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CHICAGO SYNDICATE (director: Fred F. Sears; screenwriters: Joseph Hoffman/from the story by William Sackheim; cinematographers: Henry Freulich/Fred Jackman, Jr.; editor: Viola Lawrence; music: Ross DiMaggio; cast: Dennis O’Keefe (Barry Amsterdam), Paul Stewart (Arnie Valent), Abbe Lane (Connie Peters), Xavier Cugat (Benny Chico), Allison Hayes (Joyce Kern/Sue Morton), Richard H. Cutting (David Healey), George Brand (Jack Roper), Hugh Sanders (Pat Winters, Attorney General), John Zaremba (Detective Robert Fenton), Carroll McComas (Mother Valent), Mark Hanna (Brad Lacy); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia Pictures; 1955)
“All-too-familiar racket-busting melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fred F. Sears (“Rock Around the Clock”/”Miami Expose”/”Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”) service-ably directs this average B-film formulaic crime thriller that comes with a voiceover and location shots of the Windy City. It’s flatly written by Joseph Hoffman and William Sackheim. The film was spawned as were many other such underworld exposé films at the time as a result of the Kefauver Hearings in 1950, a U.S. Senate committee formed to investigate organized crime.

Barry Amsterdam (Dennis O’Keefe) is an underpaid but ambitious CPA for the Internal Revenue Service who is given a bonus of $60,000 (raised by private donations of civic minded leading citizens) and recruited by law enforcement to be used as a police plant in the inventive bookkeeping department of a big-time racketeer in Chicago. Barry schemes to replace the former mob CPA, Nelson Kern, who was bumped off for squealing to the managing editor of the Chicago Telegraph (Richard H. Cutting) that the Unicorn Casualty and Life is merely a front for the Chicago syndicate to launder their crooked money. Barry’s eager to get some incriminating evidence on mob boss Arnie Valent (Paul Stewart), who is cooking the books, lives in a luxury pad and romances the curvaceous nightclub singer Connie Peters (Abbe Lane). She plays in the mob owned club, called The Maracas, with bandleader Benny Chico (Xavier Cugat, Abbe’s then real-life husband), and holds an incriminating microfilm, to ensure her safety, that is the only piece of evidence that connects Arnie with cooking the books and could bring the syndicate down.

The Chicago Syndicate also features Joyce Kern (Allison Hayes) as the slain CPA’s lovely daughter who is seeking justice for her father and that mom committed suicide after the incident. Joyce returns from Europe using the alias of Sue Morton and hooks up with Barry in The Maracas’ private gambling club run by the mob, as they plan to thwart the mobster.

There are no surprises and no thrills, and the acting is rote, in this all-too-familiar racket-busting melodrama. But with all that, it’s still passable.

REVIEWED ON 12/25/2007 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”