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I did not know this little movie produced by Republic Studios. I don't
know the director either. Not a crime movie but an entertaining mystery
yarn indeed. Typically from the early 40's, well paced and little
comedy too. Look for Peter Lorre in the Mr Hyde character.
Dennis O'Keefe is also the good surprise of this little movie.
It's always a good surprise to find this kind of forgotten film. The score is the same as the Republic serials, especially in the action sequences. In the car chase for instance. I did not expect so much from this feature.
It's available in the Forgotten Noir disc set.
Go for it.
This film is a few steps up from the Lippert films which predominate the Forgotten Noir Vol. 4 series. It's a Republic Film offering a much better cast than the Lippert films, including: Dennis O'Keefe, Peter Lorre and character actors Charles Halton, Dick O'Neil, Norma Varden and Grady Sutton. Mr. District Attorney doesn't take itself as seriously as the others and has a strong comedic edge to it. It's like a combination of screwball comedy and film noir. Story involves graft perpetrated by Lorre and a wacky reporter and rookie D.A. O'Keefe vying to solve the case. The cast helps move the proceedings along. One of the odder efforts in Forgotten Noir Vol. 4.
Someone decided that the radio series, Mr. District Attorney, was too serious and the film version should be crammed with comic relief. Thus you have Dennis O'Keefe as a Harvard law school graduate (summa cum laude no less) who's a nutcase in the courtroom and equally muddle-headed when he's assigned to find a master criminal named Hyde. From time to time, he literally bumps into Florence Rice as a newspaperwoman who's out to outwit the competition by solving the Hyde mystery. When O'Keefe isn't accidentally plunking her on her prat, she goes all out to get a scoop, hiding in the trunk of a car she suspects is en route to pick up Hyde. Fortunately, no key is required to open the trunk from the outside or the inside. Meanwhile, Peter Lorre -- as Hyde -- obviously thinks he's in a totally different movie, playing it psychotically straight, projecting the kind of sibilant menace of which he's the acknowledged master. As usual, he's terrific. Too bad the movie isn't, as well.
1941's Republic version of the radio series "Mr. District Attorney" is far more lighthearted than its source, starring Dennis O'Keefe as Prince Cadwallader Jones, rookie assistant to DA Winton (Stanley Ridges), assigned to an old case involving the missing Paul Hyde (Peter Lorre), whose hidden cache of embezzled loot mysteriously turns up at the race track. There are red herrings and murder victims, but it's a waste of Lorre, in a criminally small role. Florence Rice supplies much comedy as nosy reporter Terry Parker, who also shows a tendency to get into hot water. The 1947 version from Columbia was probably more faithful than this one, certainly more serious; highly enjoyable in a breezy style, upper class for Poverty Row's Republic Pictures, who followed it with a pair of little seen sequels, "Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case" and "Secrets of the Underground" (both featuring different actors in the lead).
Dennis O'Keefe has the dubious distinction of starring in two films
with the same exact title. But whereas the second Mr. District Attorey
is quite serious, this one at times crosses over into screwball comedy.
As in the second film O'Keefe is a bright young newly minted Assistant who is top in his class which was Harvard and he's got nice blue blood connections. District Attorney Stanley Ridges almost is hammerlocked into hiring him and in his first court appearance, so fastidious is O'Keefe about ethics that he wins an acquittal for gangster Ben Welden. That actually pays off for him later in the film in a very curious way.
O'Keefe is then assigned the toughest case in the office, one of a man who embezzled money which sad to say was marked and then he disappeared. Later on however a couple of those bills show up as being bet by Joan Blair who on a big longshot who comes in. Later on she's killed and so is Charles Arnt who gave her the money.
The real thief is Peter Lorre who is at his creepy best. He has disappeared and can't get at the money anyway which is recorded and hot. But Lorre has something on a lot of the bigshots in town who coincidentally enough are political opponents of Ridges.
Along for the ride is reporter Florence Rice who first hangs around O'Keefe because news seems to break wherever he is, but then they kind of like each other though her help is as dubious as Myrna Loy's for William Powell in The Thin Man.
The first Mr. District Attorney is nicely paced with a lot of laughs from O'Keefe and Rice who almost fall into the solution of all the crime. Mr. District Attorney on radio was a pretty serious program so no wonder they might have felt the need to make a more serious film with this title later.
This is one of three movies bundled on a DVD entitled "Forgotten Noir",
though I really wouldn't consider it an example of film noir. It's more
a kooky movie where one of the characters just happens to work for the
District Attorney. Dennis O'Keefe plays a recent Harvard Law graduate
and from the start he irritates his boss to no end. So, to punish him,
he's given a dead case--one no one else wants. However, when the
missing witness suddenly shows up, this becomes a very hot case and
O'Keefe and his spunky female reporter friend (what a cliché!!) do what
any assistant DA would do--investigate the crime and get caught up in
the middle of it.
The bottom line is that none of this is the least bit believable and the idea of these two kooky characters solving a crime is silly. But, the characters are likable and if you only look at it as a kooky B-mystery, you'll not be disappointed. Not bad, but clearly a low-budget B-film.
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