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The Clay Pigeon (1949)

6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 269 users  
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Jim Fletcher, waking up from a coma, finds he is to be given a court martial for treason and charged with informing on fellow inmates in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Escaping from ... See full summary »

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(as Richard O. Fleischer)

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Title: The Clay Pigeon (1949)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bill Williams ...
Jim Fletcher
...
Martha Gregory
Richard Quine ...
Ted Niles
Richard Loo ...
Ken Tokoyama - aka The Weasel
Frank Fenton ...
Lt. Cmdr. Prentice
...
Navy Hospital Doctor
Marya Marco ...
Mrs. Helen Minoto (as Mary Marco)
...
Gunsel Blake
...
Miss Harwick - Wheeler's Receptionist
Harold Landon ...
Blind Veteran
James Craven ...
John Wheeler
Grandon Rhodes ...
Naval Intelligence Agent Clark
Edit

Storyline

Jim Fletcher, waking up from a coma, finds he is to be given a court martial for treason and charged with informing on fellow inmates in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Escaping from the hospital he tries to clear himself by enlisting the aid of Martha Gregory, widow of a service buddy he was accused of informing on. Helped also by Ted Niles, a surviving fellow prisoner, he gets closer to finding the answers he needs, and becomes ensnared in a grandiose scheme involving his Japanese ex-prison guard, $10,000,000 of US currency forged by the Japanese and a burgeoning crime network poised to wreak havoc throughout southern California. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

amnesia

Genres:

Film-Noir | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 October 1949 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Alma em Sombras  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When the train is shown pulling into Los Angeles, it has a Pennsylvania Railroad logo on the nose of the locomotive. The Pennsylvania did not serve the west coast - this was obviously stock footage. See more »

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User Reviews

 
First rate B movie with interesting story
19 June 2006 | by (Zurich, Switzerland) – See all my reviews

This is a short and very gripping B movie. It hasn't got an ounce of fat and offers the highest possible viewing pleasure. Story and script are by Carl Foreman who wrote the screenplay for High Noon. Strange as it may sound, one of the major assets of The Clay Pigeon is a cast which consists of little known actresses and actors.

There are several movies of the period which start with a war veteran who wakes up in an army or navy hospital with amnesia. In this case, the young man does know who he is and where he was, but he has no idea why he is accused of treason. Everybody in the hospital lets him feel that he should be hanged after he gets well. The strong and scary opening sequence has him sleeping as hands stretch out for his face from outside the frame, fingering it tentatively while he opens his eyes in astonishment, then sliding down to his throat in an attempt to strangle him before a nurse intervenes. They belong to a blinded veteran who wants to know „how a traitor looks like".

The accused escapes from the hospital and tries to find out what it is all about, aided by the widowed wife of a war buddy (strong performance by Barbara Hale). He finds out that the alleged treason refers to his time as a POW in a Japanese camp; he is said to have ratted on other prisoners who stole food rations, just in order not to starve. He also remembers being beaten savagely by a sadistic Japanese warden called the Weasel. A whole landscape of scars on his chest tell from this ordeal. „But now you're as strong as an ox again", the woman who helps him says encouragingly, „and just as dumb", he adds.

The search directs the couple to L.A.'s Chinatown, and much of that part of the movie was filmed on location. To his surprise the veteran spots the Weasel who is already well established within the local gangland. The movie then builds up to a dramatic finale on a train – with a much better set design than in Fleischer's Narrow Margin – and a happy ending.

As the title suggests, The Clay Pigeon is a full fledged film noir. The movie has a very good script (although it sometimes stretches credibility) and a surprisingly rich imagery (night scenes on roads and in towns, a trailer beach colony, different locations in downtown L.A., including Chinatown). I suppose its message is above the ordinary political (the GI who waits for his court martial while a „real" former war criminal is alive and well and living in California, the veteran's open distrust of the institutions the hints of a connection between the openly criminal world and the „serious" business community as shown after the veteran's visit in a real estate agency).

It seems The Clay Pigeon is a film that waits to be rediscovered. It stands its own in the genre (and is not even mentioned in the Silver/Ward Film Noir Encyclopedia). I can recommend it.


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