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SELLOUT, THE (director: Gerald Mayer; screenwriters: Charles Palmer/story by Matthew Rapf; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: George White; music: David Buttolph; cast: Walter Pidgeon (Haven D. Allridge), John Hodiak (Charles ‘Chick’ Johnson), Audrey Totter (Cleo Bethel), Paula Raymond (Peggy Stauton), Karl Malden (Capt. Buck Maxwell), Everett Sloane (Nelson S. Tarsson), Cameron Mitchell (Randy Stanton), Thomas Gomez (Sherrif Kellwin C. ‘Casey’ Burke), Whit Bissell (Wilfred Jackson), Roy Engel (Sam F. Slaper), Griff Barnett (Atty. General J. R. Morrison ), Frank Cady (Bennie Amboy), Hugh Sanders (Judge Neeler); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nicholas Nayfack; Warner Home Video; 1952)
“Its tale of corruption and intimidation by the law enforcers is old news.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gerald Mayer (“Holiday For Sinners”/”Inside Straight”/”Bright Road”), nephew of MGM-head Louis B. Mayer, directs this unpleasant routine expose crime drama without distinction. It’s based on the story by Matthew Rapfand is written by Charles Palmer.

Haven D. Allridge (Walter Pidgeon) is the well-respected editor of his Midwestern big-city St. Howard newspaper, News Intelligencer, who visits his daughter Peggy (Paula Raymond) and her ambitious husband, county prosecutor Randy Stauton (Cameron Mitchell), in their home in nearby rural Bridgewood County. After giving an acquaintance, Willy Jackson (Whit Bissell), a ride home, the corrupt redneck sheriff Casey Burke (Thomas Gomez) jails the two on trumped-up charges and looks the other way as they are roughed up in their cells by a prisoners’ ‘kangaroo court’. The incensed editor when released, while Willy remains illegally jailed, begins a crusade against the corrupt sheriff and gets many witnesses to testify about their abuses. As a result, the state attorney general (Griff Barnett) sends his ace assistant, Chick Johnson (John Hodiak), to investigate the charges, despite his intentions to shortly resign for a better paying job in the private sector. Chick is assisted by the honest and dedicated police captain, Capt. Buck Maxwell (Karl Malden), of St. Howard.

Burke’s slimy lawyer, Tarsson (Everett Sloane), the brains behind the corrupt sheriff’s shady dealings, sends bar singerCleo Bethel (Audrey Totter) to entice Chick and thereby compromise him. It doesn’t work, as the two develop a real romance and level with each other. But soon all the witnesses are obviously intimidated by the bully sheriff and refuse to talk. Things get heavy when Allridge disappears and when he returns on his own, the outspoken crusader refuses to write any more crusading articles or testify against the sheriff’s gang that is abusively using its legal power to trample on the law by making it work only for their evil purposes.

During the climactic hearing called for by the state, everything falls into place as we learn why Allridge is a sellout and we have to hold our breaths to the end to see if he will testify despite the potential harm it will mean to his family.

It’s watchable, but as a lesson in civics on why the law in a democracy works, it is not convincing nor that interesting. Its tale of corruption and intimidation by the law enforcers is old news, hardly anything to get excited about.Compared to the same themed The Phenix City Story (1955), this one lays an egg.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”