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The editor of a New York exploitation newspaper meets the wife he had abandoned years ago, while using another name, at a LonelyHearts ball sponsored by his newspaper. She threatens to expose him as a wife-deserter, wife-beater and an impostor, and, in anger, he hits her with his fist and accidentally kills her. Later, when her body is found, he assigns his protégé reporter to the story, as a good, exploitable follow-up story to the ball. And, then, he is forced to sit back and watch while the reporter slowly tracks down the killer. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I sought out this film for two reasons. First, it was written by Sam Fuller and I have been trying to watch as many of his films as I can--they are, with only a few exceptions, great films. Second, I have always liked Broderick Crawford, as he had a way about him--portraying unrelentingly tough guys. With my love of film noir, it's a natural that I'd love seeing his ugly mug! Well, after finishing this film, I found that I wasn't disappointed. The writing, direction and acting were all very good.
Crawford stars as a man who has been brought in to save a dying newspaper. To make it successful, he gives the public what it wants--scandal, sleaze and violent content. While many of the paper's stockholders can't stand what he's done to make the paper solvent, he has made them rich--and it's hard to argue with success--even at this price.
One of Crawford's reporters is John Derek. Usually I don't like him in films, as he's just too pretty. Here, however, he was just fine--pretty, sure...but fine. Derek specializes in sniffing out cases and one new case really intrigues him. An unidentified woman is found dead. It clearly looks like an accidental death but Derek's instincts tell him it was staged to look that way, so he pushes and pushes investigators to dig deeper. Yes, it turns out she was murdered...but WHO did it and WHY is what makes this film very, very intriguing.
In addition to Crawford and Derek, the film also stars Donna Reed and Henry O'Neill. Reed plays a woman who is like the voice of conscience in the movie--always appalled at Crawford's methods and making it clear that she wants no part of this degradation of the paper. O'Neill, however, is the more interesting guy. In the 1930s and 40s, O'Neill had very steady work and was a familiar face at MGM in supporting roles (having appeared in 177 films and TV shows during his career). By 1952, his career was on the decline and his output reduced significantly. Here, he makes a bit of a last hurrah AND gets to play a role that stretched his abilities--playing a down-and-out drunk whose character evolves and shows great depth during the course of the movie.
Overall, the film is taut and exciting. Whether or not you'd call it film noir is a tough one, as definitions vary tremendously. Considering that the cops are purely secondary characters and there isn't the same criminal atmosphere in the film as noir, I'm not sure I'd call it noir. But, it is at least noir-like and is sure to please anyone who likes the grittier sort of film Hollywood did so well during this era.
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