Country lawyer Lynn Hollister comes to the city to investigate the murder of a friend found shot after spending the evening in The Inferno, a night club that fronts for an illicit gambling operation. It is covertly run by an affable but corrupt politician, 'Boss' Tom Cameron, who uses voter fraud to maintain influence on city hall and the governor's mansion. Hollister learns that his friend was a winner in a dice game on the night of the murder and threatened exposure of Cameron's vice racket. Complications arise when other underworld forces vie to take over Cameron's operation, and Holister falls in love with Cameron's beautiful daughter. Written by
A strange mix of comedy and drama that doesn't really work
In New York, a small-town basketball player stumbles out of kingpin Cameron's club, Inferno, gets struck by lightening and dies. Investigation reveals he was shot but the papers are put under pressure to report it as a suicide. Lawyer Lynn Hollister arrives the next day from Spring Valley to investigate the death, firm in his belief that his friend would not have taken his own life.
From the plot summary, this film sounded like Wayne would be in a tough-talking crime thriller where he uncovers a political web of corruption. However, despite the dramatic (rather supernatural) opening, for over an hour it simply isn't that at all. It actually seems to aim for some sort of light comedy where Lynn is very much the small-town hick who greets everything with a smile and an `ahh-schucks'. This is not a bad thing but it doesn't really sit with the dramatic intensions.
After an hour, Lynn turns on those he has been feeling out for a while, but even then it keeps the gently comic tone in spits and spats. However the arrival of tough talking (even with comic interludes) is welcome and it helps the film a great deal in the final 30 minutes. The lack of tension and excitement is not so much due to the comic stuff as it is to the lack of a really tight, coherent script. The film is about the powerful Cameron who has his hands everywhere - controlling the media and the politicians just enough to put the squeeze on them. However the film doesn't deliver this well enough and I was left unconvinced by the size of the web - and therefore rather uninvolved in the whole film.
Wayne is OK at the comic stuff and the tough talking stuff but it's like he's flicking a switch in this film - tough one minute, completely different the next; it spoils his character a bit. Why his character is called Lynn is beyond me as I've never heard it for a boy before - although Wayne's no stranger to unusual names. Dee is dark and sexy in a good role, but she isn't given enough time. Ellis is OK but fails to come across as the master that the plot requires him to be. A small role for noir favourite Ward Bond adds to the interest.
Overall this is an OK film but it's mix of comedy and drama just doesn't work and it gives the film an uneven feel. It turns it around a bit in the final 25 minutes but by then it is too late to build tension. The power of Cameron never really comes through and, for the majority of the film, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a whimsical romantic comedy rather than a murder mystery film.
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