Good cast and fast pace punch up laughable plot in grade-B gangster film
"The Miami Story" (1954) was one of a whole wave of crime thrillers inspired by the Kefauver Senate hearings on organized crime that focused on individual cities and purported to tell the "story" of the crime wave that overwhelmed the city in question and how it was broken. They usually had some elected official come out on camera at the film's beginning to give the stamp of legitimacy and tell us something about "the story you're about to see" that has absolutely nothing to do with the story we're about to see. In the case of "The Miami Story," that official is Senator George Smathers of Florida, who assures us with a straight face that crime has been virtually wiped out in Miami. Right. (Did anyone inform Santos Trafficante?)
Like all the other films in this cycle, "The Miami Story" takes a stock gangster plot that had been beaten to death in the 1930s and updates it to contemporary Florida. A committee of five Miami civic leaders seeks a way to bring down crime boss Tony Brill and his R&L Industries, the front for gambling and all sorts of vice rackets in Miami, so they call in ex-gangster Mick Flagg, who'd once been framed for murder by Brill and now lives incognito on an Indiana farm. Flagg is given a free hand and in no time at all is going through the motions of setting up a rival operation with Cuban backing, all to intimidate Brill, and ordering the police chief around as if he were Eliot Ness: "Give me some Cubans!" "I want the Biscayne Club closed town tonight!"
The police in this film do all kinds of things on Flagg's orders that they could easily have done on their own. At one point, Flagg has the cops install a TV camera in Brill's office at the Biscayne Club, all to capture private, incriminating conversations. However, TV cameras back then were huge bulky affairs so they can only stick one in an air conditioning shaft with a grill in front of it. As if the gangsters won't bother to investigate why no cool air will be forthcoming that night in the Miami heat. And when the cops watch the proceedings on little TV monitors outside the club, we see Brill and his men on the tiny screens exactly as they're shot in the film, in medium shots complete with pans and zooms. No high angle, no wide angle, nothing blurry, and no AC grill blocking the view! And they hear everything clearly even though no mike was seen installed.
Yes, the film is pretty far-fetched on all counts, never mind that they never even mention the mafia. Fortunately, the film is short (75 min.) and fast-paced and the cast is topped with four actors who really know how to sell this stuff. Tall, rugged western star Barry Sullivan plays Flagg and he's quite forceful and convincing, never one to hold back when a punch or a pistol-whipping are called for. Luther Adler, an old hand at film noir bad guys ("D.O.A.," "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye"), plays Brill with old school charm and an indeterminate, vaguely Eastern European accent. Beverly Garland, also a veteran of "D.O.A." and later to shine in late '50s monster romps like "It Conquered the World" and "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon," plays Holly, an innocent girl caught up in the intrigue who takes sides with Flagg. Brassy blonde Adele Jergens, an underrated '50s B-movie queen, plays Gwen, Brill's all-knowing girlfriend and a cool customer in her own right.
The director is Fred F. Sears, who knew how to craft these things so that they never slowed long enough to give an audience a chance to question it. He and this film's producer, Sam Katzman, and writer, Robert E. Kent, re-teamed two years later for the similarly-themed "Miami Exposé," also reviewed on this site, which suffers from considerably weaker casting and even more ludicrous plotting.
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