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Leopold Kroner, formerly of Colby Enterprises, is released after five years in prison for embezzlement. Andrew Colby, claiming that Kroner has threatened him, hires lawyer Bob Regan as a secret bodyguard. Sure enough, Kroner turns up in Colby's room with a gun, and Regan kills him. Then Regan, who sticks around to romance Colby's secretary Noel, begins to suspect he's been used.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Little-known but rather splendid minor Noir with an intricate, ingenious plot (a small-time lawyer takes a job as bodyguard to the tycoon he has come up against in his latest case and is immediately drawn into unwittingly committing premeditated murder on his behalf, being a man who had taken a rap for him but has now come to collect!) – in hindsight, the title is very appropriate – and a top cast (genre stalwarts Edmond O'Brien, Ella Raines and William Bendix and, naturally as the smooth villain, Vincent Price). Universal, who produced this, churned out a number of excellent efforts during the form's heyday – notably several works by Jules Dassin and Robert Siodmak – which, this being made by second-tier talent, may explain how it got to be overlooked in the long run!
O'Brien starred in his share of classics – notably the much-remade THE KILLERS (1946) and D.O.A. (1950) – and, in fact, when I went through some genre stuff early in the year, I acquired a couple of his lesser vehicles i.e. TWO OF A KIND (1951) and the self-directed SHIELD FOR MURDER (1954), but they ended up not making the list I eventually checked out (my collection of such items having basically gone out-of-hand in the last few years)! Lovely Raines, then, was the quintessential Noir heroine but, like Jane Greer and Audrey Totter (who were more the femme fatale type), she seemed to be out of her element in other genres, so that her career lasted only as long as the field held sway but, of course, whenever this kind of film is discussed even now, their names inevitably crop up! Typically, Bendix is the cop smelling a rat: though he was a friend of O'Brien's late father, his integrity does not allow him to make it easy for the hero – especially when the latter becomes the prime suspect of a second murder, which was committed with his gun!
Again, the climax delivers a real coup as Bendix announces that the latest victim (Price's live-in secretary, played by the sinister-looking John Abbott) is still alive so that the real culprit is caught red-handed while attempting to finish the 'job', leading to the traditional shoot-out in a darkened room. In spite of the inherent gloom, the film does not entirely eschew humor throughout – especially when O'Brien confronts Price during a business conference with a bill amounting to peanuts, which is then resumed at the very end, as the hero is about to take what is owed to the former client (whom he had even tried to pass off as an associate of the first murdered party who could incriminate Price – I did say this was complexly-plotted!) before his current employer is taken away, only to be stopped in the act by Bendix who sarcastically asks him to exercise his official profession of lawyer and sue the man!
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