(director: Sam Newfield; screenwriter: Al Martin; cinematographer: John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.; editor: Holbrook Todd; cast: Hugh Beaumont (Steve Clark), Frances Rafferty (Julie Saunders), Harlan Warde (Donald Harper), Cecil Weston (Aunt Cora), Ida Moore (Mrs. Ferguson), Danny Morton (Rogers), Joel Friedkin (Dr. Wagner), Don C. Harvey (Drunk in Cab); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sigmund Neufeld; Film Classics; 1948)
“Has its chilling moments.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A low-grade film noir that has its chilling moments. It opens with Julie Saunders (Frances Rafferty) sentenced to a prison term of ten years for being an accomplice to murder. A flashback is used to show how a sweet girl like Julie could have gotten into such deep trouble.
Steve Clark (Hugh Beaumont) is the fictitious name of Fred Howard, a bank robber and a killer on-the-run, who arrives one sunny day at noon by Greyhound in Julie’s unnamed Colorado small-town, where the unhappy malt shop waitress resides in an old stuffy bad vibed house with her embittered invalid Aunt Cora (Cecil Weston). The first thing Steve does is stash the $200,000 bank robbery loot in a safety deposit box, and then secures a job as a taxi driver. He meets Julie when he rescues her from a drunken and lecherous date, who won’t take no for an answer when he insists she accompany him to his apartment while in Steve’s taxi. Steve kicks him out and drives her home acting like a knight in shining armor, and then turns on the charm to see her again. It leads to a sudden marriage, as an unquestioning Julie is desperate to get out of the clutches of a detestable grouchy Aunt Cora who wants all her attention. But sharpie Steve pulls a fast one and convinces Julie to keep the marriage a secret until he straightens out his recent messy divorce. Steve’s real purpose is to keep Julie living with Aunt Cora so he can poison her drinks and therefore when Cora dies Julie will inherit the house and the bank money he’ll stash in the basement trunk will be claimed as the eccentric Cora’s. This plan, hatched right out of a loony bin, will launder the dirty money. The nervous Julie is forced into going along with the plan when bully boy Steve tells her she’s already an accomplice because she served her aunt the poisoned coffee and grapefruit juice, and though she did it unknowingly no one would believe that.
When Steve is recognized in a restaurant by a crime crony, he’s visited later that night by Rogers–a member of the bank heist, who wants half of the money. Steve guns him down in cold blood in Julie’s living room, muffling the gunshot with loud radio music and then forcing the shaken Julie to help him dump the body. When the body that is discovered is identified as one of the bank robbers, Steve is recognized as Fred Howard, the escaped Denver bank robber by Julie’s estate lawyer, Donald Harper (Harlan Warde), when he sees the photo splashed across the front page of the newspaper. Fred’s written up as the former mental patient inmate who is wanted in connection with that same bank robbery and murder. When Harper, who has a crush on Julie, confronts Steve in Julie’s place, he’s about to be plugged the same way Rogers got it as Steve plays the radio loud. But this time it backfires, as the police are alerted by the noise and when they enter the house they kill Steve before he can fire at them.
Beaumont went on to be Ward Cleaver in television’s “Leave it to Beaver,” but here he’s great to watch as a sleazeball and sicko killer. It’s film where it takes a suspension of belief to get through all the problems built into the implausible plot, but nevertheless the film has a certain insanity kicking in that somehow works to give it an edge.
REVIEWED ON 4/17/2005 GRADE: B