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THREAT, THE(director: Felix E. Feist; screenwriter: Dick I. Hyland; cinematographer: Harry J. Wild; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; cast: Julie Bishop (Ann), Anthony Caruso (Nick Damon), Frank Conroy (D.A., Barker ‘Mac’ McDonald), Charles McGraw (Red Kluger), Virginia Grey (Carol), Michael O’Shea (Detective Ray Williams), Don McGuire (Joe Turner), Frank Richards (Lefty), Robert Shayne (Inspector Murphy); Runtime: 66; RKO; 1949)
“Plenty of tough action.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A very satisfying B-action film about an escaped murderer from Folsom Prison, Red Kluger (Charles McGraw), who threatens after he was sentenced to the gas chamber to kill the district attorney who prosecuted him, the arresting detective, and the singer whom he believes squealed on him.

Kluger escapes and kidnaps the singer Carol (Grey) with the help of his henchman Nick (Caruso), as she leaves her singing engagement. Kluger then has his other henchman, Lefty (Richards), go with Nick and pretend to be painters on the same floor where the D.A. has his office They mug the policeman guarding the office and kidnap the district attorney, Mac (Conroy). Offscreen they kidnap the detective Ray Williams (O’Shea) and also take his police car, this comes after we see the detective telling his wife that Kluger escaped and is going after him. Before that his commanding officer, Inspector Murphy (Shayne), phoned and told him to stay at home. Ray and his wife Ann (Julie) were talking just before the inspector’s call about what to name their expectant baby. She wants to name him Dexter after her rich uncle, but Ray says he will only be named Dexter if I have a gun to my back. This will be used later on by the detective to let her know he is kidnapped, as Kluger will force him to make calls over the police radio to mislead the police.

The fast-paced film highlights how vicious and cunning a thug Kluger is, as he gets the detective to go on the police radio against his will by torturing the D.A. with pliers. Kluger is perceived as being tougher and smarter than the D.A. and the detective, and seems to be invincible.

Kluger calls a moving van company to take his furniture to Palm Springs. When Joe Turner (McGuire) shows up with the van he also becomes a hostage, as they load the van with furniture and with the police car. Kluger keeps the men hostages gagged and toys with Carol, trying to get her to admit she squealed. Carol was the girlfriend of Kluger’s partner Tony who is to meet them in their Mojave desert hideaway three days after the escape as prearranged, and Tony will then fly him to Mexico. She blames Tony for ratting them out, but Kluger says Tony would never double-cross him, and spends the rest of the film scaring the nervous Carol out of her wits.

With roadblocks on every highway, the moving van takes a side road and stops for gas. When a motorcycle cop becomes suspicious and asks to search the van, Kluger shoots him. Kluger takes the police car stored in the van to get to the desert shack and abandons the van in a deserted spot, as he waits there for Tony to show. He wonders about the $100,000 in the safe deposit box, which the detective says was empty, and tries to stay cool in the desert heat.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

The final shoot-out is well executed and though the story is as plain as vanilla, it still had plenty of tough action. When the detective jumps Kluger and catches him by surprise he still can’t win the fight, as the stronger Kluger pins him crucifixion style to the ground. It is only the sniveling Carol who picks up the criminal’s dropped gun and without a conscience brings him down, as he begs for mercy.

Felix E. Feist directed this tough B&W noir film in a gritty and pleasing style.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”