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TOO LATE FOR TEARS (aka: KILLER BAIT) (director: Byron Haskin; screenwriter: Roy Huggins/from Mr. Huggins’ Saturday Evening Post serialization of his novel; cinematographer: William Mellor; editor: Harry Keller; music: R. Dale Butts; cast: Lizabeth Scott (Jane Palmer), Don DeFore (Don Blake), Dan Duryea (Danny Fuller), Arthur Kennedy (Alan Palmer), Kristine Miller (Kathy Palmer), Barry Kelley (Lt. Breach), David Clarke (Sharber); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hunt Stromberg; Timeless Video/United Artists; 1949)
“The husky-voiced winsome smiling Lizabeth Scott turns in a finely tuned performance as the femme fatale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Byron Haskin’s low-budget film noir makes good use of its Los Angeles locale and its lady bluebeard is fun to watch as she does her nasty gun thing with her nice guy hubby and rotten poison thing with her boyfriend (she took care of her first hubby off camera, so we’re not sure how he got it!).

Jane (Lizabeth Scott) and Alan Palmer (Arthur Kennedy) are driving on the deserted Hollywood Hills to a party at the home of hubby’s business acquaintance, when Jane forces him to turn the car around after refusing to go because she thinks the host’s wife is a snob. The car swerves off the road and its lights start blinking, as a car speeding down the road interprets that as a signal to throw into their convertible an old leather bag containing $60,000. Jane makes hubby flee, as the car the money was intended for speeds after them. The money makes Alan nervous and he wants to notify the police, but after coming home Jane talks him into putting it in a Union Station locker the next morning.

The next day a man identifying himself as a private eye, Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), searches Jane’s apartment and tells her he’s after his money. They argue until they finalize a deal to split the money, as she tells the sleaze to meet her by a local lake that night. While riding to the rendezvous spot to kill Danny and convince hubby that they should keep the money her honest husband, who is not informed about her daytime encounter and what she intends to do, discovers a gun in her purse and it goes off killing him before he can wrest it from her. The cold-blooded Jane now turns to Danny for help after she unloads hubby’s corpse in the bottom of the lake, while taking the romantic boat ride her hubby thought they came here for. She then convinces the reluctant Danny to pose as her hubby. He drives her home and is careful not to be seen so the garageman is made to believe that’s her husband. When hubby doesn’t return after going on an errand for a bottle of whiskey, Jane informs hubby’s sister Kathy (Kristine Miller) of his absence and reports him as a missing person. Homicide detective Breach handles the case, but Jane makes it appear to the police as if hubby ran off with a girlfriend to Mexico. Kathy finds that preposterous, and becomes suspicious of her sister-in-law.

Don Blake (Don DeFore) pays a surprise visit to Alan, saying he’s an old pal of his from their flying days in England, and his interest is piqued when he learns Alan is missing. But Jane eventually unmasks him as a phony and it’s disclosed that he’s the brother of Jane’s first husband, and he’s snooping around because he never believed his brother committed suicide. Don also smells something fishy going on and teams up with Kathy to flush the suspicious Jane out, even following her to Mexico to make sure she gets her comeuppance in grand style.

To believe the muddled plotline requires a suspension of belief and the acceptance of a number of coincidences.

Though a minor film noir, it relates to the ambitions the middle-class had during the postwar period to better their life materially and socially. Jane’s drive for wealth was so extreme that she will not stop at murder to rise above her impoverished middle-class circumstances, and her warped character is used to show how money can’t buy one happiness.

The husky-voiced winsome smiling Lizabeth Scott turns in a finely tuned performance as the femme fatale; while Dan Duryea is in his element as the alcoholic weak-kneed cad, who shows he doesn’t have as much stomach for his criminal mischief as does his lady accomplice.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”