After witnessing an incident on a foreign ship off California coast, a U.S. Treasury agent aboard a Coast Guard vessel decides to further investigate the matter by following a crime trail leading to China, Egypt, Lebanon and Cuba.
Treasury agents, desperate to get evidence on syndicate kingpin Dutch Becker, give ex-con hood Casey Martin a choice...life in prison or courting sudden death as a government 'finger man.' Finding that his sister is now a drug addict thanks to Becker, Martin agrees to go undercover. Becker's chief aide proves to be sadistic Lou Terpe, Martin's former cellmate whom he can't stand the sight of. And the danger hanging over Martin expands to threaten those around him...Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The question is asked by Lucille in her last scene, as she lies in the hospital to be detoxicated, and she is in hell. She is one of many female victims of Dutch Becker (Forest Tucker) who "owns" fallen girls "body and soul" all over the country, according to the police only in nine states. Frank Lovejoy as a frequent jailbird gets a chance for a clean slate if he helps the police to frame Dutch Becker to make it stick. That is the plot.
It's a grim film of spartan conciseness, and there are many interesting minor details that are important but risk getting bypassed by the action. All the scenes with Gladys Baker (Peggy Castle) are captivating, especially the last one, the longest shot in the film. In fact, it's all the expressive scenes with the women (and they are not many) that makes the film magic and of lasting interest beyond the limits of its time and age.
Frank Lovejoy reminds in this film very much of Eddie Constantine, the forerunner of James Bond but with a school of hard knocks behind him and a scarred face, that ultimately ruined his career. Frank Lovejoy has no scars, but he does have knuckles and uses them frequently. You simply have to love him, and the more for each trouble he starts.
The music is also outstanding, excellently composed and suited perfectly to every scene. This is a great film on a small level that will outshine most film of the period that were made to be more spectacular. This is a noir down to basics and extremely efficient as such.
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