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An average Los Angeles citizen witnesses a gang murder when he stops to use a telephone. Aware that he is the only witness against them, the gang members seek out his identity and terrorize him and his family to keep him from testifying against them. Only by psychologically playing one gang member against the others is the man able to bring the police to his rescue. Written by
A rather disappointing minor entry, "Key Witness"(1960) directed by none other than PHIL KARLSON (of the superb "Kansas City Confidential", "Scandal Sheet" and "99 River Street"), is a Cinemascoped-up second-rate b-movie. Utterly conventional in most ways, this film is a let down from start to finish. Its worst offense is what might be called the "pulled punch"--all scenes of action or violence are done through editing away from the actual moment, then cutting back to its aftermath. The whole film just seems like a routine exercise. On the good side: the jazz score by Charles Wolcott--listenable, if a bit repetitive.
In the cast--
Jeffrey Hunter: giving here what may be among his better performances. He seems emotionally involved in his noir situation as the victimized witness to a stabbing.
Pat Crowley: bland as his near-hysterical wife
Frank Silvera: best performer in the film, as a tenacious police detective
The Thugs are played by:
Dennis Hopper--not one of his better moments, overacted out the wahzoo
Susan Harrison--miscast (too delicate and nice) as the moll, yes THAT Susan Harrison of "Sweet Smell of Success" and the barrel-bottom ballerina from 'The Twilight Zone'
Johnny "I Can See Clearly Now" Nash: not at all bad for a singer-turned-actor
Joby Baker: staple of TV and movies from this period, actually does an interesting turn as a jive-talking junkie-type
Ted Knight: uncredited as Hopper's lawyer.
A must-see for Karlson, Hopper and Hunter completest.
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