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Chester Morris, low paid office guy with a cheap flat in the city, a wife and two kids, wants a vacation to escape the worst heat in years. When he signs on the dotted line with a shady loan outfit, he soon finds that he has said "I PROMISE TO PAY" far more than he can afford. Will Chester and his family escape his debt to Leo Carillo's new-style, can't miss racket?
Despite a script that seems downright naive in spots, probably because of our exposure to numerous loan sharks in the movies, this a rather good programmer, that answers the question posed by many a Boston Blackie movie -- Is it possible for Chester Morris to put in a good performance? In this one, Morris' customary cockiness is only an aspect of his character (rather than his raison d'etre), and is mostly subordinated in his depiction of a decent but quietly desperate guy in a dead-end job who just wants to give his wife and kids a week in the country. The depiction of Morris' disintegrating life is contrasted, in best 30s fashion, against the over-the-top vulgarity of Carillo's mob-fueled wealth. Eventually, because movies like this had to have a happy ending in the 30s, the plot spins into a d.a. vs. mobsters vs. witnesses that won't talk that's resolved in favor of law and order. But until that point is reached, this movie is better than most of that era in showing the trials and tribulations of the lower middle class, and how a family copes with slowly creeping financial disaster.
Well worth seeing, both as a decent Warner's style crime drama, and a depiction of the 30s socially conscious mindset.
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