Jack Early is a go getting photographer who is determined to make a name for himself. He manages to be hired by a major San Francisco newspaper and from then on he is prepared to do anything to achieve his aim. Undaunted by anything, Early sinks into the underworld where gang boss Nick Palmer takes him under his wing. Thanks to him, Jack can take sensational snapshots of heisters at work. Which is not enough for him. Soon, thinking he is protected by the compromising photos he keeps taking, he starts manipulating and double crossing hoodlums, including his mentor Nick Palmer... Written by
In "Shakedown," Howard Duff plays a photographer who will stop at nothing to climb his way to the very top of the success ladder. On the strength of his sheer tenacity, he gets a job with a major newspaper, and it's not long before he's made a name for himself by charming a notorious crime boss (Brian Donlevy) into allowing himself to be photographed. Donlevy takes him under his wing, but Duff decides to bite the hand that feeds him and sets Donlevy and another crime boss, Lawrence Tierney, against one another. He uses photos to blackmail Tierney into providing him with a steady income while he sidles up to Donlevy's wife on the sly, all the while romancing the photo editor of the paper at which he works. But Duff's cockiness and confidence in his own cleverness get the best of him, and he meets his end in a wildly melodramatic finale in which he snaps one last photo, that of his own murderer, before dying.
"Shakedown" is notable for its highly suggestive dialogue and sexual content, and for the sheer repulsiveness of its protagonist. Duff's character is unapologetically repellant--he has no moral qualms whatsoever about anything he does, even if people get killed as a direct result of his actions. The film is probably about ten minutes too long, and over all is a minor work, but it should be seen as an example of post-war cinema at its harshest and most cynical.
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