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STEP BY STEP(director: Phil Rosen; screenwriters: story by George Callahan/Stuart Palmer; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Robert Swink; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Lawrence Tierney (Johnny Christopher), Anne Jeffreys (Evelyn Smith), George Cleveland (Captain Simpson), Harry Harvey (Senator Remmy), John Hamilton (Capt. Edmonds), Pat Flaherty (Motorcycle Cop), Lowell Gilmore (Von Dorn), Jason Robards, Sr. (Bruckner), Myrna Dell (Gretchen), Addison Richards (James Blackton), Ray Walker (Jorgenson); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sid Rogell; RKO; 1946)
“Patriotic programmer of little value.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A ‘B’ movie patriotic programmer of little value. Sometime Charlie Chan director Phil Rosen does this one by the same formulaic numbers, but there’s no spark in the dead story and the main characters lack chemistry together to give this film a romantic boost. It plays as a poorly scripted and packaged espionage adventure.

Pretty blonde Miss Evelyn Smith (Anne Jeffreys) is hired without a reference check by California Senator Remmy to come out to the Pacific Coast from the East Coast and be his secretary on a top-secret job, as she worked supposedly for his good friend Judge Harper. It was not possible that the senator could be so neglectful as not to check her out fully for such a sensitive and secretive government assignment, but this film would have us believe it was possible.

G-man James Blackton, a cloak-and-dagger operative, calls with a list of those in a Fascist organization operating in the States after WW11 and is passing this on to the senator with Evelyn taking it down in short-hand. But Blackton spots a microphone in his room and makes plans to relay the info on another day. Evelyn is told by the senator to go for a swim in the nearby ocean from the secluded house they are staying at. Driving by with his mutt Bazooka is Johnny Christopher (Lawrence Tierney), a rugged ex-sergeant in the marines, who spots her alone on the beach and puts on his swimming trunks to try and pick her up. She gently rebuffs him and rushes back to the house where she’s tied and gagged, Blackton is murdered, the senator knocked cold, and the chauffeur tied-up by a trio of Nazi agents. When Johnny returns to his car, he finds he locked himself out and when he goes to the only house in the area for help he’s introduced to an imposter Miss Smith (Myrna Dell) and is turned away. Suspicious, he tells the motorcycle cop who ticketed him for parking illegally on the highway. But as to be expected, motorcycle cops are mostly useful for giving out traffic tickets and not solving crimes.

Not satisfied with the motorcycle cop’s questioning of the suspicious trio he returns and frees Evelyn, but the chauffeur escapes and describes the marine as the attacker. When the police check out Evelyn’s phony reference, they go on the manhunt for these alleged spy murderers. On the lam, the couple end up staying in a quiet fisherman’smotorcourt run by an eccentric Captain Simpson. He was also a leatherneck and relates to the couple, whom he is certain of their innocence just by their looks. As a coincidence the one-dimensional trio of Nazi villains are also staying at the motorcourt. These brains are detected by the captain when they go ocean fishing and bring back a catch of fresh water fish. The whole adventure was as smelly as that, as with the captain’s help the innocent couple act to clear their name.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”