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SUN SETS AT DAWN, THE(director/writer: Paul H. Sloane; screenwriter: original story by Sloane; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: Sherman Todd; cast: Sally Parr (The Girl), Philip Shawn (The Boy), Walter Reed (The Chaplain), Houseley Stevenson (Pops), Howard St. John (The Warden), Percy Helton (Reporter, Feature Syndicate), King Donovan (Reporter, National News Service), Perry Ivins (Forty-Six), Lee Frederick (Blackie), Raymond Bramley (The Deputy Warden); Runtime: 71; Eagle Lion Films; 1951)
“As B-films go, this one is above average.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This film is based on a similar true case of an innocent boy framed for murder. The Boy (Philip Shawn) is about to be executed at sunset, as the governor turns down both the sympathetic warden (Howard St. John) and his girlfriend’s request for a reprieve.

The film’s poetic title can be explained as follows: that the sun always sets instead of rises during the day of an execution. The Girl (Sally Parr) grew up with The Boy and was going to marry him; she breaks down over his death sentence, absolutely sure that he couldn’t have done it. He is about to be executed today in the State’s brand-new electric chair, which brings reporters from all over the state to cover the event. They are more interested to see how the chair works than in anything else.

The Boy confides to the sympathetic padre (Reed) that he’s innocent, as he renacts the crime. He tells the padre that he was an ambitious cub reporter and smelled a big time story about a crooked politician Tim Harrah, who befriended the kid and made him his errand boy. The kid always wanted to get rid of his loser image; and, he thought if he can get the goods on who was protecting the crooked politician in his illegal trucking scam, that he could break a big story and get promoted to a star reporter. When he was in a room alone with Tim, someone he couldn’t see came up from behind and pumped 6 bullets into the politician. The killer then knocked Tim out and placed the hot gun in his hand. The jury didn’t believe the ‘ghost story’ he told. The Girl, wanting to be near him, moved near the prison three years ago and got work in Pops’s Diner as a waitress.

The cynical reporters who gather at the diner to wait for the prison bus to take them to the execution crack jokes about the execution and seemed unmoved that one of their own kind is about to be executed. But luck starts to turn for the kid as a prisoner comes into the diner to get the prison mail. Pops (Houseley Stevenson) not only runs the diner/hotel, but he is also the postmaster. The prisoner recognizes that the patron having coffee is the same criminal who framed him and caused him to get a long jail sentence. His name is now Blackie (Lee Frederick) and he’s the head of a trucking firm, but convict 46 (Perry Ivins) says he’s really a gangster named Parrot. The only problem is, Parrot’s dead body was supposedly hauled out of the ocean three years ago and the Wanted Poster of his that is still hanging in the diner/post office doesn’t look like him. But 46 says he can’t be fooled, he would know his gestures anywhere.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

46 approaches Blackie and calls him Parrot. This causes the gangster to shoot at 46; but the prison guards, at the next table having coffee, arrest Parrot. Meanwhile Tim’s execution took place; but, there must have been Divine intervention, because the chair failed to work. This causes a delay and time for the prison officials to get the fingerprints matching Blackie with Parrot. Since Blackie is being charged with 6 murders he decides to confess to the 7th, the killing of the politician. He relates how he faked his death and got plastic surgery. This saves The Boy from being executed. Incidentally, the vics were called anonymously The Boy and The Girl to show how little the system cared about them.

The story was well told, but the acting left a lot to be desired. And all that religious stuff thrown in, about how God listens to you, was strictly cornball. But as far as B-films go, this one is above average.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”