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A vicious cop kills a bookie's runner and steals $25,000 from the corpse. He then frames everyone in sight in order to keep the money to buy a new home for his would-be lounge singer girlfriend.Written by
When Noland shows Patty the new model house, the sign out front says "Castle Heights Tract Homes". Castle Heights is an actual Los Angeles neighborhood where such homes were being built at the time. It is situated between Chevoit Hills, Beverlywood and the Santa Monica Freeway. See more »
In the beginning of the film, when the police have been called to the scene of the shooting, a traveling shot of a responding police car shows a black and white car--no lettering saying "Police", or a city logo, or badge, or anything; just a plain black and white four-door sedan. However, when it pulls into the alley next to the crime scene and the driver gets out, the word "POLICE" in large black lettering can be seen on the door. See more »
Taut and well-scripted with a good performance by O'Brien
Middle-aged "Detective Barney Nolan" (Edmond O'Brien) is a bad cop out to make a score for his retirement fund. He finds it by murdering a "bagman" bookie of a local mobster who was carrying $25,000 in mob-money. Nolan stages the scene to make it look like an arrest that deteriorated into an attempted escape, leaves some chump-change on the corpse, and pockets the $25k. Initially, it looks like Nolan will get away with his callous scheme and eventually retire to suburban track-house comfort with his much younger girlfriend, "Patty" (Marla English).
However, he has three things going against him. First, he already has too many shootings "in the line of duty" for this one to be completely shrugged-off by his captain (Emile Meyer), the local crime beat reporter (Herbert Butterfield),and his fellow detectives. Secondly, the mob boss, "Packy Reed" (Hugh Sanders), wants his $25k and sends two goons (one of them a young Claude Akins)after Nolan to get it back. And, finally, there was a witness to the murder. Still, Nolan has his partner, "Sgt. Mark Brewster" (John Agar), who is willing to give his friend every benefit of the doubt, but as the evidence of Nolan's guilt mounts even Sgt. Brewster starts to wonder.
The best thing about "Shield for Murder" is the character of Barney Nolan. He's a violent brute. The beast underneath the badge is never far from the surface. He murders for money. He roughs-up his girlfriend's boss for no reason other than his outrage at her skimpy cigarette girl costume. He brutally pistol-whips two men in front of a bar full of shocked and horrified patrons. Yet, we see glimpses of a man who was not always a monster- his sweetness towards his girlfriend and a scene where he lets a young shoplifter off the hook which was apparently a repeat of something he done in the past to good effect.
Edmond O'Brien probably aged more quickly and badly than any leading man actor of his era. In 1939's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" he was thin, had a mop of wavy hair, a pencil mustache, and the chiseled features of a handsome Hollywood matinée idol. Yet, within fifteen years, he was badly overweight, puffy-looking, and sweaty. It looks like he didn't give a hoot about his physical appearance which is unusual for an actor. In "Shield for Murder," though, O'Brien's disheveled appearance actually fits his character very well.
However, his scenes with 19 yr old budding starlet Marla English are a bit of a stretch. While one can definitely see what an overweight, middle-aged man would like about Ms. English's "Patty"- she looks like a combination of young Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins- we have no idea what she sees in him. Ms. English is OK in the role, but her character could have been played by almost any young actress. It appears Ms. English was chosen by the producers just so they could briefly show-off her physical assets in that cigarette girl costume.
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