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CRIMINAL COURT (director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: from the story by Earl Felton/Lawrence Kimble; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Robert Swink; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Tom Conway (Steve Barnes), Martha O’Driscoll (Georgia Gale), June Clayworth (Joan Mason), Robert Armstrong (Vic Wright), Addison Richards (District Attorney Gordon), Pat Gleason (Joe West), Steve Brodie (Frankie Wright), Phil Warren (Bill Brannegan), Addison Richards (District Attorney Gordon), Robert Warwick (Mr. Marquette); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Martin Mooney; RKO; 1946)
“Though never more than routine, it makes for a pleasant watch.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Wise (“The Sand Pebbles”/”West Side Story”/”The Haunting”) is able after this well-received programmer to climb up the ladder of the studio system and direct the better film. Producer Martin Mooney was a former crime reporter. It’s based on the story by Earl Felton and written by Lawrence Kimble.

Steve Barnes (Tom Conway, the brother of George Sanders) is a slick defense lawyer known for his courtroom theatrics and bag of tricks. He has political ambitions to be the next DA. In his private investigation, his snoops uncover on film that Frankie Wright (Steve Brodie), the younger brother of nightclub owner and gangster Vic Wright (Robert Armstrong), is bribing a police officer. Steve’s fiancée, Georgia Gale (Martha O’Driscoll), has just been hired to sing at Vic’s Circle Club, and takes the high paying job over Steve’s objections.

Vic wants the photos and threatens Steve with blackmail if he shows them to the police, and invites the lawyer over at night to his nightclub office to discuss his threat. The two get into a tussle and Steve knocks out the gangster, but Vic pulls a gun from a secret wall panel and when Steve knocks the gun out of his hand it accidentally discharges and kills Vic. Steve exits unnoticed, not realizing his crooked secretary Joan Mason (June Clayworth) watched the incident from a slot hole. She was on Vic’s payroll working as a spy to tell him about her boss’s moves. Though Steve is in the clear, Georgia walked into Vic’s office and found the body. In a panic she ran, and is put on trial for his murder. Steve defends her, but no one believes his story when he tells the truth. How Steve frees her without implicating himself, is a credit to the overall good performances and the filmmaker’s fast-pace, glib style and neat little twists that keep things hard-hitting. Though never more than routine, it makes for a pleasant watch.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”