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An innocent dentist is murdered, the only apparent motive to steal a set of dental x-rays. To the police it looks like an accident, so Jane Adams, loyal dental assistant, consults massive private eye Brad Runyan (of radio fame); he's skeptical until he finds that Jane is being followed. The mystery deepens as Brad's search for missing dental patient Roy Clark reveals many ramifications and loose ends... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Fat Man opens with the murder of a dentist. We spend a good chunk of the next hour wondering not so much who did it, as why. It's a fairly straightforward plot, but one with many threads and characters, including a clown, some dental records, a just-released convict who comes into some money and then disappears, and a police detective whounusually for private eye moviesis open, cooperative, and even intelligent!
J. Scott Smart looks comfortable in the role of Brad Runyan, aka the Fat Man. Familiar faces fill the rest of the cast, including Jayne Meadows in a good serious role as the dentist's nurse; Jerome Cowan as the helpful if bemused policeman; Clinton Sundberg as a kind of goofball assistant; and an eager-looking young Rock Hudson as the con and Julie London as his sometime girlfriend.
The Fat Man was apparently a radio detective making a jump to movies that didn't take; not having any familiarity with the radio program, I can only say that this portly detective is considerably more physically active than the obvious comparison: whereas Nero Wolfe rarely emerges from his brownstone on 35th Street, Brad Runyan thinks nothing of hopping a flight to California, risking life and limb in a shootout, or even dancing in a nightclub. (He does, however, share Wolfe's passion for fine food.) To put it another waySmart as Runyan is easily closer akin to William Conrad as Cannon than Conrad as Wolfe.
The film as a whole offers bits of humor, some action, and a pretty fair mystery with quite a well done climactic scene. If they had indeed turned this into a series, I would seek out the other entries; however, I'm afraid 1951 was not the right time to start a detective seriesat least, not one for the big screen.
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