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Ted de Corsia
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Robert Z. Leonard
Big-city newspaper Editor Haven D. Allridge starts a crusade to smash corrupt small-town sheriff Burke. After Allridge is suddenly intimidated into silence, state's attorney Chick Johnson continues the fight for right. He discovers that the sheriff is keeping Allridge quiet by threatening to reveal the criminal activities of Allridges son-in-law Randy Stanton. Written by
Enviable cast doesn't ignite four-square crusade against corruption
An enviable cast of noir veterans (John Hodiak, Audrey Totter, Walter Pidgeon, Thomas Gomez, Everett Sloane, and Karl Malden) tackling an all-American storyline - a newspaper crusades against municipal corruption - promises something above the ordinary. But The Sellout's promise, like cold fusion's, proves an inflated one; the movie never quite ignites.
An editor from a mid-sized city (Pidgeon), visiting his daughter's family in a neighboring county, drives into a speed trap. He's thrown into jail, subjected to a prisoners' kangaroo court, and fined the entire contents of his wallet. Once back, he launches a crusade against this hijacking of the law, lining up witnesses and publishing blistering editorials against Gomez, the sheriff, and county boss Sloane. Then, abruptly, he leaves town and the campaign ceases.
A prosecutor from the state capital (Hodiak) is sent to investigate; upon arrival, he's ambushed by a B-girl and shantoozie (Totter) who works at the machine's headquarters, a road house called Amboy's. Her philosophy of life is eloquent: (`Who makes plans? You do the best you can - Sometimes you wish things turned out differently.') But she grows sweet on him and warns him off. With the help of honest cop Malden, Hodiak tries to get to the bottom of the editor's silence, but everywhere encounters a stone wall. It turns out that the corruption runs very close to home....
Probably the biggest shortcoming of The Sellout is relegating Totter to a sub-plot that fizzles out too early; she lends the movie whatever quirky subversiveness it shows. For the most part, however, it's four-square - there's little visual excitement - and a little too self-important. Though crowded with incident, it ends up just plodding along. It's also rooted in a now (one hopes) vanished America where out in the boondocks, away from the bright lights of civilization, lurked pockets of unexpected peril. The billboards marking the city limits might have well warned: Beyond here lie monsters.
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