killed him. Tucker fled. Watching from another room, Verney finished off his partner to inherit the Acme insurance policy (no kidding) against his death. He is killed with a most gentle, choreographed head pounding against the floor which actually looked like he was trying to wake him. Wake up little buddy! Clearly irritated with most anyone, Verney delivers his lines with a tight lipped, disgruntled delivery of his best bad guy impression. His tenor voice sounds amateurish as many of his lines trail off to a whining end.

Milton’s assistant and legman, Miguel Angel Alvarez, double crosses him and tells Verney where Tucker is hiding. Milton struggles to get control of the Alvarez’s gun. When The Shyster bends over to retrieve it, he gets a letter opener in the back. Milton is able to get two shots off with a final, “You interfered. I make payment.” Him plenty dead. Meanwhile, to prevent Tucker’s death by Verney’s gun, the boy shoots him in the arm with Tucker’s gun. Tucker later tells the boy that today he has become a man. He finally shot someone. He pours a “shot” of whisky for each of them and teases him to take the drink. The boy is confused, hesitant and quickly puts down the drink in embarrassment. Tucker laughs at him. We do not know what happens with the boy after Tucker and the icky woman get back together. But that laugh will probably have a lasting effect.

One funny editing note. As Hayes finishes her song, accepting applause, the camera cuts to Tucker’s face then back to Hayes who is now in a completely different dress. Therein lies the popularity of her club act. The ability to change clothes so fast no one can see her do it. David Copperfield would be incredulous!

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