Politician John Litel tries to avoid being snared by boss Otto Kruger
"The Big Boss" (1941) is a Columbia programmer that I'd say is rated about right on IMDb at 5.5. With twists and some alterations, it tells the somewhat familiar story of two brothers, one level-headed and one wild who separate after their father dies, completely losing track of one another. The younger boy becomes a lawyer and then state senator (John Litel). The older boy, under a different name and unknown to Litel, becomes a powerful political boss (Otto Kruger). He runs a legal racket that involves buying up undeveloped land, securing state funds to improve it with chain gang labor, and profiting from the improvements. Litel is a real straight arrow and reformer who wants to be governor. Kruger fixes this but with no strings attached. Reporters Gloria Dickson and Don Beddoe lighten the show as they attempt to dig beneath the surface, and Dickson becomes quite attached to Litel and vice versa. Litel proves more difficult to manage than Kruger anticipated, leading to division in his coterie and worse troubles for both men. These are best left for viewing surprises.
The story moves along quite well and looks very good on the new DVD. Kruger has a way with complex characters like the one he plays here, but Litel, Dickson and Beddoe all hold their own. This is a solid b-picture that makes for reasonable entertainment.
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