FINGER MAN, THE(director: Harold D. Schuster; screenwriters: Warren Douglas/from story by John Lardner & Morris Lipsius; cinematographer: William Sickner; editor: Maurice E. Wright; cast: Frank Lovejoy (Casey Martin), Peggie Castle (Gladys Baker), Forrest Tucker (Dutch Becker), Timothy Carey (Lou), Hugh Sanders (Mr. Burns), Evelyn Eaton (Lucille), William Leicester (Federal Agent Rogers), Lewis Charles (Lefty); Runtime: 85; Allied Artists Pictures; 1955)
“This is a standard B-film gangster thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is a standard B-film gangster thriller. But the acting was very good with Tim Carey as the psycho hit man, stealing every scene he was in. It had the trappings of noir, but failed to hold that certain kind of dark suspense. Its turncoat antihero Frank Lovejoy was a boring character, too preoccupied with ditching his criminal past for another chance at a straight life and too fussy about putting on his fedora and trenchcoat to be seen as a rogue. He was more like a conventional hero in a conventional film.
The story is told through Casey Martin’s (Lovejoy) eyes. He’s a three time loser who just got out of the joint two weeks ago after doing 9 years. On the day before Christmas, he and his sidekick Lefty (Lewis Charles) hijack a truck and he is arrested as a bootlegger when his fingerprints are found on a cigarette pack left at the crime scene.
The federal agents bring Casey to their chief, Mr. Burns (Sanders), who gives him this proposition: become the finger man of big-time hoodlum Dutch Becker (Tucker) and go free, or get a life sentence. Dutch is a bootlegger, runs a hooker operation, and also runs a wide-spread illegal gambling operation. Dutch is known to play rough, surrounding himself with dangerous thugs. The odds are fifty-fifty whether Casey walks out of the deal alive or with a bullet in his head. Nevertheless, Casey opts to take the deal, especially when he sees his sister Lucille is reduced to being an alcoholic, needing to go to a sanitarium, after working for Dutch as a B-girl.
Gladys Baker (Peggie Castle) is the curvaceous blonde, anxious to date Casey — which will ultimately prove fatal. Gladys once worked for Dutch and knows how ruthless he can be. Gladys, under persuasion from Casey, reluctantly introduces him to Dutch. The two men feel each other out, with Dutch taking an instant liking to the tough guy. But Dutch’s henchmen, led by the psycho Lou (Tim Carey), detest him, and they get into a few spats which show how vicious these thugs can be.
There are a series of dangers involved in this fingering job…but no real surprises as the film winds down to the crucial payoff, where Casey has set the bootleggers up and goes to carry out the deal while wired. When Casey is discovered, it’s up to the federal agents to react in time to save his life. It’s a watchable B-film about ‘cops and robbers,’ nothing more.
REVIEWED ON 12/29/2000 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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