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
Howard Duff as rotten-to-core tabloid photographer
In Shakedown, Howard Duff plays his specialty, a winsome crumb. As a down-at-the-heels shutterbug desperate for a job, he sells lurid pictures -- drownings, defenestrations -- without any thought to the peril his subjects face. Once he lands the job by buttering up his editor's assistant (Peggy Dow), he realizes that compromising photos of crime figures pay better as blackmail than as journalism. He doesn't scruple to double-cross his prey if the profits can underwrite his taste for the high life, including the widow of a mobster he set up for a hit. When he just happens to be on hand to snap that murder, he causes a sensation but raises suspicions. Of course, his duplicity and greed prove his undoing.... With such familiar tough guys as Brian Donleavy and Lawrence Tierney, the movie clicks right along apace with Duff's camera. A nice irony shades the ending, not unlike the denouement of Taxi Driver: the heel gets turned into something like a hero.
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