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LOAN SHARK (director: Seymour Friedman; screenwriters: Marty Rackin/Eugene Ling/from Marty Rackin’s unpublished story; cinematographer: Joseph Birac; editor: Al Joseph; cast: George Raft (Joe Gargen), Dorothy Hart (Ann Nelson), Paul Stewart (Donelli), Helen Westcott (Martha), John Hoyt (Vince Phillips), Henry Slate (Paul Nelson), William Phipps (Ed Haines), Russell Johnson (Thompson), Ben Baker (Tubby), Larry Dobkin (Walter Karr), Charles Meredith (Mr. Jennick); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bernard Luber; Lippert; 1952)
“A lifeless thriller about an ex-convict trying to smash a brutal loan shark racket.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lifeless thriller about an ex-convict trying to smash a brutal loan-shark racket. Sappy dialogue, an awful plot, and unimaginative directing by Seymour Friedman, make this hardly believable crime story fizzle. The story made about as much sense as snow in July. It is only watchable because George Raft tries to inject into it some Hollywood star pizzazz. But even the final shootout is flat.

Joe Gargen (Raft) is released from prison after serving three years for a fight and goes to live with his kid sister Martha and husband Ed Haines. The reason the hot-tempered ruffian had to serve time was because he was an ex-fighter who got into a brawl and his fists according to the law are considered as dangerous weapons.

Martha’s pretty apartment building neighbor Ann Nelson (Hart) is secretary to Delta Tire Company’s general manager, Mr. Rennick (Meredith). She paves the way for him getting a factory job there, but first he must be interviewed by the boss. Rennick proposes hiring him for a special job, working inside the plant to get the scoop on a loan shark racket and reporting back only to him. In the past month, three of Rennick’s valued factory workers were beaten up because they couldn’t make payments on the exorbitant high interest loans they took out and the boss is concerned about losing the highly efficient but cheaply paid workforce. Why the police and not an ex-convict are used to crack this ring, is beyond my understanding.

Joe at first refuses saying he only wants a straight factory job, but he agrees to take the special assignment when his brother in law Ed is murdered by the loan-shark goons for agitating trouble against them. Meanwhile Joe romances Ann. But when in Joe’s undercover work he’s steered to the sharks by plant supervisor Charlie Thompson, he soon wins over the gang and becomes an enforcer for Donelli and immediately quits the factory. This occurs after he works over an enforcer sent by Donelli to collect from his unpaid loan and Donelli’s boss, Vince Phillips, takes Joe into the organization despite Donelli’s protests.

The undercover assignment estranges Joe from his sister and girlfriend and his other personal relations since he can’t risk telling them what he’s up to, but he stays on to uncover who the mysterious big boss is and in the end patches up those relationships by becoming a hero. This low-budget crime thriller puts all its action into the final shootout scene in a shadowy theater. It had nothing to say about crime or the workforce. The script leaves the impression that all the parties concerned don’t seem to have enough brains to walk and chew gum at the same time.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”