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With a largely anonymous cast and a plot that is nothing to write home about, this little film from the 40's is still worth watching mainly for its noirish atmosphere and George MacReady's wonderful over-the-top performance as a wrongfully condemned man gone mad.
MacReady plays Harry Wharton, a man who is wrongfully convicted of killing his sweetheart and sentenced to hang. He sits on death row for months while reporter Joe Keats, who senses Wharton is innocent, tries to track down the real killer. Hours before the execution, Keats comes up with the evidence that points to another and Wharton is pardoned. However, no pardon will fix the fact that Wharton's mind has snapped. He is admitted to a mental hospital, but nothing eases his misery and he ultimately sets fire to his room before hanging himself. His body is burned beyond recognition. Now, months later, reporter Joe Keats is refocused on the Wharton case. This time because half a dozen of the Wharton jurors have died mysterious accidental deaths in a short period of time. Keats believes someone is avenging Wharton's wrongful conviction and subsequent suicide, but he can't prove it. Along the way he falls for a beautiful female juror who doesn't care to cooperate with his investigation.
If you watch it, you're going to know what's going on immediately. There is really no mystery here. However, it is amazing to watch what Columbia could do in the field of drama/noir/mystery during the 40's and 50's without nearly the resources of the other major studios or the star power. All the stuff you expect in such a film is here - the all night diner where reporters seem to congregate and the proprietor who's always handing out sage advice, the know-it-all reporter 40's style and his antagonistic relationship with a boss that still appreciates the reporter's craft and insight, the classy girl that the reporter sets his sights on and somehow winds up the center of the drama, and the mystery criminal that runs circles around multiple police departments and is only tripped up by one blood-hound of a journalist.
Recommended for fans of post-war and almost post-war fare.
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