Federal Man (1950) Poster


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Cheap, but watchable low renter
gordonl5616 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers

This is a low budget programmer that tries to imitate the popular G-Man films of the period. In the late 1940's and early 50's, there was a string of G-Men type films with titles like, C-MAN, T-MEN, FEDERAL AGENT at LARGE, REVENUE AGENT and so on. Some of these were cracker-jack bits of entertainment. This is not one of them.

This low renter is about a group of Federal Narcotics Bureau types on the trail of a crew of drug smugglers. The Feds have a bee in their bonnet, after one of their number, is shot up in a drive by. The Federal bunch, are led by agents, William Henry, Robert Shayne and Lyle Talbot. The villains of the piece are controlled by George Eldredge. His gang includes, Noel Cravat, Dennis Moore, Paul Hoffman and Joe Turkel.

The Government types know that the smugglers are bringing the heroin over the border from Mexico. They are just not sure how. They enlist the help of Mexican cop, John Laurenz. Also in the mix on the Mexico side, is the ex-girlfriend, Movita Castaneda, of a now dead member of the criminal gang. She is used to help point out any other gang members that night show in Mexico.

After a few days the Feds get a break, a couple of the smugglers are pointed out by Miss Castaneda. The criminals have a nifty way of smuggling the drugs back to the U.S. The smugglers clamp a small box containing the drugs underneath an American tourist's car. They take the plate number down. They then follow the tourist back to the States. Once over the border, the crooks retrieve said cargo when the car parks on the American side, nice and simple.

Now the Federals need to discover who the boss of the operation is. They question a woman, Lori Irving, who had witnessed a killing by the gang. Irving is an elevator operator in the office building suspected of being the headquarters of the drug mob. (Which it is) Needless to say Irving is soon rendered speechless after a great big honking sedan runs her down.

The Feds now put one of their own, Pamela Blake, into the now vacant job. The Feds wire up the elevator with a camera and sound. They hope to see someone they might know from the mug books etc. This happens, and gang member Joe Turkel is grabbed up for a bit of friendly third degree. Turkel holds his tongue and is soon released. The Feds however trail the man as he leads them to the boss, John Eldredge. The Feds now wire up Eldredge's office for a bit of evidence gathering.

Things go sideways when the mob tumbles to the Federal operation. They grab up an agent to use as a hostage. There is a large shootout as the villains attempt a getaway. Lead flies and the crooks come out on the short end of the exchange. Eldredge is ran over and killed by his own men during the gun battle.

Though made on an obvious shoe-string budget, it only runs 67 minutes, and does supply a few thrills. Not a world beater, but, if you are a fan of low rent programmer fare, it will pass the time well enough.
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Dry story as agents crack down on drug runners
ksf-225 November 2009
Indie producer Jack Schwarz produced about thirty flicks in the 1940s and 1950s. This one, Federal Man, also known as "Narcotics Agent", was dry as a piece of toast, with no buttah. As of today, two people have rated this one a perfect "10", but jeez, it plods along like a bad episode of Dragnet, using an omniscient narrator that even SOUNDS like the same one from the Dragnet TV series. The original "Dragnet" film was made in 1947, and has been remade as films and TV series numerous times. I would recommend skipping Federal Man and do something else with that 67 minutes. The only real exciting thing here is the peppy music. Narcotics agents Sherrin & Stuart (William Henry and Robert Shayne) follow Brandon (George Eldridge) and his cronies Sneeze and Rocky for suspected drug trafficking. They even put surveillance equipment in places one doesn't normally expect.... They work on both sides of the U.S. Mexican border,and of course there is the required gun shootout as they move in. The only big name here is Lyle Talbot, as Agent Johnson. He had worked with many of the biggies from the early days of the talkies, but also appeared in the early Batman and Superman works. Directed by Robert Tansey, who would only direct a couple more after this one, dying the next year.
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It works
boblipton25 November 2009
This obviously cheaply made near-procedural of federal agents trying to track down and quell the drug traffic in Los Angeles works because its peculiar combination of low lighting and good talent -- quite apparently picked up on the cheap -- combine to yield an occasionally documentary look. The cast is composed of names that rarely rose higher than secondary leads. The cinematographer spent his career starting with movies like HARLEM RIDES THE RANGE, ended it with MA BARKER'S KILLER BROOD and seems to have kept mostly at that level in between. Its director spent his career making B westerns you never heard of and the scriptwriters came out of Gower Gulch and if one ended up writing for HAWAII 5-0 well, it was a good gig.

In short, this movie sounds like something that no one should have ever heard of, yet the details combine in a compelling way. Are they incapable of emoting or underacting? Whatever it is, the result is what counts.
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Strictly Low-Budget
dougdoepke4 December 2009
This cheap little indie touches the semi-documentary bases at a time when Hollywood was boosting the image of federal agencies in general. After all, the Cold War was heating up; at the same time organized crime was growing, so who better than the FBI, DEA, Treasury Men, et al. as heroes for a new kind of documentary style. Many classics emerged from this period: T-Men (1947), Naked City (1948), Border Incident (1949). The better ones blended elements of noir with documentary naturalism to produce unusual effects.

This 1950 production echoes many clichés of the period (murdered agent, cutting edge technology, a Mr. Big et al.). But it's clearly a shoestring affair despite good intentions. At the same time, the lighting looks more like unpaid utility bill than noirish light and shadow. Nonetheless, the parking lot location shots provide good glimpse of Detroit's assembly line product, circa 1950. The screenplay manages some tension, but that final shootout looks poorly staged, as if no one fears getting hit. Strictly a low-grade effort at cashing in on a popular trend.
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Federal Man is Mundane**
edwagreen2 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
While this film is only less than 75 minutes in length, the bodies begin to pile up rather quickly. This includes a narcotics agent, 2 members of the gang, and an elevator runner, who stupidly announces that she can get her face in the papers for identifying the killers of a gang member while riding in her elevator. How stupid can you get?

The story centers on the familiar theme of drugs. In this one, a supposed respectable businessman is running some drugs from Mexico to California. The scenes shift quickly from both these areas constantly.

The new elevator operator is a plant from the narcotics squad and you have to hand it to them. They actually have honing devices to track cars that they're following. It's only 1950.

The problem with the film is that the characters are really flat. Too bad that first elevator operator wasn't around long enough.
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Poor Drama
Michael_Elliott27 November 2009
Federal Man (1950)

* 1/2 (out of 4)

After another agent is gunned down, narcotics Agent Phil Sherrin (William Henry) leads the investigation, which takes him from big cities down to small Mexican towns. He and his men are not only trying to find the drug dealers but also put an end to their violence. This film turned out to be a pretty rare one when it recently got its debut on Turner Classic Movies but I have to wonder why they'd put a thing like this on during prime time. This is certainly a "C" movie that features some well known "B" actors in a rather bland and predictable little drama that really doesn't have too much going for it outside of the nice cast. The biggest problem with the film is that it tries to be a lot smarter than it actually is. This is the type of film that tries to act like it knows a lot of behind the scenes stuff when everything we're watching is pretty laid back, boring and really just comes off as being unoriginal. The movie runs a short 67-minutes but the film seems twice as long due to the slow pacing and the fact that it seems the story never really knows where it wants to go. The cast is full of veterans with many who appeared in over one hundred films. Some might remember lead actor Henry from small parts in films like THE THIN MAN and TARZAN ESCAPES. He doesn't really put too much energy into his role nor does Lyle Talbot in his few scenes. Vet Robert Shayne and newcomer Joe Turkel also appear in the film. Movita, best known for playing a love interest in 1935's MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY and being Marlon Brando's future wife, appears as a Spanish dancer. Fans of "C" movies might be tempted to check this out like I was but there really wasn't anything here that grabbed my attention. The opening sequence is meant to be full of suspense but it falls flat on its face as does everything that follows.
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