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A criminal gang plots the robbery of a ship carrying $2 million worth of surplus narcotics left over from World War II. The plan goes awry when the gang leader's girlfriend falls for an ambulance attendant who is an unsuspecting pawn in the scheme. Written by
John Russell organizes a complex drug heist aboard a ship
Good little late film noir that reminds me of Kubrick's The Killing. They have in common a heist that goes wrong. The Asphalt Jungle and La citta di defende (Four Ways Out) have the same basic framework too, but the details vary a great deal in each case and they are what make it interesting.
The film begins with a film showing how the theft of drugs is supposed to occur. It requires four people, including a health officer, a nurse, a man posing as a seaman found adrift, and a snitch aboard the target vessel. It's John Russell's idea and he has worked tirelessly to make it work. To align the real people to accomplish this, he uses everything from brute force to money. The actual people involved have a few weaknesses that surface, but he plows on. His financier makes him replace the nurse with his own girl friend, played by attractive June Blair (a Playboy playmate that year). She's hardboiled at first, but starts to change when she meets Stuart Whitman, who is a doctor working the ambulance, and when she sees a boy die. Russell moves from person to person, pulling strings, since he will not be present at the actual heist and he does bump off the snitch after getting the information and key that he needs.
There's some nice cinematography by veteran Carl Guthrie and a tight script. Stanley Adams provides nervous and unbalanced support as the health officer. Ms. Blair's acting is very good for not having been in movies but one year and for having a substantial role. The only negative and then only at times was Les Baxter's music which seems not to have aged that well. It sounds too much like a TV show in places, but maybe that's because the TV scores imitated his work. Russell was a big athletic guy with a good voice. He was a good actor whose work I always like. He's been in some excellent films like Yellow Sky, Hoodlum Empire, and Man in the Saddle. He was not type cast. He could be in westerns like Pale Rider and The Outlaw Josey Wales or in contemporary TV series episodes.
June Blair is very sexy simply by being very feminine. The camera need only show her feet dropping off her shoes or her hair or her fingers to underscore this, but it also shows her in a negligee. There's another pretty lady in the movie named Virginia De Lee who does a strip tease of which we see parts, enough to get the idea. A 50s movie strip tease does not show much, but it still works. This was her only film credit. I'm unsure who the real nurse was, maybe Margo Woode. She wore glasses to tone down her good looks.
The very last sequence, after a well-filmed robbery sequence inside the ship, is really good. It takes place in a kind of junk yard with all kinds of metal being picked up and piles of scrap metal. It begins with an unusual wall of old abandoned trolley cars piled up three high. This is or was in LA.
After having written all this, I've decided to up my rating from 6 to 7.
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