Pungent John Payne/Phil Karlson duo team up for last time
After 99 River Street and Kansas City Confidential, world-weary bruiser John Payne teams up with director Phil Karlson for Hell's Island, this time in VistaVision (Payne apparently had the foresight to see that television would become a profitable market for color films). After being jilted, Payne drank himself out of a job in the L.A. district attorney's office and now serves as bouncer in a Vegas casino. A wheelchair-bound stranger (Francis L. Sullivan) engages him to locate a ruby that disappeared in a Caribbean plane crash; the bait is that it may be in the possession of the woman (Mary Murphy) who jilted him. Payne flies off to Santo Rosario and into a web of duplicity at whose center Murphy waits (she does the "femme" better than she does the "fatale," however). There's a splendid moment when she shuts up her doors and draws the curtains on the memory of her rich busband, now in a penal colony across the subtropical waters for supposedly causing the deadly crash. The movie's texture is spun from Payne's carrying a torch that fails to illuminate the amplitude of clues and warning signals all around him. Professionally done if not especially memorable, Hell's Island remains an enjoyable color noir -- the Payne/Karlson combo rarely disappoints.
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