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The Clay Pigeon (1949)

Jim Fletcher, waking up from a coma, finds he is to be given a court martial for treason and charged with informing on fellow inmates in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Escaping from ... See full summary »


Richard Fleischer (as Richard O. Fleischer)


Carl Foreman (story and screenplay)


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Complete credited cast:
Bill Williams ... Jim Fletcher
Barbara Hale ... Martha Gregory
Richard Quine ... Ted Niles
Richard Loo ... Ken Tokoyama - aka The Weasel
Frank Fenton ... Lt. Cmdr. Prentice
Frank Wilcox ... Dr. Matson - Navy Hospital Doctor
Marya Marco Marya Marco ... Mrs. Helen Minoto (as Mary Marco)
Robert Bray ... Gunsel Blake
Martha Hyer ... Miss Harwick - Wheeler's Receptionist
Harold Landon Harold Landon ... Danny - Blind Veteran in Hospital
James Craven James Craven ... John D. Wheeler
Grandon Rhodes ... Naval Intelligence Agent Clark


Jim Fletcher, waking up from a coma, finds he is to be given a court martial for treason and charged with informing on fellow inmates in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Escaping from the hospital he tries to clear himself by enlisting the aid of Martha Gregory, widow of a service buddy he was accused of informing on. Helped also by Ted Niles, a surviving fellow prisoner, he gets closer to finding the answers he needs, and becomes ensnared in a grandiose scheme involving his Japanese ex-prison guard, $10,000,000 of US currency forged by the Japanese and a burgeoning crime network poised to wreak havoc throughout southern California. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Film-Noir


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

18 October 1949 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Acusado a traición See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


According to a contemporary article in The Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence Tierney was slated to star in this film. See more »


At around the 37min mark, after Martha returns to the hotel from meeting Ted, she unties her jacket. In the next shot, it is tied again. See more »


Mrs. Helen Minoto: Have they gone?
Jim Fletcher: They've left the building, but they may be back.
Mrs. Helen Minoto: You'd better wait a few minutes.
Jim Fletcher: I owe you an apology... Why did you help me?
Mrs. Helen Minoto: You said you were in trouble. I knew they weren't the police.
Jim Fletcher: I'm sorry I had to upset Johnny.
Mrs. Helen Minoto: Oh? He'll go to sleep now. He's a good boy. He's just like his father.
Jim Fletcher: The 442nd was quite an outfit.
Mrs. Helen Minoto: Yes, it was.
See more »

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User Reviews

First rate B movie with interesting story
19 June 2006 | by manuel-pestalozziSee all my reviews

This is a short and very gripping B movie. It hasn't got an ounce of fat and offers the highest possible viewing pleasure. Story and script are by Carl Foreman who wrote the screenplay for High Noon. Strange as it may sound, one of the major assets of The Clay Pigeon is a cast which consists of little known actresses and actors.

There are several movies of the period which start with a war veteran who wakes up in an army or navy hospital with amnesia. In this case, the young man does know who he is and where he was, but he has no idea why he is accused of treason. Everybody in the hospital lets him feel that he should be hanged after he gets well. The strong and scary opening sequence has him sleeping as hands stretch out for his face from outside the frame, fingering it tentatively while he opens his eyes in astonishment, then sliding down to his throat in an attempt to strangle him before a nurse intervenes. They belong to a blinded veteran who wants to know „how a traitor looks like".

The accused escapes from the hospital and tries to find out what it is all about, aided by the widowed wife of a war buddy (strong performance by Barbara Hale). He finds out that the alleged treason refers to his time as a POW in a Japanese camp; he is said to have ratted on other prisoners who stole food rations, just in order not to starve. He also remembers being beaten savagely by a sadistic Japanese warden called the Weasel. A whole landscape of scars on his chest tell from this ordeal. „But now you're as strong as an ox again", the woman who helps him says encouragingly, „and just as dumb", he adds.

The search directs the couple to L.A.'s Chinatown, and much of that part of the movie was filmed on location. To his surprise the veteran spots the Weasel who is already well established within the local gangland. The movie then builds up to a dramatic finale on a train – with a much better set design than in Fleischer's Narrow Margin – and a happy ending.

As the title suggests, The Clay Pigeon is a full fledged film noir. The movie has a very good script (although it sometimes stretches credibility) and a surprisingly rich imagery (night scenes on roads and in towns, a trailer beach colony, different locations in downtown L.A., including Chinatown). I suppose its message is above the ordinary political (the GI who waits for his court martial while a „real" former war criminal is alive and well and living in California, the veteran's open distrust of the institutions the hints of a connection between the openly criminal world and the „serious" business community as shown after the veteran's visit in a real estate agency).

It seems The Clay Pigeon is a film that waits to be rediscovered. It stands its own in the genre (and is not even mentioned in the Silver/Ward Film Noir Encyclopedia). I can recommend it.

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