Posted by martinteller on August 31, 2012
A printer of extremist, hate-mongering pamphlets appears to have committed suicide, but assistant D.A. Howard Malloy (Franchot Tone) suspects murder. When a columnist investigating the right-wing group also “commits suicide”, Malloy follows a twisted trail that leads to the upper levels of high society.
My to-watch list has a lot of so-called “lesser” noir in it but this one truly earns the description. The poorly constructed story is all over the place, confusing and tough to pin down. The film is only half the length of The Hunger Games but felt significantly longer as I struggled not just to follow the plot, but also maintain interest. Director Fletcher Markle infuses the last 15 minutes with some bona fine noir vibes, but it’s a case of too little, too late.
Tone is unusually bland here, but his wife, Jean Wallace, brings a little sizzle as a — what else? — lounge singer. The two exchange some decent snappy dialogue, but a lot of it falls flat. There’s a nice turn by stage actress Winifred Lenihan in her only screen role. The most notable thing about the film is an array of tiny cameos, including Burgess Meredith, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda and John Garfield. Supposedly they wanted to be in on the production for its left-leaning views, but there’s not a whole lot of joy in seeing 20 seconds of Fonda deliver one line as a waiter.
Only the most hardcore noir fans will want to bother with this one. Or just skip to the finale and spare yourself the tiresome, muddled plot development. Rating: Poor (50)