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A big-city reporter between jobs is traveling with his wife through a small Ozarks town and gets a lead on a bank robbery. He tracks down the brutal gang that committed the robbery, only to discover that they are something of a source of pride to the locals. His hopes of getting back into the big time with this story are dashed when his "interview" with the gang leader goes awry and he and his wife find themselves hostages. Written by
A newlywed ex-reporter sees a big story in a desperado gang holed up near his honeymoon site. Trouble is the townsfolk like the bank-robbers a lot more than they do the city outsider. But the persistent newsman smells the kind of story that might get him re-employed.
I guess I'm in a minority, but I found the results here pretty ordinary. Glossy MGM simply did not have a feel for B-movies, not even with RKO's former noir impresario Dore Scary at the helm. The movie's real potential is in a first-rate supporting cast that should have been allowed to ooze menace. Trouble is director Friedkin films events flatly and from an impersonal distance. Thus we're denied Paul Richards' (Elly) special brand of unnerving facial tics; at the same time, Wilke (Ellis) is robbed of his usual brand of thuggish menace. I realize Ellis has got to have enough nice-nice to merit the town's respect, still that undercuts the distinctive presence the movie needs. On the other hand, Flippen's fine as the levelheaded Oren, the sort of avuncular role he did so well in the previous year's The Killing. Nielsen's okay in the starring role, but the lightweight Miller has way too much malt shop for a crime drama, and is a poor match for the sturdy Nielsen.
Get set, however, for the film's one distinguishing feature, a startling development halfway through. Too bad the direction didn't reach this level of imagination.
On a more historical note, it's probably worth pointing out that many areas of the US idolized 1930's bank-robbing desperadoes like Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. Needless to say, foreclosure banks were not exactly popular among depression-era folks. In fact, Floyd was reputed to have destroyed mortgage paperwork among the banks he robbed. So that part of the movie is interesting and based on what's now little known fact.
All in all, the crime drama's not a bad movie just a cheaply produced programmer that should have been more effective than it is.
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