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A blonde actress is murdered across from a bar. An off-duty cop has been getting pleasantly sloshed, but becomes worried about his innocence when he finds out he was seen leaving the establishment with a blonde, but doesn't remember. As he investigates, he interviews a columnist who was going with the actress, a caricaturist who drew the victim, the caricaturist's wife who works at the bar, and the caricaturist's lover, and slowly begins to put the pieces of the deadly puzzle together. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
Lawrence Tierney sorts out a mystery murder and John Carradine may be involved
"Female Jungle" (1956) is a b-noir that is a true murder mystery, for we do not find out who the killer is until the end at which point all the loose ends are also tied up. The story begins with the murder in the dark of a blonde outside a bar. Her diamond choker is ripped off. She turns out to be a movie star. Lawrence Tierney, an off-duty cop, is outside the bar. He's had too much to drink and has some blackout spots in his memory of that evening. He wonders if he did it, because he has some cuts on his arm. After being dressed down by his superior on the scene, Tierney resolves to see what he can find out.
Suspicion falls upon John Carradine, a critic who was in love with the star and argued with her that night. Several characters associated with the bar are possibilities too, including the oddball owner and the man who mops up. Almost immediately after the murder, Carradine follows a waitress to her apartment where she lives with her struggling artist husband who makes money doing caricatures. He's played by Burt Kaiser, and he's playing around with Jayne Mansfield.
Carradine is a high spot of the movie. He's a powerhouse actor who commands the screen, and the part of a tuxedoed aristocratic critic suits him perfectly. Ms. Mansfield is excellent in this her premiere movie. She could really act and she shows it here in several scenes including a love scene with Kaiser. Tierney is a bit softer in parts of this movie than in some of his tough roles. He too is a highly-charged actor. Kaiser's acting is not in the same league as these three, unfortunately.
What brings this movie down though is, as one reviewer here notes, the "clunky dialogue and choppy narrative". Indeed. There are spots where there is unneeded talk and other spots where the direction and editing don't work smoothly. Awkwardness harms the flow. Film editing at times is choppy. Clumsy execution can't be glossed over all the time by skilled acting. The bartender, if I may say so, grates too.
Although the cinematographer was the top-notch Elwood Bredell, the budget and two-week shooting schedule apparently precluded the kind of lighting and careful work that we see in his major films. The picture has some atmosphere in the night scenes, but it shows its b-origins.
Overall, "Female Jungle" is certainly worth catching, imperfections and all.
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