A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.
After two gang-related killings in "Center City," a suspect (who was framed) is arrested, released on bail...and murdered. Inspector Briggs of the FBI recruits a young agent, Gene Cordell, to go undercover in the shadowy Skid Row area (alias George Manly) as a potential victim of the same racket. Soon, Gene meets Alec Stiles, neurotic mastermind who's "building an organization along scientific lines." Stiles recruits Cordell, whose job becomes a lot more dangerous... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At first, the docu-drama approach feels like kind of a safety net that prevents the viewer from losing himself completely in this striking noir universe, but the intricacies of the police work were interesting to watch unfold and this is still a strong film. Particularly memorable are the taut, virtually noiseless chase scenes that take place in suitably dark, nightmarish settings, like the one where crook Widmark sniffs out undercover cop Stevens at the hideout. I also liked the colorful low life lingo such as when one of the thugs tells Stevens to "pick yourself a boom-boom" as they suit up for their big score.
Great to see Richard Widmark doing what he does best - playing villains, of course. Few actors could match Widmark when it came to that staple of screen heavies: losing their temper. This guy slaps people's faces with a karate-like precision that's remarkable. And just the way he tells some flunkie henchman he doesn't want around to "blow" is pure heaven. In a role like this, he owns the screen; he's like a well dressed rat always scavenging for his next meal.
I was reading a Cornell Woolrich story about a year ago and one of the characters used a Mark Stevens' picture as an alibi for where they had been at a certain time. Never having heard of Stevens I assumed it was just a made up movie star name and movie title ("I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now".) Imagine my surprise when shortly thereafter I looked up his name and found out that there certainly was such an actor, a borderline leading man who apparently enjoyed some level of stardom during a 30 or so film career. Judging by his appearance here, he's a good, functional actor, though he has the sort of face it's easy to forget. Which is probably why he was selected for this part, as he isn't asked to carry the film (he's off screen for about half the running time) and as an undercover agent he's naturally required to blend in with his new environment. He does that quite well.
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