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A young man awaits execution on death row for the murder of a political boss. Although h continues to protest his innocence, only his sweetheart, the prison priest, and the warden and his wife believe him. Reporters discuss the case and similar ones, and one of them relates a story that may save the innocent man's life. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The deck seems stacked against an innocent man about to be executed
"The Sun Sets at Dawn" is a very good movie and film noir. It will be most compelling for viewers who are not intellectually critical, anti-religious, or cynical, and also for those viewers more willing to cut some slack to storytellers who take a definite stance and shape their stories accordingly, rather than attempt to be all things to all people.
The story has a definite noir look, with dark and moody photography. For almost its entire length, it's a noir story too, feeling moody and at times oppressive. In fact you could say that it's noir all the way through, under the interpretation that fate has a strong presence here throughout; and recognizing that fate doesn't produce all bad endings or all good endings either. Think of the ending of "Repeat Performance" as an example of a noir film ending that's somewhat analogous. There are places, however, where the film becomes quite strongly melodrama, losing a sense of doom but yet going into deep feeling and questioning of life, something like in "Voice in the Wind". Noir need not be hardboiled. This one gets to tugging on the heartstrings pretty heavily in some places, and becomes somewhat leaden and slow-moving at those times. But overall, the story and pacing hold up.
A man, Philip Shawn, is being readied for the electric chair. The chair is being tested to make sure it works properly. There have been problems before. Shawn's girl friend, Sally Parr, arrives by bus on a dark night. She's greeted by the craggy and grizzled proprietor, Houseley Stevenson, of a roadhouse restaurant and post office station. Reporters are there too, ready to be bussed to the nearby prison. Parr will go there to and be near her beau from childhood. A padre, Walter Reed, comforts Shawn and hears his story. He is innocent, he says. He has been framed. We learn his back story by a clever sequence in which the reporters at the cafe act out the murder intercut with Shawn informing Reed. We understand why he was convicted. At the prison, the warden, Howard St. John, is sympathetic to Shawn and Parr, but what can he do?
More people begin to arrive at the cafe as the story develops further. There is a convict, wrongly convicted, who fetches the mail. There is the owner of a truck company and two drivers. There are three policemen. Stevenson reflects the anxiety felt by those who await the execution, knowing it will be at 5:35. The tension rises. New developments occur. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Then again, there may not be. Time is short.
Look for Percy Helton, Charles Arnt and Sam Edwards in their roles as reporters. Ms. Parr handles well a difficult scene in which she tearfully overcomes her tears as Reed relays Shawn's messages to her.
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