SHORT CUT TO HELL
(director: James Cagney; screenwriters: from the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene/Albert Maltz/W.R. Burnett/Ted Berkman/Raphael Blau; cinematographer: Haskell B. Boggs; editor: Tom McAdoo; music: Irvin Talbor; cast: Georgann Johnson (Glory Hamilton), Robert Ivers (Kyle Niles), Jacques Aubuchon (Bahrwell), William Bishop (Sgt. Stan Lowery), Murvyn Vye (Nichols), Peter Baldwin (Carl Adams), Richard Hale (A. T.), Danny Lewis (Danny, the piano player), Sarah Selby (Secretary), Milton Frome (LAPD captain), Yvette Vickers (Daisy, hotel manager’s daughter); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: A.C. Lyles; Paramount; 1957)
“The only film directed by James Cagney.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The only film directed by James Cagney, done as a favor to producer Alex Gordon. It’s a remake of the 1942 Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake film This Gun for Hire. The taut noir film is based on the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene and is written by Albert Maltz, W.R. Burnett, Ted Berkman and Raphael Blau.
Ruthless hitman Kyle (Robert Ivers), who likes cats better than he does people, goes to Oakland, California, where he’s hired for a $1,000 by the slimy Bahrwell (Jacques Aubuchon) to bump off the new honest building inspector Carl Adams (Peter Baldwin) and the crooked secretary (Sarah Selby) in the City Engineering Department. When paid off in marked bills from a payroll robbery, the cops try to arrest Kyle for paying off his hotel bill with the marked money. The incensed Kyle, after running away from the police, vows to get even with Fatso Bahrwell, and goes on-the-run and hops a train to LA after learning from a nightclub piano player Fatso is from there. On the train Kyle takes aspiring nightclub singer Glory Hamilton (Georgann Johnson) hostage, and both land in LA but go their separate ways.
Glory’s boyfriend is straight-arrow Oakland detective sergeant Stan Lowery (William Bishop), in charge of the murder investigation in the Adams case, who like this viewer wonders how his do-gooder girlfriend ends up in Bahrwell’s North Hollywood place, where she’s kept there against her will by Bahrwell and tortured to get info on the location of Kyle by Fatso’s evil chauffeur (Murvyn Vye). Since Bahrwell saw her on the train with Kyle, he assumes she knows him. Bahrwell’s boss is the corrupt real estate developer A. T. (Richard Hale), who has given his underling 24 hours to kill Kyle or else. A. T. ordered the hit on the building inspector when caught using faulty steel for his new construction job and the notorious cheapskate boss ordered the payment in marked bills to recoup his money after Kyle’s arrest.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
The third act becomes too predictable and too unbelievable as to why Glory decides to put herself in great danger to aid this creepy psycho killer. It has Kyle and willing hostage Glory trapped in a huge factory by the police, but he escapes with the help of Glory. The obsessed Kyle then forces the chauffeur to drive him to A. T.’s mansion, where he gets on tape Bahrwell’s confession of the contract hit and guns down the two heavies before the police gun him down.
Cagney creates a good overall film noir atmosphere for his double-cross thriller and the unknown actors do a decent job, but there were too many holes in the story and it ends up less credible than the original.
REVIEWED ON 7/20/2010 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/