|Index||7 reviews in total|
The Ashton Detective Agency needs money badly, so when Russ Ashton is called away to Washington on a case, secretary Susan Hart takes on an infidelity case where she has to photograph a man's wife as she leaves an apartment using a camera disguised in a hat box. Susan doesn't realize that the camera camouflages a gun, and Mrs. Moreland (the woman) is shot. Ashton returns to find Susan in jail, so he tries to find the man (Stevens) even though he has a vague description. Stevens and his gang find out that Ashton and his sidekick Harvard, are on his trail so he tries to get him out of the way. Ashton then uses Susan as bait to trap the killers in order to prevent her from being tried for murder. Decent programmer with an enjoyable foursome of Neal, Blake, Jenkins, and Sale making the film seem like an OTR mystery show. The pacing of the film is great, with a lot going on considering the film's run time of 44 minutes. The plot is a bit predictable and done before, but the characterizations make it fun. Rating, 7.
With her boss away on much needed business Susan Blake agrees to take a
photo of a cheating wife for an new client using a camera in a hat box.
Unfortunately for Susan the camera is really a gun and she is being
used to kill woman "in the photo".
Short and breezy this movie would be completely forgettable were it not for the means of the murder. Its not that its bad as such, its more that the plotting is so tight that it really has nowhere to go. I'd really like to explain a couple of the non twists but that would reveal pretty much everything there is about the meager story. While it makes for an enjoyable 43 minutes, you do wish that there was more meat on this hamburger of a movie. The cast which includes Tom Neal and Allen Jenkins is game and sells it for more than its worth. The script, though unremarkable plotted, does have some funny lines such as when the first "client" in a long spell finally walks through the door.
Recommended as part of a night of multiple features and not a stand alone movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Taking a look at posts recently made on IMDb's Classic Film board for a
poll that was to vote for the best film of 1947,I noticed that an
IMDb'er listed,what sounded like an intriguing Film Noir in a "Would
like to see" section of their post.Searching around online,I was
disappointed to find hardly any info of the movie around,which led to
me doing an extensive search on the internet,until I happily,by pure
luck finally ended up stumbling upon the kept well-hidden hat box.
Struggling to keep her co-owned detective agency going due to mounting bills,Susan Hart is thrilled when a new customer arrives,who offers to pay up front if Hart completes the simple job of taking a photo of his wife,who he wants to divorce.
Agreeing to the task,Susan is told by the customer that the only condition which she must accept is to use a camera that he has specially built into a hat box,due to the high chance that his wife would run away the moment she sees someone holding a camera.
Fininding the building that Marie Moreland is staying at,Susan gets set to capture Marie on film at the perfect moment.Pressing the shutter button the moment that Morland appears,Hart is horrified to discover,that the "shutter button" was actually the trigger for a gun.
View on the film:
Running at a short & sweet running time of 45 minutes,the screenplay by Don Martin,Maury Nunes and Carl K.Hittleman make the story fly by thanks to going in an off-beat direction,that goes from the fourth breaking opening scene, to one of the detectives being oblivious to the romantic "signals" being sent to them by a greasy spoon cook. (played by an easy going Viriginia Sale)
Whilst some of director Lambert Hillyer outdoor scenes do have a sadly "stagey" feel,Hillyer shows that he is able to create a smooth Film Noir atmosphere in the scenes that show Hart's fellow detectives reconstructing the murder scene in order to get her free.Along with Hillyer's directing Tom Neal gives a good performance as Russ Ashton,the detective who suspects that someone is trying to frame Hart,Whilst Pamela Blake giving a very good performance as Susan Hart,with Blake showing Hart to be someone who is on unsteady ground,as she begins to regret not checking what the "special" hat was,in the now fatal box.
Pamela Blake and her boyfriend Tom Neal run a detective agency that has
been in some financial trouble. When Tom Neal gets an assignment out of
town a well dressed fellow approaches Pamela Blake to ask her to get
photos of his cheating wife for a divorce. The camera is to be hidden
in a hat box. When Pamela goes to snap the photo of the cheating wife
it is not a camera she is pulling the trigger on, but a gun that has
been rigged inside the box. Pamela is arrested and it is up to her
boyfriend Tom Neal and others to clear her name.
This is a strict and tight programmer film, running just under 45 minutes. The movie in the public domain and can be found on many VHS and DVD versions put out by various companies.
The opening of the movie is also interesting. The 4 main stars all introduce themselves and the characters they play before the opening credits begin.
Obviously this was a programmer made to fill out a double bill in theatres. Robert Lippert, the producer, made a career of it. The film itself features the capable Tom Neal and Allen Jenkins in an otherwise no-name cast. It's a flat-footed mystery with Neal in charge of his low-rent yet financially strapped detective agency (is there EVER a movie featuring a detective agency that actually makes money?) He gets a job investigating a caper that involves killing someone with, yes you guessed it, a hat box (tricked-out with a gun inside). It's such a short film at 44 minutes that it barely qualifies as a feature and, if made a few years later, would have been an episode of a TV mystery show most likely. Aside from an opening gag involving an out-of-work phone that is funny, the only thing of note is the prologue wherein the actors introduce themselves and the characters they are about to play. An odd thing and possibly the only time it's been done on film (there has been end-of-film bits where the actors bow or are presented by a voice over, but I don't know of another where actors come out at the start to announce themselves).
This Poverty Row detective film is dreadful, but for a B-movie buff like me, still has moments of interest. While struggling detective Tom Neal is out of his office, his secretary/fiancée Pamela Blake takes on a case for him; a mysterious man with an obviously fake goatee says he wants her to get photographic evidence of his wife's adulterous activities. He tells Blake where to take the picture and even gives her a hat box with a hidden camera to use. However, when Blake goes to take the photo, it turns out that the box is rigged with a gun, and she shoots the wife. With equal parts help and hindrance from bumbling sidekick Allen Jenkins, Neal works to clear Blake. The plot is serviceable but with a weak script and a 45 minute running time, this ends up feeling more like a summary of a movie with most of the action and explanatory detail left out. I like both Neal and Jenkins (though the handsome Neal, only in his mid-30's, looks rather seedy here) and they both try hard, but the weak material defeats them. Blake is totally forgettable, though comic actress Virginia Sale gets some chuckles as a burger slinger and Jenkins' long-suffering gal. The most notable part of the film is at the very beginning, when the four leads introduce themselves directly to the camera, first in character, then with Neal giving their real names.
There are some films that are enjoyably bad, and some that are just plain bad. This misguided little effort, obviously designed as a pilot for an early TV series, belongs firmly in the latter category. Plumbing the depths of a charmless cast here, we find Virginia Sale as a lovelorn hamburger queen. This role could have been reasonably funny, but Miss Sale makes it just wearisomely pathetic. Allen Jenkins can normally be relied upon for a few good laughs and quiet chucklesbut not in this picture! True, he labors mightily hard to make his unamusing, time-consuming lines sparkle by shouting at the top of his voice, but all in vain. Tom Neal also does his best to ingratiate his character with the audience, but hampered by repetitive, marking-time dialogue and a nonsensical plot, he makes no headway. The same goes for the over-talkative but not over-bright D.A. played by Edward Keane. The only actor who manages to succeed even mildly in his role (as, unintentionally an over-age cop on the beat, who should have received his pension years ago) is Tom Kennedy, and he is stymied by poor make-up (a quality that also afflicts Messrs Neal and Jenkins. Or perhaps their slovenly, unshaven appearance was deliberately contrived to win the hearts of the armchair slobs who would presumably watch their dialogue-bound antics on TV. The villains, by contrast, are all neat as a pin).
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