WEB, THE (aka: BLACK VELVET)
(director: Michael Gordon; screenwriters: from a story by Harry Kurnitz/Bertram Millhauser/William Bowers; cinematographer: Irving Glassberg; editor: Russell Schoengarth; music: Hans Salter; cast: William Bendix (Lt. Damico), Ella Raines (Noel Faraday), Edmund O’Brien (Bob Regan), Vincent Price (Andrew Colby), Maria Palmer (Martha Kroner), John Abbott (Charles Murdock), Fritz Leiber(Leopold Kroner), Tito Vuolo(Emilio Canepa); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Bresler; Universal-International; 1947)
“A great cast digs into this film noir with relish.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Top-of-the-line B film crime drama. A great cast digs into this film noir with relish. Director Michael Gordon (“Pillow Talk”/”Texas Across the River“/”Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood“) keeps things breezy and topped off with zesty mustard. Writers Bertram Millhauser and William Bowers keep the story by Harry Kurnitz free of any dull momenta. The pic has the following things going for it: William Bendix is superb playing a smart cop against type, a sassy Ella Raines smoothly swinging her hips is good for the eyes and ears, a slimy Vincent Price as the sinister villain makes your blood boil in an entertaining way, and a rarely seen as slim Edmund O’Brien is oafishly prancing around as the good guy lawyer of the people and makes for a likable hero.
After five years in prison the elderly embezzler Leopold Kroner (Fritz Leiber) is released and met at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station by his daughter (Maria Palmer). Kroner was a former partner of Andrew Colby (Vincent Price), the oily wealthy financier. Kroner confessed to stealing $1,000,000 in bonds that have never been recovered, as he replaced them with counterfeit bonds. Colby tells his trusted henchman servant Charles Murdock (John Abbott) that he’s been threatened by Kroner, who blames him for his imprisonment. The ruthless businessman then on a whim hires the struggling brash small-time lawyer Bob Regan (Edmund O’Brien) to be his bodyguard for two weeks before he goes to Paris, and pays him the ridiculous amount of $5,000. The untrustworthy industrialist schemes to set Regan up as a patsy, as he gives him his gun and makes him happy as he lets him flirt with his elegant secretary and live-in loverNoel Faraday (Ella Raines). When Regan, on his first night on the job, hears a gunshot in Colby’s room, he rushes in and finds Kroner pointing a gun at him and kills him in self-defense. The cop in charge of the homicide investigation, Lt. Damico (William Bendix), smells something fishy, but lets Regan go after lecturing him that he’s pretty stupid for a lawyer. The gruff cop goes on to cynically question how someone who practices law can let himself fall for Colby’s sweet job offer without thinking about why he would want to pay him so much. Damico can talk so frankly to Regan because he was friends with Regan’s dad when they lived in Little Italy, and knows his friend’s son is not guilty (but that doesn’t stop the cop from having him followed from now on).
Things get complicated as the pushy Regan finally wins Noel’s heart (smartly telling her-“France fell in eighteen days, and you’re not as tough as France”).
The lawyer upon further investigation believes Damico was right, that he was set-up to be the fall guy to eliminate the business associate Colby screwed. Regan learns from the vic’s anguished daughter (Maria Palmer) that her pop only came around to Colby’s asking about the million dollars when he was invited, and the gun was planted on him since he never owned a gun. When Regan asks too many questions, the suspicious Colby frames him in a murder/robbery. But this time Damico springs a trap that snares the snake-like Colby and allows the lovers to get out of the greedy killer’s clutches and no longer be wanted by the law.
REVIEWED ON 2/12/2011 GRADE: B+