Wiretapper (1955) Poster

(1955)

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Story is interesting, acting not particularly compelling
HobbitHole23 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Even for a movie in 1955, Wiretapper's definitely a B to C level picture. It's a shame because the story is interesting in itself..it's brought down by the acting.

It does contains one of the best sequences of a then young Billy Graham preaching the best I've heard him (whether in person, on TV or in movies).

I suppose the fact that the man the story is about, Jim Vaus, didn't exactly live up to the great truths he learned from Billy Graham in later years tainted my view of the story a bit....he may not have worked for the mob in the 1970s, but he still did some 'wiretapping' while supposedly helping young people in the San Diego area.

Still, the story was good and it's too bad we are subjected to a movie where the acting is below the level of even television from the same era. Also it is in black and white when most films in this era were color. Definitely low budget.

If you have the chance, see "The Prodigal" or some of the later Graham pictures for some better acting.

But for a chance to see classic preaching by Graham, you can skip ahead to that part of the film.
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1/10
Looks like a film noir, turns out to be a commercial for an evangelist
meaninglessname29 December 2017
Billed as the true story of an electronics expert of weak moral character who drifts into working for the mob, this film starts out as a well-made crime drama and turns into a tribute to the Rev. Billy Graham, who plays himself. Some people may be turned on or off by that, some may find it comical. Just letting you know.
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7/10
The Rest of the Story
will-4659 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Even though this movie is about my father, Jim Vaus, I agree with one of the other reviews that the acting in "Wiretapper" is not the best, even for a 1950's B movie. I admit that I am biased, but I think this story is worthy of better treatment.

That being said, I agree with the review which stated that this movie is worth seeing just to get a look at Billy Graham preaching in his early days. And the ending of the movie always has a positive impact on audiences with whom I have viewed the movie.

As the son of Jim Vaus, I obviously don't agree with the reviewer who did not feel that my father's later life lived up to the conversion portrayed in this movie. For anyone interested in the true story behind the Wiretapper, and "the rest of the story" of what happened to my father after his conversion in 1949, you may want to read my book, "My Father Was a Gangster: The Jim Vaus Story", published by Believe Books in 2007.
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8/10
So much of a wiretapper
jamesjustice-682094 May 2018
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Story is not superoriginal but exciting to watch anyway. Bill Williams is at his best performance so far (I've watched six movies with him already), very talented actor. Disappointed with the ending though, been expecting somewhat more realistic outcome, that's why 8/10. Worth watching for everybody who loves drama!
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Low rent B-film
gordonl5621 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film is based on the life of actual mob wire-tapper, Jim Vaus.

The film begins with Vaus, played by Bill Williams, doing a five year bit in prison. Williams had been caught pilfering some electronic equipment belonging to the US Army. They were not amused, hence the extended holiday on the government dime.

The whole time he is in stir, he keeps in touch with his girl, Georgia Lee. She believes that Williams is stationed overseas dealing death to the Japanese. V.J. day comes and the government decides to give early release to a bunch of cons, Williams among them.

Williams heads home with a quick stop at a pawn-shop to pick up a Major's uniform to impress Georgia Lee. After all, he "has" been in the Army.

Williams opens up an electronic and electrical design shop with all the cash he can gather. Three months later and it looks like he'll have to close do to a lack of customers. That is till mob lawyer, Douglas Kennedy, hires him to fix a radio and a malfunctioning doorbell.

While doing these repairs at Kennedy's home, Williams discovers that the place is lousy with bugs all wired to the house next door. Kennedy is very pleased with this info and slips Williams a couple $100 bills. Kennedy tells Williams there is plenty more where that came from and to keep his mouth shut.

Several years later, Williams is rolling in dough as he does various "jobs' for Kennedy and his mob clients. He quickly finds himself in so far that he cannot quit. He is far too useful and knows far too much.

Things start to get hairy when he is called in to defuse a bomb hooked up to a radio at mobster Richard Benedict's house. Williams then blows all his savings on a mob tip on a "fixed" race. Now he owes the mob cash when the nag fails to come in.

After just escaping with his life following a botched drive-by hit on Benedict. Williams wife, Lee, tells him, "The mob or me!" "I need a little time to scrape some cash together and then we can move away." Responds Williams.

Williams has been working on a system to tap into the phone lines of the racetrack. He can get the race results several minutes before they hit the bookie joints. All he needs is a inside man to place the bets.

Enter low rent mobster Stanley Clements. Clements is tired of getting all the crap jobs for Benedict and company. A fat roll of green ones sounds like a great idea. The two make a series of small bets at various bookie joints to avoid drawing attention. A grand or two here and there helps to build up Williams saving again.

Needless to say Clements wants to increase the wagers. This of course results in them getting caught. Benedict, Kennedy and the boys are less than amused. Clements gets a bullet for his troubles. Williams is told that he will be running the device for Benedict's mob. It is that or an overdose of lead like Clements. They plan on taking the device on the road and get rich off other mob set-ups.

Williams is at a loss what to do. That night the wife talks Williams into joining her at a Billy Graham revival meeting. Something in Graham's sermon hits home with Williams and he decides to quit the mob.

He tells Benedict that he has found the light and is through with crime. Kill him if they must, but he will not work for them any further.

For a bottom B-film, it holds it own right up to the being saved part. While this might have worked for Vaus in real life, as film-making, it is like hitting a wall at 50 mph. A dead stop and a definite feeling of being ripped off.

Bill Williams had roles in THE BODY SNATCHER, JOHNNY ANGEL, DEADLINE AT DAWN, A WOMAN'S SECRET, A DANGEROUS PROFESSION and THE CLAY PIGEON. Kennedy had bits in NORA PRENTISS, DARK PASSAGE, THE UNSUSPECTED, TO THE VICTOR, WHIPLASH, FLAMINGO ROAD, BACKFIRE, CONVICTED, REVENUE AGENT, THE BIG CHASE, CRY VENGEANCE and CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL. Benedict, who made a living out of playing thugs, was in SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT, CROSSFIRE, RACE STREET, SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK, SHOCHPROOF, HOMICIDE, SCENE OF THE CRIME, THE WINDOW, POST OFFICE INVESTIGATOR, STATE PEN, INSIDE THE WALLS OF FOLSOM PRISON, ACE IN THE HOLE, HOODLUM EMPIRE and BREAKDOWN.

The director was Dick Ross whose work included such masterworks as OILTOWN USA and SHADOW OF THE BOOMERANG. The d of p was Ralph Woolsey. Woolsey, in later years would be the d of p on THE NEW CENTURIONS and THE GREAT SANTINI. Screenplay was by John O'Dea and was based on the book, WHY I QUIT SYNDICATED CRIME by Jim Vaus. (b/w)
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8/10
Pretty good for its day!
splozzles14 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I would agree that this film is of a B quality, but does that really matter, considering who it was made by? This is a religious film tackling a very non-religious subject, which has always been very difficult to convey convincingly on the Big Screen. Never-the-less, from a historical point of view, I think the "message" is well conveyed, and the film should be released on DVD for future generations to appreciate. For reasons I find difficult to explain, I regard this film in the same league as the 1959 gangster movie "Al Capone" - it has almost exactly the same "feel" to it, except in "Wiretapper" the crook realises his mistakes, and makes amends. See it for yourself, then judge it for yourself, but remember, you will never see another religious film like it!
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6/10
Why I quit the syndicate
kapelusznik188 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** True story of no good lying creep Jim Vaus Jr., Bill Williams, who after screwing everyone, friend enemy and family member, he ever came in contact with finally saw the light and became a "Mench", man in Yiddish, just before the curtain was to be dropped down on him. It was a long and hard road to redemption for Vaus who was about to go big time into the mob wire racket in him being the best wire man in the business. That's in getting the jump on race results all across the country in who's to win a particular horse or even dog race before the results are electronically wired in.

Being on the other side of the law was no big thing for Vaus who's been breaking It since he was in high school rigging elections as well as stealing the cash contributed to them by the students. Now dishonorably discharged from the US Army for stealing government issue he's married to the gal he left behind Alice, Georgia Lee, claiming to be a war hero not a low down rat which in fact he is. As expected Vaus seeking out a dishonest living with the local mob he ends up getting deeper into trouble where he ends up totally controlled by it. With a baby now and another on its way and with Alice determined to stand by him no matter what, even if she ends up spending a jail cell with him, Vaus is slated to go full time into the mobs wire racket or else end up six feet under if he doesn't.

***Spoilers*** It was a chance visit at the insistence of his wife Alice to attend a Billy Graham tent concert that finally turned Vaus' life around for the better. The spellbinding and heart lifting speech by Minsiter Graham convinced Vaus to do the right thing and nothing even a mobster bullet to the back of his head couldn't make him change his mind! Terrific ending with Jim Vaus throwing away his life of sin and redeeming himself from the evil that dominated and almost destroyed his entire life. And it was that chance encounter with Minister Graham that finally did the trick for him.
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