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"Shoot to Kill" is a somewhat routine but fast-paced crime story. It
with a car chase, and then flashes back to explain who is involved and what
led up to the chase.
The plot is relatively complicated and involves a crooked politician, a gangster looking for revenge, a loyal wife trying to clear her husband in any way possible, and a crusading reporter who is trying to figure out what everyone else is up to. The characters are mostly stereotypes, and most are also unsympathetic, but the emphasis is on the action. A great deal happens in just over an hour's worth of running time, and there are a couple of surprises along the way.
Though mostly a routine crime drama, "Shoot to Kill" is fast-paced enough to keep your attention, and most film-noir or crime film fans should find it a decent way to pass the time.
Better than most of the low budget thrillers, this is fun because it involves a series of flashbacks which explain why a woman has been badly injured due to her connection with a corrupt district attorney. The story is pretty well put forward with a minimum of stereotyping. The woman is really a fireball, putting herself in harm's way over and over. It's odd she survived as long as she did. Most of the characters are bad guys with their own agendas. There is some double crossing and an effort to expose a frame-up. I felt the ending was pretty well done, which isn't always the case in this genre. The acting is quite good because the bad guys are presented as human beings, with human failings and emotions. Not that they aren't pretty evil and pretty cold. It's worth a look.
This cheapie noir thriller about crooked district attorneys and gangster chiefs is surprisingly good, considered it was made on a zero budget with no reason to aim high. Of course, it is completely corny, but there are a lot of expressionistic camera angles, and the many dollying shots of men walking at night are surprisingly effective with a single bright spotlight on the face and everything else pitch black. As is usual with these over the top late forties cheapies, the impact depends largely upon an excessive, almost parodic, use of 'mood music'. When things begin to get dangerous, don't worry about looking for clues on the screen, as the orchestra will tell us instead. One wonders if the script actually said: 'At this point, the musical score will become hysterical, so that the audience knows someone is about to get killed.' The chief reason for watching this film is to see and hear the spectacular performance on the piano of Gene Rodgers, a black boogie player who was one of the best. It is jaw-dropping stuff. Fats Waller, eat your heart out! Rodgers plays two of his own compositions, 'Ballad of the Bayou' and 'Rajah's Blues'. His fingers move faster than the speed of light, and he isn't even looking. If only the whole thing had been Rodgers, we could have done without the film. The film's script is surprising in its ingenuity in places, and has some snappy dialogue, showing that somebody tried. The most innovative scene is where an assistant district attorney dictates a letter to his secretary. It is a passionate love letter proposing marriage, and she wonders to whom he intends to send it. He asks her if she thinks it is OK, and she says she thinks it is beautiful. Then he tells her it is for her! Great scene! If only the romance had been genuine, however, as both turn out to be crooks in their own way. This film contains serious contradictions, as it oscillates between making some characters appear sympathetic and then suddenly exposing them as baddies. The story must have started out as a tough crime thriller and then some frustrated sentimentalist wrote the script and could not help himself, he just had to have some love scenes, and the fact that the characters were all wrong for this could not and would not deter him. The producer clearly didn't notice. Well, if you like brilliant boogie, you really can't afford to miss this. And there will be people who will also enjoy the film. It is all a matter of what you expect, and if you start out expecting a corny mini-budgeted noir thriller with some unexpected good points, you will be happy.
I expected little from William Berke's 1947 Shoot To Kill. In fact, my expectations were so low, I left the DVD until late at night. I was just about to retire, but thought I'd take a quick look at the opening sequence. The movie hooked me straight away. Not only was Berke's direction way more polished than his norm, the movie was most atmospherically photographed by Benjamin Kline. Deft writing by Edwin V. Westrate also helped, and the actors were great too, especially Edmund MacDonald (who reminded me of a young Citizen Kane), heroine Luana Walters, reporter Russell Wade, gangster Robert Kent, the boogie-woogie piano player Gene Rodgers, and is-he-honest-or-is-he district attorney Charles Trowbridge (in noirish close-ups, giving the best performance of his lengthy career).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shoot to Kill (1947)
Weak and Confusing, Shoot to Kill Yourself
You know how you can plop in front of a t.v. and find an old movie and watch it even though you know it's bad. The mood, the clunkiness, the archetypes, the nostalgia all work on you. As long as you have nothing better to do. Say in a motel on a business trip.
That's as far as Shoot to Kill will rise. It's fun, it's dramatic, and there are crimes and suspects. It will keep you up more than put you to sleep. To a point.
So why actually rent it (or stream it free on Netflix)?
Well, there are a lot of nice night scenes, little moments where the camera looks at a door archway or the feet of some people walking, and you might be able to watch this just for that aspect. That fight scene toward the end of the movie, between the reporter (who is a better fighter than actor) and a thug (who is not bad at both), tumbles down a set of stairwas and it's very physical and amazing, actually. The requisite car chase scene(s), less so. There's lots of high contrast light and moving camera, which is pretty standard by the late 40s, but is one of the reasons to watch in the first place.
The plot, however, is so full of double crosses it's not worth the effort keeping everyone straight. That might make it a lot of fun for some people, but I was hoping for a clearer line that actually mattered when it got twisted.
William Berke, the director, has dozens of films of this caliber to his name, and he cranked them out with no budget. Shoot to Kill is entertaining, yes, and many with more consistent acting, but it clips along so that you just go with it. The woman is less a femme fatale than just a strong willed and duplicitous lead. She's made sympathetic by the end.
Maybe the small insert of real music by Gene Rodgers is enough to search for that scene (about 9:40 in), where he plays a nice stride or similar style piano, though probably not miked while filming, since the fingerwork doesn't match up. It's an odd addition that makes no real sense in the plot, but it's given billing in the opening credits, and Rodgers did some good backup work in the 1930s and 40s (including Coleman Hawkins).
The only other think I noticed of some small note (and I'm stretching to find things): among all the flashbacks (the movie is basically one big flashback, as well) is at least one case of a flashback within the flashback. Or is that three layers? Brilliance beget by necessity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before you begin watching this movie, I suggest you keep your eyes
peeled and ears open for the really neat piano number early in the
film. Though this low-budget Noir film was made before the Rock 'n Roll
era, this piano bit is a good example of "pre-Rock"--R&B that led to
Rock in the 1950s. It reminded me of a number by Bee Bumble--and it
This is one of two films included on a DVD entitled "Forgotten Noir" and also includes the movie SHADOW MAN. Both are low-budget Noir titles and I would agree that both are forgotten--films you don't usually see on TV and that "lesser" Noir films--made by smaller studios with lesser stars. In fact, with SHOOT TO KILL, there really are no stars though there are a few faces you might recognize.
The film begins with a car careening over an embankment. An escaped con as well as the District Attorney and his new wife are thrown from the car and the only survivor is the woman. When she awakes, she begins to reminisce about what led to this crazy accident.
Some time back, the lady came to work with an Assistant DA and eventually he would win the coveted DA's job. However, this young and respected attorney is actually working for the mob. Along the way, he dates his secretary and eventually marries her. Here is where a GREAT twist occurs--though I'd rather not say more about the story--it would ruin the film.
The bottom line is that this cheap film still has a good story and packs quite a punch. While not among the higher echelons of great Noir, this one should be better remembered as it's a very good film and well worth your time due to the complex story that is fraught with twists and turns.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is a solid product with several strong points.
Point one: Sexy guys! Russell Wade is a real beauty. Where has he been all this time? Well, he was always playing small roles so probably went unnoticed--if I did see him at all. But here he has the lead, and I couldn't miss him. And despite being covered up by suits and ties and usually wearing a hat, he exudes sexual heat. A real hottie. This guy should have taken of his shirt, and he might have hit the big time.
Next up is Robert Kent, a former prizefighter. He's also handsome but has to be photographed a bit more carefully than Russell Wade to show his handsomeness. He conveys a sense of wiry muscularity, though he, too, is always under a suit, a tie, and a hat. Damn! Edmund MacDonald, who plays the district attorney, has a ripe, voluptuous quality to him that seems correct for this corrupt district attorney. MacDonald is like a piece of fruit a few days beyond its peak of ripeness that must be eaten now because tomorrow it will start to rot. Not as handsome as Robert Kent or Russell Wade, his presence here is interesting, nonetheless.
Point two: the photography. A great many scenes here are very beautifully photographed, especially the first shot of Russell Wade. He's backlit, shown in silhouette profile, and then strikes a cigarette to illuminate his handsome face. This is film noir photography to die for. There is a lot more of this chiaroscuro, high contrast photography to be seen here--characters throwing long shadows down dark streets at night and so on. Yummy. Of course, a lot of the darkness was necessary--as in "Detour"--to disguise the low budget of the film. There simply wasn't enough money to build extensive sets for backgrounds.
Third point: This film has an internecine plot with plenty of twists and surprises in its 63 minutes. The main body of the film is told in flashback, as any good film noir should be, and there are flashbacks within that flashback, but more than a few noirs utilize this as well.
Fourth point: Luana Walters may not be the best femme fatale in noir, but at least Walters' character, Marian Langdon, is a solid one, luring attorney Dale into a sham marriage to save her husband Dixie Logan and then turning on Dixie when she realizes he really is a cheap crook. But Marian ends up with the best of the bunch, newspaper reporter Mike (Russell Wade).
And, of course, there is a genuine 1940's background for the film--clothing, hairstyles, cars--as opposed to the manufactured look of noirs made today that have to recreate a 40s look.
This B film's plot certainly has holes in it. At one point, Marian Langdon is shot at (just as she emerges from the justice of the peace's house after being married to Lawrence Dale), but no one seems ruffled by this. Dale is more concerned that the justice of the peace not report the murder attempt to anyone. Ha! The film held my interest from beginning to end. And an extra treat is the boogie-woogie piano playing of Gene Rodgers, who wrote the two songs that he plays.
This is a real treat--especially if you like handsome guys. Who knew guys in hats and suits could be so sexy. Jeez!
Unremarkable but entertaining enough minor noir. Russell Wade is spirited as the newspaper man with a cause, Edmund MacDonald is the aspiring District Attorney but sales a little close to the wind and spends much time brooding in a Vincent Price sort of way. Luana Walters is the girl in the middle and halfway through the film brings everything to life with one of the very many twists. Unfortunately it has been a rather slow beginning and before the end tips back down. There is always an inherent problem with movies that are flashbacks and this one is no exception. Worth it though for Walters' performance when for a time the film revolves around her and we seem to be going places.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film opens with a high speed chase at night. the cops are chasing
after someone. Shots ring out. The car the cops are chasing crashes
ejecting the passengers-a notorious criminal as well as the newly
elected DA and his wife. Only the wife survives. A reporter and friend
of the gravely injured wife sneaks into her room in the hospital and
asks her to tell him what happened, she does.
Cheaply made film noir with a cast that is mostly unfamiliar faces. Not a bad film as such, its just that the film seems to confuse motion of a twisty plot as the same thing as motion of characters you care about. I don't blame the cast for making this less than engaging, I blame the writer who is constantly changing who the principle characters are as a way of keeping you interested. Is anyone good or bad? Its not really clear until the final fade out. Only the dueling mob bosses seem to be constant, the result is that they play more as cartons rather than real people. As I said its not bad, its just that you end up watching it to see how the twists go rather than because you're engaged with the characters. You probably could spend your time better elsewhere.
Screen Guild Productions produced a fine noir in "Shoot to Kill"
(1947). Although it runs only 63 minutes, it is quite complex. Much of
it is told in flashback, but the person telling the flashback could not
have witnessed all the scenes that are depicted. This lapse is not
difficult to forgive for any die-hard noir fan who will be happy that
Hollywood produced such a twisty tale with so many fine camera shots in
the genuine noir style. The plot ties up many loose ends, but I think
there are still a number of them left hanging. Otherwise, I'd rate this
Jazz fans will appreciate a nice spot given over to Gene Rodgers playing a boogie-woogie tune without interruption. Rodgers is the pianist who played with Coleman Hawkins on the 1939 Body and Soul. His 4-bar introduction is known to all such music-lovers.
The director was William Berke. He specialized in these b-movies, and he did it with flair and a sure hand. The cinematographer was Benjamin H. Kline. He did a terrific job here, and he was experienced in b-noirs such as The Judge, Roses are Red, Second Chance, and The Invisible Wall. I also liked the music score done by Darrell Calker. The right sort of music is a critical ingredient in film noir without which these films would not be anywhere near as good as they are. Calker did scores for Manhandled, The Hoodlum and FBI Girl, among others.
All the actors came through with solid characterizations that capture one's attention. The parts written for the assistant D.A. (Edmund MacDonald) and his secretary-wife (Luana Walters) are the most extensive and the most interesting, because of the twists involved. Her part is a standout. Also scoring were Nestor Paiva as a gangster and Robert Kent as an opposing gangster.
The story opens in an intriguing way with police chasing a car in the dead of night. It goes off the road down a steep hill and 2 of the 3 occupants end up dead: MacDonald and Kent. MacDonald's secretary (Walters) is injured but alive, and she relates what happened to reporter Russell Wade and how a gangster came to be with them and chased by the police.
You're on your own after that.
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