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>
Shooting for this film overlapped with shooting on The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and Emmett Kelly's shots in the de Mille film had to be done when his schedule on "The Fat Man" permitted. See more »
The odd subtexts for this film are probably what has buried it. 1. It is based on a popular radio show that sold itself as "created by Dashiell Hammett." Actually the nickname "Fate Man" was that of Gutman, one of the baddies in the Maltese Falco; the character of the radio "Fat Man" was developed out of the otherwise nameless Hammett character "The Continental Op," hero of the Dain Curse and Red Harvest. But in 1951, when this film was about to be released, Hammett was getting sent to prison for thumbing his nose at the McCarthy-era 'House UnAmerican Activities Committee' witchhunters, so his name doesn't appear in the credits (at least not the copy I've seen). 2. With reference to Hammett removed, the character is redefined; while the character remains a tough private eye, he now has acquired a gourmand's taste for good cooking - an obvious reference to the popular Nero Wolfe Character - as well as a shadow of Wolfe's sidekick, Archie Goodwin. 3. This is an early film with Rock Hudson, and it is clear where he was intending to go with his career - a Montgomery Clift without the angst - but just as clearly he decided to change directions - too bad, he's actually quite good in this. 4. This is William Castle before he decided to throw himself wholeheartedly into gimmicky horror movies, and it reminds us that he could be a very capable director when he wanted to be. 5. That the a lead baddie is played by legendary clown Emmett Kelly probably doesn't mean much today, but it's certainly worth a footnote for those interested in the history of clowns.
The story, dialog and acting are all solid; the camera-work, lighting and design are nothing special but certainly competent. The pacing is pretty good. The film keeps its suspense up and provides enough twists to be a real detective mystery. Overall a satisfying mystery from the era when such could still be made.
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