Saturday, August 27, 2016

MISSING WOMAN (1951)


This is a fun way to spend sixty minutes with one of the most abrupt endings in B-moviedom. The story moves along in tidy fashion, leaving much of the 35mm film on the cutting room floor, yet it will task your suspended disbelief sensibilities. Standard night scenes of the era were created with filters along with a limited use of studio backdrop driving scenery. There is a fair share of location filming however and one brief chase scene for the auto and highway patrol motorcycle enthusiast.

Taller than many actresses of her era, pretty Penny Edwards plays the title character. We have no background on her character other than she is a newlywed. She and her husband’s honeymoon auto is hijacked by two car thieves, James Millican and John Alvin. Millican puts a slug in her gallant husband and with a blow to the head, she falls forward on the steering wheel. The depressed horn continues, signaling local officers patrolling the area. Her character then becomes implausibly polished to pull off the potentially deadly scheme she has in mind. Maybe she was a former FBI agent.




While being questioned by the local authorities, Edwards gets the idea to go undercover to locate the killer of her husband and report his location to the police. She has a lot of savvy for this sort of thing and certainly knows how to bamboozle everyone. All we know is she has experience utilizing a fake persona. Five years on Broadway? Her assumed photographic memory comes into play as she only briefly reads a prisoner’s rap sheet but has all the details down pat. Apparently women come in handy as a distraction during a car heist, so she goes from brunette to Edward’s natural blonde hair in a complete reversal of television’s Richard Kimball. She rolls with every conversation like a pro. We are not sure at what point she will feel in over her head with this charade, but you know it is coming.

She gets the honor of meeting Robert Shayne, the boss of the chop-shop. In an awkward scene, after she is driven to the shop location to look around and meet all the nice fellows, Alvin bids her goodbye until later. She walks out the side door and I wonder where she is going. She has no car. She has no place of her own. The director must have dozed off during the dailies.

Per usual, there are bits of unintentionally funny scenes for twenty-first century replays. Bureau of Missing Persons officer, James Brown, gets a tip on Edward’s whereabouts but it is so screwy, her being undercover and all, he tells his superior he might as well file it in the trash can. The superior, in a serious reply, “Never file anything in the trash can.” Oh...right chief. And another. Edwards knew one thief by the name of Hans and with that to go on the superior officer writes down “Hands” on the backboard. He spends countless hours trying to make sense of the nickname and make a connection with it. James Brown enters the room and erases the “D” and suddenly the mystery is solved.

Police locate Edwards and she begs to go back and help round up Shayne and gang. They seem to think it is quite dangerous to return but tell her to try and stay alive. Bolstered with that encouragement, her missing person’s reward poster is spotted by Alvin and her undercover work appears to be coming to an end. We learn that everyone in a chop-shop carries a gun. The ending shootout with police includes the trademark Republic Pictures gun sound from their many westerns. And then the film ends abruptly. The director looked at his watch and announced we are done here, folks. Edwards transitions to television in the 1960s and retires. Abruptly.

2 comments:

  1. I think I need to become more of a B movie fan. Thanks for submitting to this week's The Classic Movie Marathon Link Party

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  2. In many cases, the B-movie actors/actresses are very dependable. Whether stuck with a bad agent, poor decision making, weak co-stars or just love to act in whatever, many transitioned to TV and nearly forgotten.

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