WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES
(director: R. G. Springsteen; screenwriter: John K. Butler/Frederick Louis Fox; cinematographer: John L. Russell; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: Van Alexander; cast: Anthony Caruso (Duke Martella), Marjie Millar(June Ellis), Raymond Greenleaf (Luke Ellis), Morris Ankrum (LeoFantzler), James Best (Jerry Ames), Paul Birch (Sheriff Mack McBride), Marian Carr (Hazel), John Hudson (Bob Keeler), Ralph Dumke(Walter Pritchard), Mary Treen (Emily Parsons),Addison Richards (Mark Spurlock), Robert Emmett Keane(Judge Walters), John Gallaudet (Chip Martin), Slim Pickens (Slim); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William J. O’Sullivan; Republic Pictures Home Video; 1956)
“The dumb crime drama hinges on the viewer going for a contrived courtroom plot twist that is far from convincing.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A weak remake of the not-so-hot 1939 film Main Street Lawyer. Veteran B-film director R. G. Springsteen (“Come Next Spring”/”Johnny Reno”/”Apache Uprising)can’t do much with this dull crime drama that’s both poorly helmed by the usually reliable Springsteen and tepidly written byJohn K. Butler and Frederick Louis Fox. The stiff gangster pic wants us to believe a powerful mob boss, Duke Martella (Anthony Caruso), does his own contract killings and has no problem bribing everyone who stands in his way. The dumb crime drama hinges on the viewer going for a contrived courtroom plot twist that is far from convincing. Tedium rules the day, as this low-budget black and white shot film is all talk and no action.
Gangster Duke Martella kills in a crowded bowling alley the milkman who was an eyewitness set to testify against him. When Duke’s really dumb girlfriend Hazel (Marian Carr) is released after a year in jail, she delivers a note she promised her dead cell mate, Judy Garrett. But the letter addressed to the Rosedale county prosecutor, Luke Ellis (Raymond Greenleaf), is intercepted by Duke’s fancy lawyer Leo Fantzler (Morris Ankrum), who says its contents will allow his client to blackmail the prosecutor. Duke gets a change of venue for his court case from the big city to nearby Rosedale, and on the first day in court shows Luke a letter about his 20-year-old daughter June (Marjie Millar) that states her mom served a life term in jail for a gas station hold-up and fatal killing and that June was born in prison. Luke adopted June because he got the conviction on her mother, which launched his career. The guilt-ridden Luke doesn’t want June to know this dark secret that she’s not his biological daughter, and therefore is caught in a dilemma about prosecuting the mafia boss.
Duke beats the rap when Luke lays down on the case (something I found hard to ethically justify) and loses his job when there’s a petition to recall him. Bob Keeler (John Hudson), who is engaged to June, takes over as prosecutor, and decides to reopen the Duke Martella case. But before he can do that, Bob’s wealthy uncle Walter Pritchard (Ralph Dumke) is slain and unbelievably June is accused of the murder because the letter telling of June’s mother secret is found in Walter’s office where June discovered the body. This was just too ludicrous to believe. In the conclusion Luke, acting as June’s defense lawyer, tricks Duke into implicating himself as the murderer of Pritchard, so somehow justice prevails.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2010 GRADE: C-