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The Clay Pigeon

Posted by martinteller on November 4, 2012

Serviceman Jim Fletcher (Bill Willams) wakes up from a two-year coma with memory loss.  The first thing he hears is that he’s a traitor and he’s about to get court-martialed.  He escapes from the hospital and tries to locate his war buddy Mark to find out what’s going on.  He finds his buddy’s wife Martha (Barbara Hale) instead, and learns that it’s being said that he ratted out Mark for stealing food in a Japanese POW camp, and his friend was subsequently beaten to death.  Martha wants to turn him in, but he kidnaps her and enlists the aid of his other pal Ted (Richard Quine) to find out the truth.

I have some mixed feelings about this one.  Amnesia stories are generally pretty hacky, and this script isn’t doing anything that great with it.  The story isn’t very compelling and has a rather predictable twist.  Most of the plot is crammed into the last 20 minutes (though it’s worth noting the movie is only an hour long) and there’s a hasty little speech at the end tying everything up in a bow.  The film doesn’t have a lot of edge to it, the dialogue is nothing special, the cinematography is bland and there aren’t any memorable performances.

But every now and then something kinda cool will happen.  The opening shot, of the protagonist being choked by a blind man.  The first meeting between Jim and Martha.  An exciting chase through L.A.’s Chinatown, shot on location.  The train climax, looking forward to Fleischer’s best noir, The Narrow Margin.  And most impressively, a thoughtful treatment of the Japanese.  Yes, one of the villains of the piece is the Japanese POW guard (Richard Loo) but there’s also a very good scene where Williams takes refuge in the apartment of a war widow (Marya Marco)… and the point is made that her husband was a highly decorated Japanese-American officer.  You don’t really see such respectful regard of the Japanese until Fuller’s The Crimson Kimono ten years later (I’m sure there are other examples, I’m just saying it didn’t happen that often).

As I said, the performances aren’t that memorable… but they’re not terrible either.  Interesting to note that Williams and Hale were married at the time.  They’re also the parents of William Katt (of Carrie and “The Greatest American Hero”), and you could definitely see some resemblance, especially in Williams’s hair.  Their relationship in the film shows their natural chemistry, although they seem to cozy up to each other too early.

Not that great a movie but given its very brief running time, it might be worth checking for a few very good scenes.  Rating: Fair (68)


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