Two innocent men are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The fiance of one of them convinces a police detective of their innocence, and together they try to find the real ... See full summary »
Two innocent men are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The fiance of one of them convinces a police detective of their innocence, and together they try to find the real killer before the men's execution date. Written by
According to The New York Times review, the title of Joseph F. Dinneen's story was "Murder in Massachusetts," but it was not mentioned in the credits because of a vague threat by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which did not wish any implication of inefficiency of its police, prosecutor or court system. The story was based on the fact that two taxicab drivers were identified by seven of eight witnesses as two of the three men who murdered a man during a 1934 theater robbery in Lynn, Massachusetts. Their trial was in progress for two weeks when the real killers were captured in New York City and confessed; the taxicab drivers were released and two of the three criminals were eventually executed. See more »
A strange little film right before the official start of films noir
This is a dark tale about two likable people. Well, three, if we count Ralph Bellamy: He is tossed at us in medias res and is not convincing as a police lieutenant.
The young lovers are Maureen O'Sullivan and Henry Fonda. He drives a cab. She works in a restaurant. He wants them to marry and is planning to buy a cab and maybe a few, to start a fleet.
Two decades before he starred in the Hitchcock film of this name, though, he is the wrong man. Not for the adoring (and lovely) O' Sullivan. No, he is erroneously arrested for a robbery -- and falsely identified by a pack of jackals who'd been at the crime scene.
One thing I noticed is the response O'Sullivan has when he takes her to look at some nice little homes. She's thrilled and grateful. It's amusing to contrast this to the scornful way the Audrey Totter character acts when Richard Basehart, her unwisely adoring husband in "Tension," takes her to see a little house in the suburbs he's picked out for them.
Lucien Ballard was a marvelous cinematographer -- here and always. This movie has the feel of German Expressionism, which includes a Weill-like musical score. But I'm not sure how much of the Expressionism is intended and how much is a matter of budget: For example, there are several scenes in which snow falls. The snow has a highly unreal look. It really LOOKS like soap flakes. And in an early scene when O'Sullivan humors a drunk at the restaurant where she works, the other diners laugh in the oddest way: We're meant to feel they take it in a goodhearted manner. But it sounds for all the world like a laugh track or the audience at a vaudeville show.
The change in Fonda is very impressive. I really empathized with his feeling at the start that everything is going his way; that the world is a wonderful place to be. If this were a musical comedy, a song to that effect would have followed. But Fonda didn't make musicals. It's pretty clear that he's going to be disabused of this notion; I've been there too. And he is indeed.
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