Danny Haley's bookie operation is shut down, so he and his pals need money; when Danny meets Arthur Winant, a sucker from out of town, he decoys him into a series of poker games where eventually Winant loses $5000 that isn't his. But it seems Winant had a shadowy, protective elder brother who believes in personal revenge. And each of the card players in turn feels a faceless doom inexorably closing in. Dark streets and sexy torch-singer Fran lend ambience.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
When questioning the suspects about the suicide of Arthur Winant Captain Garvey mentions that the crooked gamblers got Winant to sign over a cashier cheque for $5000. However, there is no evidence to support this statement since the Police would not know about the cheque which was now in the gamblers' possession and Arthur's brother Sidney had removed the suicide note when he discovered the body. See more »
Playing cards with you two is like washing your feet with your socks on.
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While the most notable aspect of this film on paper maybe that it features the debut starring role of Charlton Heston, it actually has a lot more going for it, being a better than average noir thriller. The morality-tale drama revolves around a seedy little story of three, practiced if hardly chummy card-sharps, one of whom is nightclub manager Heston, who set up a travelling innocent for a fall, tricking him in a crooked game out of the $5000 he's bearing for a good cause. However when the victim hangs himself the next day in remorse at his loss and shame, the trio don't reckon on the man's avenging brother who hits town and starts to take retribution against them one by one.
In a sub-plot, Heston is also being pursued, although this time more agreeably, by sultry nightclub singer Lizabeth Scott while another notable background character is a supposedly "punchy" ex-boxer played by M.A.S.H.'s Harry Morgan, who acts as Heston's loyal, good-natured sidekick, although there's not much evidence provided as to his actual slowness, indeed he's one of the better judges of character in the movie.
Director William Dieterle ratchets up the tension nicely as three become two becomes one and Heston's last man standing, now humanised somewhat by meeting and slightly improbably romancing the dead man's widow and befriending her orphaned child, awaits his turn at the massive hands of the revenging sibling wearing the big black ring. The dialogue is sharp, the characterisations credible and I also liked the "Casablanca"-type, although more uplifting, ending.
Besides capably employing staple noir devices like shadows, darkness and dread, the movie is notable for the excellent songs given to Scott to perform, the most famous of which is the evergreen "That Old Black Magic" but also featuring the superb torch-song "Letter From A Lady In Love".
Heston leads the cast in already recognisably commanding manner and Scott, Morgan, Ed Begley and especially Jack Webb, later of "Dragnet", bring their characters to life in his wake.
All in all, an effective lesser known noir well worth watching.
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