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ESCAPE FROM CRIME (director: D. Ross Lederman; screenwriters: story “Picture Snatcher” by Daniel Ahern/Raymond L. Schrock; cinematographer: James Van Trees; editor: Doug Gould; music: William Lava; cast: Richard Travis (Red O’Hara), Julie Bishop (Molly O’Hara), Frank Wilcox (Cornell), Rex Williams (Slim Dugan), Wade Boteler (Lieutenant ‘Biff’ Malone), Charles Wilson (Reardon), Jackie Gleason (Convict), Paul Fix (Dude Merrill); Runtime: 51; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Jacobs; WB; 1942)
“A feel-good standard crime drama about an ex-con who goes straight and gets a fresh start in life as a rogue newspaper photographer.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Prolific studio B-film director D. Ross Lederman(“Sing While You Dance”/”Key Witness”/”The Return of the Whistler“), noted for his 1940 quickie crime films brought in under budget, turns in a feel-good standard crime drama about an ex-con who goes straight and gets a fresh start in life as a rogue newspaper photographer. The story “Picture Snatcher” by Daniel Ahern is scripted by Raymond L. Schrock and made into a fast moving picture. Escape From Crime is aremake of the 1933 “Picture Snatcher,” with Richard Travis in the James Cagney role.

Red O’Hara (Richard Travis) takes a mug shot of a big talking new inmate (Jackie Gleason), as he does his prison job. Minutes later Red is paroled for no apparent reason and is a free man after serving time for a bank hold-up that he swears he didn’t commit. With the help of his former gang member friend Slim (Rex Williams), Red locates his girlfriend Molly (Julie Bishop). Red plans to shoot Molly, after borrowing Slim’s heater, for being unfaithful. The good girl Molly dumped him when he was arrested, as she refuses to be around criminals. When Red discovers she gave birth to his child, proof being he has red hair, he promises to go straight and Molly forgives him and they marry.

Red snaps pictures of a bank robbery, which lands him a job with a sleazy tabloid, with hard-drinking editor Cornell (Frank Wilcox) and an unscrupulous managing editor named Reardon (Charles Wilson). The job gets off his back, his nemesis, Lt. Malone (Wade Boteler), the detective who sent him up and by coincidence is now his parole officer. The pictures of the robbery reveal that Slim was one of the robbers and the one who shot the cop. When he’s executed, Red is asked by his tabloid to photograph the execution, for a hefty fee of a thousand bucks, even though that’s against prison policy. It results in Red committing a parole violation and is sent back to the slammer when after secretly taking the picture he drops his camera. But before reaching the slammer, Red uncovers the hide-out of mastermind gang leader Dude Merrill (Paul Fix) near the prison. Dude’s the one who pulled the bank robbery Red was framed for and he seeks revenge. Red thereby convinces Biff to let him try and capture Dude, and he has no trouble infiltrating Dude’s gang. It results in a machine gun battle between cops and robbers and Dude brought to justice by Red, as he also saves a detective from being shot. This action gets Biff a promotion to captain and Red gets the governor to give him a full pardon for past crimes.

The pic is so absurd that I found it refreshing enjoyable in a perverse comical Hollywood way.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”