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Interesting little B-movie thriller, which starts with the theme of what an honest but desperate man will do to help his family survive, moves on to a loaded discussion on sensationalist lurid journalism before ending with a damning indictment of mob rule.
It's quite a trip and to get us there introduces us to the memorable character played by Lloyd Bridges, a cocky young psychopath whose petty crimes take along with him on the lure of easy money, unemployed, hard up family man Frank Lovejoy. It's not long though before Bridges' true character comes to light, escalating in no time to a kidnapping and brutal murder with disastrous outcomes for all concerned.
For its time, this is all pretty heady stuff, shown to us in matter of fact style by director Endfield with to my mind anyway, little real deference to noir conventions. The film is a bit slow to get started but once Bridges appears, it picks up on his manic energy. Some of the peripheral characters are just a bit too obvious, like the humanist professor friend of the sensationalist journalist whose screaming headlines, the film would have it, egg the local townsfolk to storming the jail while said journalist's own realisation of his part in the mayhem is also a little laboured but these are counteracted in some measure by some effective low-key character acting by Lovejoy and Katherine Locke as the lovelorn girl with whom Bridges sets him up for alibi purposes.
The concluding riot scene, (with it seems a lot of university students to the fore!) gets the biggest budget and is effectively staged, reminiscent of its predecessor in Lang's classic "Fury", before the big downbeat message is double-underlined for us as the credits roll.
A very watchable and considering its era, bold movie with interesting characters, dealing with big subjects and ending with a thundering moral message to boot. Quite a lot to pack in and done pretty well all round, I'd say.
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