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>
Lovejoy, Castle best things about late, no-nonsense noir
Frank Lovejoy, a petty criminal out after his third stretch in prison, gets lucky on a new gig hijacking a truck. The cops catch him he dropped a cigarette pack covered with his fingerprints but offer him a deal. If he can bring in mob kingpin Forrest Tucker, they'll let Lovejoy walk.
Not one to sing, Lovejoy turns them down until he meets up with his sister, strung out on the dope Tucker pushes. With the help of Peggie Castle, alumna of Tucker's stable of doxies, he makes himself known to the boss and gets a job running bootleg hooch. Something of a hothead, Lovejoy manages to rub Tucker's henchmen the wrong way, particularly Timothy Carey as his usual psychotic torpedo. As the movie nears its climax, the police wire Lovejoy to tape Tucker at the same time Tucker, his suspicions roused, decides to put Lovejoy on the hit list....
Coming late in the noir cycle, Fingerman avails itself of the flat, brutal style of 1950s crime dramas. So there are no unforgettable characters or characterizations, no flamboyant cinematic set-pieces. But the storytelling stays hard and unsentimental, with a fairly high quotient of violence. And the cast does well with what's written for them. Lovejoy (The Hitch-Hiker, Try and Get Me) does the laconic, low-key noir protagonist he's good at the basically decent guy in over his head, while Carey creeps us out (his specialty).
Best of them is Peggie Castle, usually a hard-boiled blonde but here, as a woman with a past who wants a good future, she reveals an unexpected subtlety and ambiguity in her portrayal. She also gets the best shot in the film: Leaving Lovejoy's apartment, she disappears poignantly into a desolate urban nightscape. It's the last time we see her alive.
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