The vehicle used on the street is not the same vehicle used for close-ups. The first vehicle has a chrome horn ring and plaid seats. The used for close-ups has no horn ring; the seats are a mix of plaid and solid colors. See more »
Despite the title and Dennis O'Keefe as the star, this B film is not a film noir. It is about a small town in Middle America where everyone in the town seems to be trying to conspire to cover up a murder. Dennis O'Keefe arrives in town as an insurance investigator. He is there as a matter of routine because the company for which he works has provided life insurance for the deceased. The sum insured is mentioned as $20,000, and everyone speaks of it breathlessly, and it is hard to realize that in those days $20,000 really was a substantial amount of money. That says a lot about inflation over time. The man is said to have committed suicide. However, O'Keefe is very smart and he soon realizes that the man was murdered. His efforts to bring this to the attention of the local sheriff, played by William Bendix, meet with a stone wall. There is a double indemnity clause in the insurance policy which says that if the person is murdered the payout will be double. But when O'Keefe offers to pay the extra $20,000 to the niece of the murdered man, she refuses it, insisting that her uncle committed suicide. O'Keefe is baffled by this refusal of so much extra money. The murdered man turns out to have been 'a poison in his community', who was hated by everyone in town. In fact, everyone in town had a motive to murder him. It is a very good yarn in theory, but mystery and tension are sacrificed to other aims, namely to concentrate on the dilemma of O'Keefe's budding romance with a girl called Anita, played by Barbara Britton. The murdered man was killed with a 9 mm German Lugar. Both the sheriff and Anita's father have such Lugars. Things are looking very bad indeed, as one of them seems to be the killer. The other main aim of the film is to concentrate on the cozy, though currently unsettled, life of the small town. It is snowing and it is nearly Christmas. People are lighting up their trees and getting the turkeys ready for roasting, tying up their presents, and O'Keefe (who has no family of his own) gets involved in the festivities while he is at the same time carrying out an investigation which threatens many of those with whom he is associating. If the intention had been to make a film noir, a great deal more mystery and suspicion and conflict would have been created, and the film would be dark and moody. Instead, the film attempts to retain a cheerful air, which belies the tensions underneath. Barbara Britton smiles charmingly, O'Keefe is falling for her like a schoolboy, her father is genteel and reassuring, and only the sheriff appears truly suspicious, though even he has a twinkle in his eye and casts mischievous little smiles aside from time to time, which suggest that he is not a bad guy after all. No attempt is made by the director to suggest any real sense of threat or menace. Everybody is simply too goody-goody, and there are no obvious villains. Well, the ending has something to do with the season of the year, and it is by no means obvious, but I won't spoil things by discussing that. The catchline for the film is: 'a small town with big secrets'. That is certainly true, but don't expect a nail-biter. The suspense is so diluted in this film that it should rather be described as diverting than absorbing. As a result, Dennis O'Keefe is not as effective as usual, because he was best in films where things get really tough, and here he has to be Mr. Nice Guy who in between wooing his gal dabbles in proving and explaining a murder, and worrying whether his gal and her father are involved in it. In other words, the focus is on the romantic conflict rather than on whodunit. You could call this a 'soft noir', or perhaps a 'black marshmallow', since it aims to be tasty, chewy and sweet with a dusting of crime sprinkled over it for appearance's sake.
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