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Homicide detective Mike Conovan investigates the shooting of fellow detective Monigan...who apparrently was moonlighting as guard for a bookie. He finds that all the bookies in town are being robbed, most upsetting to the racket bosses who can't get normal police protection. Mike encounters blind alleys and double crosses, and is distracted by his wife's growing disenchantment. Lots of police slang. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Above average police-procedural noir shows MGM's skittish touch
An off-duty Los Angeles police detective is shot and killed one night with an unexplained thousand dollars found in his pocket. It falls to his former partner (Van Johnson) to track down his killers and try to exonerate him. Scene of the Crime, which tells the story, stays a police procedural with a few twists and touches that raise it a notch or two above the routine.
First of all, Johnson's wife (Arlene Dahl) has fallen prey to the dissatisfactions common to her lot. She's tired of their evenings, in and out, being ruined by yet another summons to duty (`Whenever the telephone rings, it cuts me,' she cries); she tired of rolling his dice rigged to come up seven, a ritual that supposedly bids him luck.
On the job, he has his burdens, too. His new partner (John McIntyre) is getting on in years and his sight is failing. And under Johnson's wing is nestled rookie cop Tom Drake, learning the ropes. Outside the office there's an abrasive police reporter (Donald Woods) chasing the corruption angle; there's also the network of low-lifes who serve, if the pressure is right, as stoolies - most vivid of them is the young Norman Lloyd.
Word filters up that the killing was the work of a couple of downstate `lobos' who have been knocking over bookie operations. Going undercover, Johnson starts romancing a stripper one of them used to date (Gloria De Haven, in the movie's sharpest performance). Even though he's working her, he finds his emotions in play - and even though it turns out that she's working him, too, she has no emotions.
Under Roy Rowland's direction, Scene of the Crime keeps its plotting straightforward, though with some uncharacteristic bursts of violence. The movie's studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was celebrated for its lavish color musicals, not for the unsentimental style of film noir. That probably accounts for the final shot's being a reconciliatory kiss, in hopes that such a sweet image might expunge all the urban squalor that went before it. Luckily, it doesn't.
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