On New Year's Eve 1946, Sheila Page kills her husband Barney. She wishes that she could relive 1946 and avoid the mistakes that she made throughout the year. Her wish comes true but cheating fate proves more difficult than she anticipated.
A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
A down-on-his-luck ex-G.I. finds himself framed for an armored car robbery. When he's finally released for lack of evidence, after having been worked-over by the police, he sets out to discover who set him up, and why. The trail leads him into Mexico and a web of hired thugs and a corrupt cop.Written by
Aerial view of Kansas City Union Station is shown at the beginning of the film - probably stock footage. See more »
Commonly thought of as an error: playing cards have horizontal line symmetry (i.e., when rotated 180 degrees, they still look the same). Therefore, it's likely that Foster did mail the "bottom" half of the cars - he simply had them rotated to appear with the faces on top. See more »
Look, you're a nice girl, but in case you're thinking of mothering me, forget it! I'm no stray dog you can pick up, and I like my neck without a collar. Now get lost!
Now I'm supposed to be hurt. Maybe even cry. But I won't. I think you're in trouble, and I'm going to help you.
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Opening credits prologue: In the police annals of Kansas City are written lurid chapters concerning the exploits of criminals apprehended and brought to punishment.
But it is the purpose of this picture to expose the amazing operations of a man who conceived and executed a "perfect crime", the true solution of which is NOT entered in ANY case history, and could well be entitled "Kansas City Confidential".
The first Payne/Karlson collaboration: Everyman thrown to the wolves
Driving a truckful of posies for a florist seems about as safe an occupation an ex-con could hope for. But for John Payne in Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential, it gets him framed for a million-two robbery. His trouble is that you can set a clock by his punctual rounds, and that one of his deliveries coincides with the arrival of the armored car at the bank next door. His comings and goings have been meticulously stop-watched by the mastermind of the heist (Preston Foster), a disgruntled policeman forced into retirement who seeks his weird sort of revenge.
Foster's plan assembles a gang who wear masks during the plotting so they can't recognize one another, or him. Payne's just the innocent fall guy who's thrown to the cops. Those cops try to beat a confession out of him, but it won't stick. He nonetheless loses his job and ends up on the front pages as the prime suspect. So he goes on the earie and follows the robbers (Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand) down to Mexico, where they're to meet with `Mr. Big' again and divvy up the take.
The spanner in the works proves to be Foster's daughter (Coleen Gray), striking sparks with Payne as he poses as one of the conspirators killed in Tijuana en route to the rendezvous. Gray's an aspiring lawyer in ignorance of daddy's scheme which is to turn over the robbers, thus rehabilitating himself with the force, and to collect the insurers' reward of $300-large.
Those south-of-the-border resort bungalows, during the noir cycle at any rate, were hotbeds of passion and gunplay. Karlson gives us a little of the former (not his long suit) but plenty of the latter. Over cardgames in the lobby and chance meetings amid the subtropical foliage at night, the unknown players try to sniff one another out and gain whatever edge they can. Their final gathering, aboard a boat called the Manana, shakes out as a crashing intersection of cross-purposes.
Like Dick Powell, Payne started off as a crooner and hoofer, a light leading man (his best remembered role is as Maureen O'Hara's fiancé in Miracle on 34th Street). But in three films under Phil Karlson's direction (plus Robert Florey's in The Crooked Way and Allan Dwan's in Slightly Scarlet), he ended up one of the most convincing ordinary-guy protagonists in the noir cycle. He's tough, all right, but still shows the flop-sweat of fear; and he's smart, too, but because he's forced to be what he's trying to hang onto is all he's got.
Off-screen, he was even smarter, seeing the potential revenue in color films (like Hell's Island and Slightly Scarlet) when selling to television was at most a pipe dream. But as an actor in the ambiguous world of film noir, he's seldom given the credit he deserves. He's every bit as good as Powell or Glenn Ford, if not quite so emblematic as Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum or Burt Lancaster. Karlson's brutal, accomplished works late in the noir cycle gave Payne his place in the dark sun.
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