Julie Bronson (Jean Parker), whose father, "Pop" Bronson (Emmett Lynn) operates a desert café, is attracting the unwanted attention of a half-crazed gangster known as The Ghost (Ricardo Cortez) who runs a desert night club several miles away. The Ghost knows that "Pop" Bronson is an escaped convict and blackmails him into using his desert shack as a warehouse for "hot" stolen rubber tires to be sold on the Black Market. In an effort to save her father, Julie sends her sweetheart, Bob Lord (William Marshall) an army lieutenant stationed at a nearby desert camp, away. A rival gang, led by Kohler (Frank Hagney), wrecks the crime czar's "pleasure of palace" and gives him a beating. The Ghost, believing Pop Bronson responsible, goes to his desert café and brutally shoots him before the horrified eyes of Julie. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
After an opening sequence featuring stock footage so dark and dupey that its difficult to tell what we're seeing, the film proper begins (and lightens up to acceptable visual quality) and moves into Pop Bronson's (Emmett Lynn) desert diner. We find Pop in mid-conversation with his daughter Julie (Jean Parker, who also starred in Ulmer's BLUEBEARD) who has just dropped out of college. Pop has been sending her money for years to put her through school and he's understandably upset about her sudden, inexplicable dropout. The scene is deliberately disorienting, as it takes a while before we understand the context of their conversation. When Julie accuses her father of black marketeering (this is war time, after all), Pop gives her a vicious slap. The whole scene prepares us for an unsettling experience which the film does not deliver until it's more than half over, settling in to long soap opera conversations filmed in uninteresting master shots. We meet Ricardo Cortez, gangster owner of a desert night club, who has earned the moniker of "The Ghost" for his survival of two attempts on his life. Thirty-five minutes into this barely 63 minute movie, the guns start blazing, the camera begins to move and the editor wakes up. Julie's Army boyfriend shows up to give The Ghost a major dressing-down, comparing him to Hitler and warning him that the honest little people will soon beat his pants off. Instead of the little people, its a rival gangster who beats The Ghost nearly to death and burns down his club, driving the man mad. The film now races to a speedy, suspenseful conclusion. In his career-spanning interview with Peter Bogdanovich Ulmer described this as a horror film influenced by Grand Guignol (which it is not), but its opening scene, final 30 minutes, odd patriotic imagery and good performances from Cortez and Parker make it worth seeing for anyone interested in Ulmer's career of making something out of nothing.
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