FRAMED (director: Richard Wallace; screenwriter: from an unpublished story by Jack Patrick/Ben Maddow; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Richard Fantl; cast: Glenn Ford (Mike Lambert), Janis Carter (Paula Craig), Barry Sullivan (Steve Price), Edgar Buchanan (Jeff Cunningham), Karen Morley (Beth Price), Sid Tomack (Bartender), Jim Bannon (Jack Woodworth), Barbara Woodell (Jane Woodworth), Paul E. Burns (Sandy, Assayer); Runtime: 82; Columbia; 1947)
“Richard Wallace directs a film noir that is more a character study than it is a puzzler.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Richard Wallace directs a film noir that is more a character study than it is a puzzler. Unemployed mining engineer Mike Lambert (Ford) is driving a truck for a cheap outfit out of financial desperation. His truck careens out of control because the brakes don’t work and it hits Jeff Cunningham’s (Edgar Buchanan) car. The trucking company refuses to pay for the damages, but Mike pays him out of the meager $15 he receives for his driving services.
Stuck in this dumpy town without any money, he gets drunk in the local saloon where he’s befriended by an extremely attractive and well-dressed waitress, Paula Craig (Janis Carter). Mike is suspicious of her because she looks too classy to be a waitress in such a dive. When Mike gets charged with reckless driving she pays his $50 fine and gets him a hotel room.
Paula plans to frame Mike for a crime because he closely resembles her married boyfriend, Steve Price (Sullivan), who because of his wife’s family connections is the VP in the local bank. The plan is for Steve to embezzle $250,000, put it in a safety deposit box owned by Paula, and fake his death in a car accident as he will set the car on fire with Mike in it instead of him. Then the lovers will run off together.
Warning: spoiler to follow in the next two paragraphs.
But Paula either falls in love with Mike and changes the plan or she decides to keep all the loot herself, as she double-crosses Steve and conks him over the head and sends him over the cliff instead of the drunken Mike. When he reads in the paper what happened, Paula is there to tell him that he killed Steve while in a drunken jealous rage. Another odd twist is that his new mining partner, Jeff, who was turned down for a loan by Steve, is accused of the murder because his laundry is found in the back of the car and evidence shows up that Steve was murdered by a blow to his head. He had the motive since Steve turned down his loan for the mining venture.
Mike tracks down what really happened by visiting Steve’s bank secretary (Barbara Woodell), and decides to call the cops on the femme fatale before she can get out of town.
Janis Craig gives a very sexy and dangerous performance, which plays off very well against Glenn Ford’s very earnest one of the good guy who can’t get a lucky break. Even when he finds someone he could love she turns out to be poison, someone who was about to poison his coffee until she was reassured that he does not know something incriminating about her role in the crime. It was an entertaining B-film that ably caught how an honest but desperate man reacts after hooking up with a false-hearted woman. The good performances overcame the cheap production values and slight story.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2001 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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