On trial for murdering his girlfriend, philandering stockbroker Larry Ballentine takes the stand to claim his innocence and describe the actual, but improbable sounding, sequence of events that led to her death.
On trial for murder, Larry Ballentine regurgitates an unbelievable story. He recounts how he philanders with other women while his rich, loving wife Greta tries to keep him in line. According to Larry, his girlfriend Verna dies accidentally in a car crash and his distraught wife tosses herself over a cliff after he runs out on her. The jury has a tough decision on this one.Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
Reissue prints have been cut to 80 minutes. This is the version currently being shown on TCM. The uncut 95 minute original release is available on a long out-of-print laserdisc, released by Image Entertainment in 1990. See more »
Larry Ballentine is on trial and isn't helped by the fact that his unshaven defence lawyer isn't risking cross-examining the witnesses because their statements have built such a strong case against his client. Ballentine's main hope is that he can take the stand and convince the jury that he is innocent of his crime. He tells the story of how he met Vernia and how they fell in love, only for him to be trapped between the two women in two relationships and the lack of courage to go one way or the other.
A nicely tough little film that twists a relationship drama with a pulpy thriller to produce a film that doesn't always work but just has enough of a hook to it to hold me from start to finish. For the majority of the film we are following Ballentine as he fails to do anything with his life other than be a real low-life in how he treats the women in his life, however we also have the ongoing hook of the court case to keep us interested in where it is going. In both these threads the film works reasonably well and, despite being a bit melodramatic, is generally a good pulpy drama with nice use of guns and interesting (if obvious) references to drug use (heroin the horse with the taste for sugar). It gets tougher as it goes along and our "hero" gets in deeper and deeper to the point where the "perfect crime" appears a possibility (had he never seen this genre before!). It is a generally good plot and I liked it although I could see why the mix of relationships, court cases and crime would not sit so easy for most viewers.
The cast are pretty good. Although the main character Young is given second billing to a delicious performance from Hayward who plays her character really well. Young is also good though, playing his character smart enough to try and get out of his situation but also weak enough to get into it. Support from Greer, Johnson and a few others do well to fill out the cast. Pichel's direction has some good atmosphere when required but is mostly just solid and standard for the genre, although the general delivery of the story is good and well put together.
Overall a solid pulpy drama that touches on noir and melodrama at different stages. The mix works well and I enjoyed the story, the characters and the acting. I did think that the court case frame could have been used better to inject more of a sense of doom to it and the ending was a bit "fair" due to the period pressures but still I enjoyed it and found it interesting.
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