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When a police officer is shot arresting a car thief, Captain Barnaby uses his skills and contacts to track down the culprits and uncovers a bank heist plan in the process. Barnaby has no qualms about bending the law to achieve his ends, including trumped up charges to persuade his only witness to cooperate or detaining some call girls to coerce their madam to help him. In the meantime he deals with everyday police business, juggling seemingly trivial matters with more serious ones. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Edw. G. Robinson in low-budget but tightly knit tale...
EDWARD G. ROBINSON viewed this period in the early '50s as his B-film era, but VICE SQUAD is an efficient, if low-budget product that gives him a chance to show his stuff in a story about the day to day activities of a police precinct in '50s L.A. PAULETTE GODDARD gets top female billing in what is essentially a cameo role as her career was obviously in decline at this point. She's sassy and brittle as the head of an escort club who agrees to cooperate with Robinson's police investigation.
Robinson is seen adroitly handling a number of sticky situations, including the death of a policeman and the reluctance of a witness to talk; the discovery that a bank heist is about to take place; and the effect of the cop killing on a gang of car thieves. It's interesting to catch an early glimpse of LEE VAN CLEEF as one of the car thieves.
There's a film noir look to Joseph Biroc's first rate B&W photography with excellent use of light and shadows and it's directed in brisk style by Arnold Laven. All of the intertwined stories are smoothly coordinated but the tension doesn't start building until about forty-five minutes into the bank heist sequence.
Actually the police tactics shown are pretty underhanded, so it's not exactly a flattering portrait of police procedures--but they do seem credible.
Packs just as much suspense as another crime melodrama with a New York locale--THE NAKED CITY. The shots of L.A. in the early '50s establish atmosphere from the start. Well worth viewing.
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