HUNT THE MAN DOWN (aka: Seven Witnesses) (director: George Archainbaud; screenwriter: DeVallon Scott; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Gig Young (Paul Bennett), James Anderson (Richard Kincaid), Lynne Roberts (Sally Martin), Mary Anderson (Alice McGuire), Christy Palmer (Joan Brian), John Kellogg (Kerry McGuire), Willard Parker (Eric Appleby), Carla Balenda (Rolene Wood), Gerald Mohr (Walter Long), Harry Shannon (Wallace Bennett), Cleo Moore (Pat Sheldon), Paul H. Frees (Packy Collins), James Seay (Prosecutor), William Forrest (Mr. Knight), Iris Adrian (Marie, McGuire’s Flophouse Neighbor); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lewis Rachmil; RKO; 1950)
“Pleasing B-movie film noir.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Pleasing B-movie film noir, with only noteworthy actors being Gig Young in a starring role as dedicated public defender Paul Bennett and Cleo Moore as the sexy Pat Sheldon, in a small role as the unreliable witness in a murder trial who takes the witness stand in an eye-popping outfit. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of colorful character actors present in minor roles such as Gerald Mohr, Paul H. Frees, and Iris Adrian, who had distinguished careers in programmer films.
Bill Jackson is a dishwasher in Happy’s Cafe, who becomes a hero when he thwarts an after hours armed robbery. But the newspaper story comes to the attention of the Los Angeles District Attorney who recognizes the photo as that of Richard Kincaid (James Anderson), the escaped murder suspect from some twelve years ago in 1938. Kincaid fled before the almost certain guilty trial verdict when his court guard collapsed from an illness, and has worked at odd jobs since while on-the-run. His current girlfriend Sally Martin, also employed at Happy’s, believes in the gentle man’s innocence. Public defender Paul Bennett believes Kincaid’s story and gets his retired policeman father Wallace (Harry Shannon) to help investigate the seven witnesses at the original trial. In flashback we learn that Kincaid met at a bar Kerry and Alice McGuire, a married couple, and they brought him home to an impromptu drinking and dancing party with two other unmarried couples, Walter Long and Rolene Woods, Eric Appleby and Pat Shelton, and there was one unescorted married woman Joan Brian. Mrs. Brian’s jealous husband Dan came late to the gathering and in a jealous rage pulled a gun on Kincaid, who disarmed him and in the heat of the moment said “Good thing your friends are here, or I’d kill you.” Later that night Dan was killed in his bed with his own gun and Kincaid’s fingerprints were on it.
There’s some good investigative work by the Bennetts in tracking down the seven witnesses, whose lives have changed drastically from that fatal night. Appleby was blinded during the war and works now as a bookbinder, and believes his girlfriend Pat died; Kerry McGuire has divorced and is now a Skid Row bum, while his divorced wife returns to her maiden name; Walter Long married a year later the Brian widow and lives in a Beverly Hills mansion; while Rolene Woods, the poetry minded one, became mentally disturbed and was committed to an insane asylum.
Bennett is convinced his client is innocent, and gets a lucky break during the trial as the guilty party is startlingly revealed by the lawyer’s Perry Mason-like ruse.
The crime drama remains tense throughout. The script by DeVallon Scott is taut, while George Archainbaud efficiently directs.
REVIEWED ON 3/15/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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