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FOR YOU I DIE (director: John Reinhardt; screenwriter: Robert Presnell Sr.; cinematographer: William Clothier; editors: Stanley Frazen/Jason Bernie; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Cathy Downs (Hope Novak), Paul Langton (Johnny Coulter), Mischa Auer (Alec Shaw), Roman Bohnen (Smitty), Jane Weeks (Georgie), Don Harvey (‘Matt’ Gruber), Charles Waldron Jr. (Patrolman Jerry), Rory Mallinson (Patrolman Mac), Marion Kerby (Maggie Dillon), Mannetta Callejo (Louisa Shaw); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Reinhardt/Robert Presnell Sr.; Alpha Home Entertainment; 1947)
Gem of a Poverty Row film noir.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Austrian director John Reinhardt(“High Tide”/”Open Secret”/”Chicago Calling”), a veteran of small studio thrillers, helms this black and white shot gem of a Poverty Row film noir. The atmospheric B crime film is tautly written with snappy dialogue by Robert Presnell Sr., and is well-acted by the ensemble cast.

Hardened criminal Matt Gruber (Don Harvey) forces at gunpoint Johnny Coulter (Paul Langton) to escape with him from a California prison, as he needs a truck driver. Johnny is a prison trustee, with only a year to go to finish his time, and therefore feels screwed. They go separate ways, as Matt heads to San Francisco and Johnny is ordered by Matt to go to a remote countryside diner, some 100 miles from San Francisco, and to get Matt’s waitress girlfriend Hope Novak (Cathy Downs) to help him hide for a week. Then Matt promises to turn up at the diner to leave town with Nancy.

The church-going owner of the roadside diner is the kindly Maggie Dillon (Marion Kerby), who hires Johnny under another name, to pump gas. Maggie is the aunt of the slutty waitress, Georgie (Jane Weeks), who has the hots for the fugitive and tells the good girl Nancy, still recovering from her sad past and her regrettable youthful mistakes, that he’s ‘exciting, almost like having a wild animal for a pet.’

Warning: spoiler in the paragraph.

Nancy and Johnny fall in love, discovering they’re kindred spirits. Their problem is what to do when the crazed Matt appears, who killed a cop that week in San Francisco. When Matt shows up a day early flashing a rod and insists on taking Nancy with him, a showdown takes place and the heroic alcoholic grill man, Smitty (Roman Bohnen), takes a bullet to save Johnny but in the fracas wounds Matt. It ends on a soap opera happy note, with Johnny turning the wounded killer fugitive over to the cops and the killer, if you believe, confesses he forced Johnny to escape with him. Thereby Johnny returns to serve a year in prison and Nancy promises to wait for the reformed criminal at the roadside diner.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”