The Crooked Road,produced by Republic not PRC, is one of those little B movies that anticipate the later noirs. The staff at the American Film Institute couldn't find a print to view when they published their 1931-1940 catalog in 1993 but a 52 minute version, edited from the original 67-8 minutes, is now making the rounds on video.It probably came from a TV package when Republic features of an hour or more were cut for a 60 minute time slot and for commercials.The story setup: A wealthy Southern California man(Edmund Lowe) about to be married is recognized by a hitchhiker(Arthur Loft) as being a former cellmate of his, and threatened with extortion. Meanwhile the blackmailer's woman (Claire Carleton)is attracted to a low life chemist (Paul Fix) Lowe puts on glasses and an accent and with a fake name moves into the chemist's apartment building, sneaks into his room, types two phony letters and steals a gun. He uses the gun to kill the blackmailer and incriminate the chemist, but doesn't realize the chemist has already been there and given the guy poison pills.The chemist's defense lawyer, and Lowe's friend (Henry Wilcoxon) argues the man couldn't have written the typed notes since he can't spell properly. New evidence turns up leading to Lowe: blood that was not previously visible at the crime scene, fingerprints, and a prison tattoo that Lowe carelessly sports when he is going swimming, in front of a detective! Meanwhile Wilcoxon and Lowe's fiancée (Irene Hervey) grow closer as they work together on the case. In a last minute twist, the Carleton character suddenly dies from taking some of those poison pills, and the trail leads back to the chemist. Far fetched, to be sure, and the direction by Phil Rosen is pretty basic, but it's a fun, fast moving hour.
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