Saturday, May 7, 2016

MILLION DOLLAR PURSUIT (1951)


At sixty minutes, it is the perfect length for a B-movie. This Republic Pictures vehicle sets a good pace and has all the cliché elements you would expect. The virtually unknown British actor, Norman Budd, plays a small-time crook whose ego is bigger than his brains. Doing his best American tough guy routine. The mob has shut him out but he still thinks he can rise to the top again. Being the dreamer he is, Budd also thinks he has a girlfriend in Penny Edwards, a nightclub singer at the club he used to own with Grant Withers. Though without a spotless record, Withers is the current sole owner and has taken Edwards under his wing. This is the same girl who was previously engaged to police lieutenant, actor Steve Flagg, who wants her out of the mob and into his life again. She cannot commit to his second engagement proposal until she finds out who framed her for the resulting short prison term.

A department store executive, Don Beddoe, drops a set of keys one night and Budd picks them up. After a scuffle at the club he is thrown out, leaving the keys at the bar. His buddy bartender, Denver Pyle, returns them the next day. The wheels start turning in Budd's brain and contacts locksmith, Rhys Williams. He explains that it is a special key used for vaults and the like. Williams makes a duplicate key with plans to easily steal a million and Pyle and Williams want in on it. The group grows to five but the robbery does not go well. A murder charge awaits one gang member. Plus, their take comes up 500K short and the bills are all marked. 

Panic sets in and Williams hopes Budd can get Withers to fence the useless bills for them. Withers arranges a meeting but Williams shows instead. Their location is overheard by the pretty singer who tells the handsome lieutenant. In typical fashion, gunshots buzz by automobile fenders and hoods, killing two human hoods in the process. Withers and his bodyguard also go down from bullets of one of the gang. Back at the hideout, a radio bulletin informs Pyle the other gang members were killed and thinks Budd had it planned all along. In another thoughtless reaction, Budd shoots Pyle in the back as he walks out on him. 

Figuring who tipped off the police, Budd returns to Edward’s apartment and in his anger tells her he framed her. She tries to settle him down but when that does not work, she manages to escape. He catches up with her in a warehouse. Imagine that? Now this rarely happens in crime films but she is held at gunpoint. Imagine that?! The lieutenant disarms the crook and they duke it out to a definitive end.

The acting is competent throughout with perhaps the exception of a melodramatic performance by Penny Edwards near the end being a bit overblown. Those scenes are more like we are watching a stage play. Denver Pyle is quite smooth and inhabits his character. Norman Budd’s short stature works pretty well as he tries to verbally cut everyone down to size with tough talk. He comes on strong but not over-the-top. His career was short as well, his last role just two years later.

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