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Roy William Neill
A tough district attorney has been cleaning up the town, and has already imprisoned twelve dangerous criminals. As he is about to name the target for his next investigation, he is murdered in the midst of a crowd. The police have many suspects and hardly any clues, so two reporters decide to investigate for themselves. Written by
The first picture released by the reformed Monogram Pictures Corporation, which was temporarily shelved from 1935-37 when its two owners, Trem Carr and W. Ray Johnston, joined with Mascot Pictures' Nat Levine and another independent studio, Liberty Pictures, to form Republic Pictures with Herbert J. Yates (owner of Consolidated Film Industries, a film processing laboratory) at the old Mack Sennett studio. The partnership held for a year until Carr and Johnston, chafing under the autocratic rule of Yates, left the company in 1937 and reformed Monogram. This is the first of a remarkable 20 features the studio would release that year. Monogram would always remain a low-budget outfit, its product geared for rural audiences and second-run theaters. In 1952 it changed its name to Allied Artists, hoping to erase the low-budget "stigma" associated with Monogram. See more »
The story is not quite new: on the night before his almost sure re-election, a D.A. - the kind that 'cleans up' with crime and underworld activities - in a final radio speech announces that immediately after the elections he'll arrest the next underworld leader after the 12 he's already brought to jail; the 13th man... He even names some of the 'candidates': a gambling racket leader, a nightclub owner, a corrupt hospital manager, a newspaper publisher, and even his own political opponent. Not surprisingly, on the same night he's murdered by a poisoned dart in the middle of a prizefight event, and the two reporter friends Swifty and Jimmy set out at once following the trail of blood - and that's exactly where all the suspense and all the atmosphere of this really special 'Poverty Row' masterpiece starts...
It's simply a feast for every fan of the reporter movie genre: it gives detailed insight into radio and newspaper work as it was in the 1930s (not that it's TOTALLY changed now: being a journalist will ALWAYS be more or less the same - I'm speaking from experience...), it conveys to you the fascinating atmosphere of the broadcasting studio and the editors' office room; and most of all, it describes the reporter instinct, that driving force that leaves everything else second: when a reporter on a hot trail invites a girl out to an expensive dinner, chances are that the rendezvous will finally end up at a hamburger stand... So the movie tells you clearly what to expect if you fall in love with a reporter - man or woman, no matter; in fact, the protagonist himself explains how things are: "Of course you don't have to be crazy to be a newspaper man, but it does help..."
In the meantime, the film also has a unique way of going through literally ALL kinds of emotions: true love, dark tragedy, romance taken lightly until the real feelings break through - and then again covered up by sudden, unexpected jokes; like when the reporter's secretary who's secretly in love with him starts being REALLY alarmed by the many death threats he gets and begs him to lay off the case, grasping him by his jacket: "Oh Swifty, if anything would happen to you, I'd... I'd..."
"You'd what?", he only asks - and there she lets go of his jacket,
turns away, shrugs her shoulders and just replies: "Well, I'd lose my job!" And he adds, equally unmoved: "Well, so would I!" ...
All in all, the movie is a REAL little gem that shows that a simple, cheap 'little' Monogram movie can be just equally moving and suspenseful as an expensive all-star film from one of the big studios; it's a first-class 'whodunit' that leaves us all puzzled until the end
we may have kind of an uneasy feeling from the beginning about who
did it, but it just seems too fantastic, too cruel - so we'll have to wait until that dramatic midnight radio broadcast climax where our reporter hero will announce who the murderer is... Don't miss this one, and don't think it's just another 'assembly line product' - it's REALLY different from most of the rest of them!
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