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An investigative reporter tells his assistant about a book called The Argyle Album, which contains a list of people who were traitors and war profiteers during World War II. When the reporter is murdered in the hospital, his assistant is framed for the killing and must elude the police and a gang of international criminals who are looking for the album to use for blackmail. Written by
William Gargan, sought as murder suspect, hunts for mysterious album
"The Argyle Secrets" is one of those out-of-the-way little noirs that noir fans treasure. This one is loaded with toughness and atmosphere. William Gargan plays a reporter, but he acts more like a private eye as he searches for an album that contains incriminating documents about WW II collaborators. He's not the only one, because whoever has it can extract handsome blackmail.
The album is this movie's Maltese Falcon, and the pursuers remind us of the originals. There is a fat man Greenstreet stand-in and a Mary Astor replacement played by Marjorie Lord. There are others too, and it's not a stretch to see that one is something like the Peter Lorre character. Gargan's relationship to Lord is something like Bogart's with Astor. These are about the only parallels because this story follows its own path. Gargan narrates and goes well beyond the law.
Upon second viewing, I got a better comprehension of the story. Plot details that tie up loose ends whiz by and you only get one chance at sorting out the character names. This time around I noticed that the movie is quite heavy on dialog, but it's balanced by other positives. There isn't a lot of classic noir photography, but there are very nice touches. Gargan is getting a glass of water for a patient who may be dying. He turns the faucet off. A few drops of water drip out and then stop. The patient has died, but not before setting Gargan on the trail of the Argyle secrets. There's nice entrapment photography when Gargan escapes down a fire escape. There's a double murder scene with some surprises.
The movie has an overall effect as it depicts an unrelenting scenario of desperation, greed, lack of trust, and persecution. The moral center of the characters is far removed from an MGM family picture. This effect may even be more pervasive and out in the open than in "The Maltese Falcon". At one point, Gargan slugs an innocent secretary so that he can rifle through her boss's desk, and then he ties her up and gags her! Gargan is perfect for the part and the narration. Marjorie Lord is a strong femme fatale. This is one of a small number of noirs distributed by Film Classics. It came at the height of the classic noir era (1948). Other noirs that Film Classics distributed include "Guilty Bystander", "Money Madness", "Blonde Ice", "Inner Sanctum", "The Judge", "C-Man", and "Cry Murder".
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