Below the Deadline (1936)


(director: Charles W. Lamont; screenwriter: Ewart Adamson/story by Ewart Adamson; cinematographer: M.A. Anderson; editor: Roland D. Reed; Russell Hopton (Terry Mulvaney), Cecilia Parker (Molly Fitzgerald), Theodor Von Eltz (Flash Ackroyd), Warner Richmond (Diamond Dutch), Jack Gardner (Spike), Sidney Payne (Plastic Surgeon), John St. Polis (Mr. Abrams); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George R. Batcheller; Chesterfield; 1936)

“Credibly made Poverty Row crime drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Charles W. Lamont(“Francis in the Haunted House”/”Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy“/”Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man“), better suited for directing low-brow comedies, nevertheless gets away with murder in this credibly made Poverty Row crime drama. Ewart Adamson adapts the screenplay from his story.

“The Deadline” refers to Manhattan’s Canal Street. That’s where to find the financial and diamond district. We’re told the jewelry neighborhood has “more diamonds by the square foot than any part of the world.” Jewel thief gang leader Flash Ackroyd (Theodor Von Eltz) frames good guy Irish cop Terry Mulvaney (Russell Hopton) for the robbery of jewels from Abrams and Co. Jewelers, where his girlfriend Molly Fitzgerald (Cecilia Parker, on loan from MGM) works. One of Abrams’ assistants is killed and Terry is charged with robbery and murder. Molly is fired for possibly being in on the heist, and finds another job in a nightclub run by gangsters. Terry, while on-the-run, survives an out-of-town train wreck. His damaged face undergoes plastic surgery, and he emerges from the hospital with an unrecognizable new face. The ex-cop is obsessed with catching the party who framed him and returns secretly to NYC. Terry again romances Mary, who we are supposed to believe doesn’t recognize him. It works well as an hour-long programmer, if you don’t have great expectations. It’s fast paced, the acting is okay and it has enough story to keep you tuned in.