Long out of circulation, FRISCO LIL is unlikely to draw any interest except for buffs who specialize in Universal B movies of the forties. For those whose tastes run in that direction, this is a slick and well-paced example of the sort of bread-and-butter fare the studio routinely ground out in between Abbott and Costello comedies and their famous monster rallies.
Although the title suggests a rough-and-tumble Barbary Coast-themed action picture (a la Universal's similarly titled FRISCO SAL with Turhan Bey released a few years later), this film is strictly modern-dress and primarily set in a swank 40s style gambling parlor.
Irene Hervey plays a law student who is forced to interrupt her studies when her father (Minor Watson), a smalltime casino operator, is fingered in a murder rap engineered by his unscrupulous partner (Jerome Cowan). The Hervey-Watson relationship initially appears slightly unseemly as our first glance of the pair has them affectionately nuzzling each other in a train compartment although both are well above the age when his sort of thing is acceptable even in close family relationships. The script quickly establishes a conventional romantic interest for Hervey in the form of college professor Kent Taylor, however, and the film settles into the main plot of the leading lady going undercover in an attempt to clear her father's name. Taking a phony name and landing a job in Cowan's organization as a dealer and card shark, Hervey gradually amasses evidence against the villains decked out in an array of fetching Vera West gowns until the climactic shootout.
Horror movie and comedy veteran Erle C. Kenton directs the film capably and gets crisp performances from studio contract players Hervey, Taylor as well as the ever-avuncular Samuel S. Hinds who seems to have worked nonstop at Universal all through the war years. Hinds even does a funny turn as a tipsy gambling house patron, slightly reminiscent of his role as the crooked politico in DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. Jerome Cowan exudes oily charm as the heavy and Milburn Stone is okay in the offbeat role as Hervey's slightly dimwitted accomplice.
This is the sort of B-picture which hasn't gotten a television airing in decades and since a DVD release is unlikely, interested parties' only recourse is to be on the lookout in the bootleg video market.
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