A security leak is found at a Southern California atomic plant. The authorities stand in fear that the information leaked would go to a hostile nation. To investigate the case more ...
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A security leak is found at a Southern California atomic plant. The authorities stand in fear that the information leaked would go to a hostile nation. To investigate the case more efficiently, Dan O'Hara, an FBI agent, and Philip Grayson, a Scotland Yard sleuth, join forces. Will they manage to stop the spy ring from achieving their aim?Written by
1948's Walk a Crooked Mile bursts out of the stale post-war semi-documentary format to become an absorbing espionage drama, thanks to:
*Carefully rationed, no-nonsense writing (screenplay by George Bruce; story by longtime veteran Bertram Milhauser (over 60 film treatments in 50 years!);
*Sharp and spare direction (by the versatile Gordon Douglas - said to be the only person to direct both Elvis and Sinatra). Filming took less than a month;
* Watchful camera (cinematography by George Robinson), and enchanting location work in the beautiful San Francisco of nearly three-quarters of a century ago;
* Unobtrusive acting by leads Dennis O'Keefe as an FBI agent and Louis Heyward as his Scotland Yard counterpart;
* Enough angles and twists to keep you guessing to the very last frame;
*And shrewd bit-casting (with an unexpected throat-catching moment lasting less than 20 seconds that you will remember for a long time , from veteran ...and uncredited... actress Tamara Shane - Moma Yoelson in The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949) and Mrs Akim Tamiroff in real life -- as The Landlady).
All this cinematic professionalism produces so much edge and vitality that a virtually unheralded, almost forgotten 1948 Cold War Feds 'n Reds potboiler is transformed into a surprisingly compelling action movie, complete with smart detective work, a rats' nest of sneering villains (look for a hirsute, almost svelte and quite nasty Raymond Burr), unexpectedly tense car chases and really noisy Thompson sub-machine guns.
The crafty script doesn't pull at its leash, begging for attention, but instead remains in the background, a steadily ticking clock mechanism -- or perhaps a time bomb -- pushing the nail-biting action forward, with twists and turns at every corner.
Using the documentary style format complete with the stentorian baritone of Reed Hadley, indispensable voice-of-God in the "official" crime dramas of the time, this Columbia Pictures black-and-white feature zeroes in on one of the most disquieting aspects of the Cold War: theft of nuclear secrets.
Atomic plants worry about two kinds of leak: radiation and security. In the fictional Southern California research lab of Walk A Crooked Mile, it's a security leak that has the FBI's Geiger Counters ticking away madly. Vital secrets are being stolen by an unnamed foreign power. (Soviet Russia is never named, but there are plenty of "comrades" and "dictatorship of the proletariat" speeches bandied around by un-American conspirators as to leave no question just which Pravda-subscribing Great Bear is after our Atomic Honey. Besides, villain Raymond Burr is wearing a goatee just like Lenin's!)
Because of the international ramifications of the thievery, the FBI (Dennis O'Keefe) and Scotland Yard (Louis Hayward) join forces to try and catch the red crooks.
Unique among FBI films of the period, the "Chief" is never seen or heard: J. Edgar Hoover is never even mentioned! Indeed, the producer, Edward Small, had had no cooperation from the agency, and Director Hoover had even written a letter to the New York Times complaining that the movie had not been sanctioned by the Bureau. (Reportedly, Walk a Crooked Mile had been originally titled FBI vs Scotland Yard but this was changed at Mr. Hoover's request.)
Despite this official hands-off policy, there is an air of authenticity about the proceedings as the sleuths employ the latest technology in an attempt to uncover the spy ring. The technology may seem to be on a kids' chemistry set level to our sophisticated eyes three-quarters of a century later, but the agents from the FBI and Scotland Yard use their brains as well - and this display of sharp wits is a nice change from the robotic by-the-numbers G-Man tales of the time. And lots of unexpected curves along this crooked mile keep you guessing for every minute of a wild ride.
A good spy thriller, with astute detective work neatly balanced by the occasional bout of violent action.
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