Decent entry in the Screen Directors Playhouse series has Yvonne De Carlo playing Pearl, a waitress at a rundown bar who falls in love with a hot-tempered and rather dirty harbor cop (Rory Calhoun) who just happens to be in the country trying to break up some drug smuggling. Pearl's husband (Alan Reed) is the captain of a ship so the new lovers plan to set him up so that they can be free. HOT CARGO really plays out like a film noir but the screenplay is so lacking in so many areas that the end result isn't nearly as good as it should have been and especially when you considering how good some of the performances are. The most disappointing thing is the actual story. The first two-thirds of the film doesn't have too much going for it as we're basically introduced to the characters. We can tell right off the bat that the wife is going to end up doing something stupid. It's also quite clear that the police officer is going to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. It's also rather clear that the husband is going to be a fool about everything. The love triangle never really works for a number of reasons but I think the screenplay fails because it never really makes us care for any of the three characters. Another problem is the final portion of the film, which just seems extremely rushed. The performances make the film worth sitting through however. Reed is extremely effective as the husband and the performance makes you really feel for him. De Carlo brings a certain sexuality to the role that really comes off well and Calhoun has no troubles playing tough. The black and white cinematography is quite good but director Tay Garnett doesn't build up too much drama.
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