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SHOOT TO KILL(director: Lester William Berke; screenwriter: Edwin V. Westrate; cinematographer: Ben Kline; editor: Arthur A. Brooks; cast: Russell Wade (George Mitchell), Susan Walters (Marian Langdon), Edmund MacDonald (Larry Dale), Douglas Blackley (Dixie Logan), Vince Barnett (Charlie), Nestor Paiva (Gus Miller), Charles Trowbridge (John Forsythe), Harry Brown (Forman), Harry V. Cheshire (Blake), Ted Hecht (Collins), Robert Riordan (Carter); Runtime: 64; Lippert Films/Screen Guild; 1947)
“Not a bad watch.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fast-paced B film noir about corruption and double-crosses, that has a lot of plot twists and a nifty surprise ending. The film opens with a car crash involving escaped murderer Dixie Logan (Blackley), Assistant District Attorney Larry Dale (MacDonald) and his wife Marian Langdon (Walters). The two men die, but Marian is brought to the hospital in critical condition with a head injury and confesses to reporter George Mitchell (Wade) what really happened. The film is told in flashback until Marian finishes her story and the film returns to the present.

The flashback opens as Marian appears for the advertised job as secretary to the assistant district attorney and is spotted by Mitch, who is in the office ahead of her to see Dale about a news story. By accident Mitch pushes the button on the intercom and overhears an argument between District Attorney Forsythe (Trowbridge) and Dale. When Marian enters, Mitch takes one look at the pretty lady and is attracted to her. He takes her out to lunch and talks Dale into hiring her.

When asked why she wants to work for Dale, Marian tells Mitch that she admires the job he did in convicting Dixie Logan. He received a 20 year jail sentence. Marian disregards that Dixie claimed he was framed and would get even with Dale; instead, she agrees with Larry who says, all felons say that about their prosecutors.

It soon becomes apparent that Dale is working with underworld kingpin Gus Miller (Paiva), but Marian plays like she doesn’t notice. One day Miller comes to see Dale in his office and he notices the janitor (Barnett) is one of Dixie Logan’s boys. Dale has his men throw him down the elevator shaft in the court building.

Miller suspects something fishy about the new secretary and asks Dale to fire her, which Dale is reluctant to do but agrees to anyway. When back in his office, Dale notices it was bugged. The janitor bugged it before his sudden death. But he thinks Marian did it and decides to marry her so she can’t testify against him. After the justice of the peace performs the marriage ceremony one of Miller’s men tries to shoot her as she steps outside, but misses. Back at home she tells Dale she knows how crooked he is and that the shot was meant for her, but she will work with him to be elected district attorney if he smashes the three gangs (Miller, Forman, and Blake) that have a hold over him. But he must promise her that he does everything by the book (no killings) from now on. The power-hungry woman also tells Dale that she knows that he and the underworld gangs framed the gangster Logan so that they could control the city.

Dale comes up with a diabolical plan to play one gang against the other. One of his first problems is that the two phony witnesses (Hecht and Riordan) against Dixie weren’t paid off for their work and now must be rubbed out. But Dixie intercepts them first and gets them to confess on paper that they lied on the witness stand and that it was the three gang leaders who paid him. When they leave the apartment, Miller’s men have orders to ‘shoot to kill’ the phony witnesses. Meanwhile, the omnipresent snoop Mitch overheard the witnesses talking with Dixie and knows Dixie didn’t shoot them because he was talking with him when they were shot. He tries to talk Dixie into going to the police with that confession and clearing his name, but Dixie has other ideas and overcomes the reporter and escapes with the confession.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.

Back in Dale’s office all the confusion gets cleared up, as Dixie appears. It turns out that Marian is his wife and he was in disguise as the justice of the peace, so that the marriage was bogus. But when he finds out that Marian mailed all the evidence against Dale to the honest D.A. Forsyth, he slaps her and tells her he could have worked a deal with Dale to run the city. She cries out: “You’re no good,” as the two criminals take her in the car to kill her. That was the car that crashed before the flashback began.

Mitch talks the D.A. into throwing out the confession she sent him and she comes out of it as clean as a whistle, as the reporter is still smitten over her.

The film was cheaply made and the acting didn’t distinguish itself. But the story had a lot of snap. It’s not a bad watch, but lovers of film noir should like it more than others.

Two of the film’s stars, Douglas Blackley and Susan Walters, changed their professional names after the film to Robert Kent and Luana Walters.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”