The big national crime syndicate has moved into town, partnering up with local crime boss Nick Scanlon. There are only two problems: First, Nick is the violent type, preferring to do things... See full summary »
Gangster Frank Olins is to die in the gas chamber much to the dismay of his girlfriend Margot Shelby as he is carrying the secret of the location of $400,000 with him. Margot seduces gangster Jim Vincent to get him to engineer the removal of Olins' body from the prison immediately after he dies in the gas chamber. She takes prison doctor Craig away from his nurse/girl friend and gets him to administer an antidote for cyanide gas poisoning. During the removal of Olins' body, the hearse driver is killed by Tommy. The revived Olins gives Margot half of a map showing the money location and Vincent, in a fit of jealousy, kills Olins and takes the other half. Because the doctor's plates on his car will get them through the police roadblocks, Vincent and Margot take him with them on the money hunt. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Director Jack Bernhard met wife Jean Gillie in England, where he was stationed during WWII. He intended this film as a vehicle to showcase her to American audiences, but they divorced a short while later, and she did only one other film before her early death at age 33. See more »
In Dr. Craig's office, when his nurse is walking toward him and expressing concern about his decision to abandon his practice for the weekend, the shadow of the boom microphone can be seen crossing the cloth screen next to the nurse. See more »
It may be bizarre and fabulous in spurts, but it's a creaky low budget flick in the end
This kind of death row movie makes you appreciate how hard it is to pull off a great movie. Here, all the flaws show, almost textbook perfect. The acting struggles between pretty good (the lead female, the femme fatale one, Jean Gillie) to pretty awful (including, unfortunately, the lead male, a doctor, Herbert Rudley). The detective who shows up now and then (Sheldon Leonard), is actually pretty strong, a coldhearted, no-nonsense type, charmless, perhaps, but with some acting subtlety. (Leonard was a smart guy, actor and director for a lot of classic entertainment television years later.)
But in "Decoy," notice how the archetypal elements are all there. The plot is as interesting as many melodramas, if a bit far-fetched in the one detail that is its hook. But there is no Joan Crawford to raise the whole thing up. Cinematographer Bill O'Connell did do the astonishing original 1932 "Scarface" and he makes this movie excellent in the night scenes, but much of the rest of it is merely functional. The director, Jack Bernhard in his first film (in a five year career), could have made more of all of this. When an actor flinches in reaction, it's obviously an overreaction a better director would have reshot. The music swells and soars. The prison priest is sombre. The nurse calls the doctor "darling" even though he's in love with someone else.
But still, there are moments, and it has a great period feel to it whatever its flaws. And a line now and then pops up, crude and noirish. "Come here baby, I want to look at ya." Or the Frankenstein-like, "I'm alive, I'm alive!" Headlights signal across a lonely highway, men struggle with their unexplained passions, good women give bad women the eye, and innocent people die needlessly. The key brief moment that rises above is a man's grappling with being alive at all. And there is that box of money out there which everyone wants, and he's the only one who knows where it is, while he's actually alive and kicking.
It's all in a day's work. Don't expect a cult marvel--it's no "Detour," not at all "Gun Crazy," to name two B-movie classics. It's a creaker with some involving moments, getting better in the second half, and with a campy last three minutes (the woman's laugh is worth the whole thing). But by the end, you might have to remind yourself about the beginning, before the big flashback.
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