(director: Fred F. Sears; screenwriter: James B. Gordon; cinematographer: Benjamin H. Kline; editor: Al Clark; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Lee J. Cobb (Lt. Barton ‘Bob’ Scott), Patricia Medina (Lila Hodges), Edward Arnold (Oliver Tubbs), Michael Granger (Louis Ascot), Eleanore Tanin (Ann Easton), Alan Napier (Ray Sheridan), Harry Lauter (Det. Tim Grogan), Chris Alcaide (Morrie Pell, Gunman), Hugh Sanders (Chief Charles Landon), Barry L. Connors (Stevie Easton); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia; 1956)
“Second-rate wannabe film noir.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dependable B-film filmmaker Fred F. Sears (“Badman’s Country”/”Don’t Knock the Rock”/”Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”) directs this cheapie black and white crime drama produced by Sam Katzman, who was noted for making films taken straight from the newspaper’s sordid headlines. In this case, it used the attention the Kefauver Senate hearings into organized crime’s influence in government was getting to tell about the efforts of a shady lawyer to bring legalized gambling to Florida. This B-film was influenced by Fritz Lang’s brilliant film noir The Big Heat (1953), but only turns out to be a second-rate wannabe film noir. Screenwriter James B. Gordon (his real name is Robert E. Kent) has gangster criminal lawyer Ray Sheridan (Alan Napier, English actor) using his extensive network of corrupt officials to try to get legal gambling for the Sunshine state, where he’s ready to control things from behind the scenes. To give the film a ring of authenticity, Miami’s then-Mayor Randy Christmas introduces the film.
The hard-boiled dedicated Miami homicide detective Lt. Barton Scott (Lee J. Cobb) is on the verge of retirement, who becomes obsessed with smashing Miami’s gambling racketeers and especially nailing Sheridan after his good friend and superior officer Capt. Harry Elkins was killed at the Cromwell Hotel by an assassin connected with Sheridan. Bart’s depicted as a bachelor who is dating the widowed single mom, Anne Easton (Eleanore Tanin), who lost her policeman husband to street violence. Sheridan is depicted as a smoothy ruthless lawyer, who pays oily lobbyist Oliver Tubbs (Edward Arnold) $1,000,000 to direct a campaign to legalize gambling in Florida.
Bart travels to Havana to bring back reluctant key witness, Lila Hodges (Patricia Medina), whose gangster husband was murdered in Havana. He worked for the mob run by Louis Ascot (Michael Granger), Sheridan’s rival. On orders from Sheridan, the assassin, Pell (Chris Alcaide), afterwards tries to kill her rather than take the chance she will identify him. Bart scares her into believing she’s a walking target and flies with her back to Miami. She’s poisoned on that flight, but recovers after being hospitalized. Bart, with help from higher law authorities, decides to make Sheridan believe that Lila is dead so that he will lower his guard and gets the newspapers to print that she died. The cops hide her in a cabin in the Everglades with Detective Grogan (Harry Lauter), Anne and her 5-year-old son Stevie (Barry L. Connors), and set a trap to smoke out Sheridan so that he sends in his goons to try and kill her.
It wasn’t much fun since everything about it was stiff and contrived, and it hardly makes sense making a pic about muscling into the gambling arena and there’s no Mafia to deal with.
During production Edward Arnold died.
The film was shot on location.
REVIEWED ON 5/21/2009 GRADE: C+