(director: George Sherman; screenwriter: based on the novel Fiddler’s Green by Ernest K. Gann/Ernest K. Gann; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Ted J. Kent; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Richard Conte (Bruno Felkin), Charles Bickford (Hamil Linder), Shelley Winters (Connie Thatcher), Alex Nicol (Carl Linder), Stephen McNally(Lt. Kelsey), John McIntire(Corky Mullins), Tito Vuolo(Barney), Minerva Urecal(Johnnie Mae Swanson); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal-International Pictures; 1951)

Tedious minor film noir set in San Francisco.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tedious minor film noir set in San Francisco. It’s based on the novel Fiddler’s Green by Ernest K. Gann, who also writes the dreadful screenplay. Low-budget veteran prolific director George Sherman (“The Lone Hand”/”Big Jake”/”Comanche“), known as a competent craftsman,keeps things well-crafted but uninteresting and incredulous.

Small-time slot-machine racketeer Bruno Felkin (Richard Conte) rubs out his rival Marty Prince and reports the crime by phone to Homicide Detective Lieut. Kelsey (Stephen McNally). Bruno goes on-the-run when his innocent hat check girlfriend Connie (Shelley Winters) is not home and can’t provide an alibi, as intended. Since he’s the main suspect, Bruno hides all night in the Taage, a docked boat at Fisherman’s Wharf, and becomes a stowaway on the fishing boat of the elderly Swedish-immigrant captain, Hamil Linder (Charles Bickford), and his wayward estranged young son Carl (Alex Nicol), that sails that morning on a fishing expedition.

Carl has been placed by a judge in his father’s custody after stealing a car, and must work for dad to keep him out of the stir. This makes Carl irate, as he expresses a hatred for dad because of his “old world” values and insistence Carl follow in his footsteps.

When Bruno is discovered aboard the ship, the kindly Hamil lets him sail with them without question when he accepts Bruno’s bogus story that he’s a salesman who lost his job and was sleeping off a drunk after a night on the town. To keep his racket going while he stays aboard to hide from the cops, Bruno pays the eager Carl a big salary to take care of the collections. The gangster has a soft spot in his heart for Connie, and has Carl give the school drop-out $100 a week so she can make the payments to continue with her education. While working for Bruno, Carl falls in love with Connie. Meanwhile Bruno falls in love with Hamil’s honest lifestyle and the sea, and learns from pop how to fish. But with Kelsey putting the heat on Connie to give away where her boyfriend is hiding, Bruno schemes to frame Carl for the rub out of Prince by hiding the murder weapon in his clothes. The killer plans to get Connie to anonymously inform on Carl as the killer. Bruno then plans to sail to South America with her. But Mother Nature intervenes. While out fishing with Hamil and Carl, a severe storm takes place. After Bruno saves Carl’s life when he goes overboard (to please his father), the storm acts up and Bruno is lost at sea.

It ends on an artificial happy note, as gangster Bruno finds redemption in his noble death to save another’s life and a reformed Carl now takes over his widow father’s boat and plans to settle down with Connie to raise a family. Pop, who credits Bruno with turning around his son’s life, retires, and plans on doing nothing for the rest of his life except take joy that his son is doing an honest day’s work as a fisherman and has met a wholesome girl like Connie.

It’s a fish story alright, one that defies belief.

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