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FALL GUY(director: Reginald Le Borg; screenwriter: from the story “Cocaine” by Cornell Woolrich/Jerry Warner/John O’Dea; cinematographer: Mack Stengler; editor: William Austin; music: Edward Kay; cast: Lou Lubin (Benny), Teala Loring (Lois Walter), Clifford Penn (Tom Cochrane), Robert Armstrong (Mac McLaine), Virginia Dale (Marie), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Joe), Douglas Fowley (Inspector Shannon), Charles Arnt (Uncle Jim Grossett), John Harmon (Mr. Sindell), Iris Adrian (Mrs. Sindell), Jack Overman (Mike); Runtime: 64; Monogram; 1947)
“A minor B-film, but it had some zip.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tom Cochrane (Penn) is found passed out in an alleyway and wearing a bloody shirt, and by his side is a bloody knife. Taken to the police hospital ward in a drunken and narcotic stupor, he overhears the homicide detectives say he will be charged with murder. In a panic, he flees to the apartment of his detective brother-in-law, Mac McLaine (Armstrong).

When Tom’s girlfriend Lois Walter (Loring) calls, she’s invited over to Mac’s and they both question the nice guy Tom about the hazy events of last night. All Tom recalls is that he met a guy called Joe in a bar and he brought him to a party held somewhere he can’t remember. At the party he met a singer (Dale) and later he found her dead in the closet in the room she took him to. Before Mac can bring Tom in for questioning, Inspector Shannon arrives to arrest Tom. But Mac is sympathetic with Tom’s plight as he thinks he’s been made the fall guy, so he decides to let him escape. When he meets Tom later, they trace his steps when he left Benny’s bar and met the elevator operator named Joe (Elisha Cook, Jr.). Through investigative work they locate Joe and squeeze it out of him through physical force where the party was held. From there on it’s up to Tom to uncover the truth as Mac is jailed for abetting Tom.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Lois has a guardian she calls Uncle Jim (Arnt), even though he’s no relation. He’s a wealthy and distinguished gentleman who dislikes Tom because of his drinking. It also turns out that he’s jealous of Tom, as he’s attracted to his guardian. In a sickened state of mind, he devices this plan to drug Tom so he will suffer from a memory loss and he then kills the singer’s girlfriend, who has been blackmailing him over their affair. He figures he can “kill two birds with one stone,” as he frames Tom by planting the bloody knife in his hands when he’s unconscious.

This low budget Monogram film noir has a pleasing moody visual style and the usual dark noir theme of an innocent man trapped by circumstances beyond his control. A minor B-film, but it had some zip.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”