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Terror at Midnight

Posted by martinteller on July 5, 2013

Sergeant Neal Rickards (Scott Brady) has just gotten a promotion to the homicide division.  To celebrate, he proposes to his gal Susan Lang (Joan Vohs).  Later that night, while driving Neal’s car, Susan is involved in an accident, hitting a night watchman on a bicycle.  A witness (Percy Helton) tells her she better take off, and the victim is probably fine.  Shocked and confused, she leaves the scene, taking the car to a garage to fix the damage and hide the evidence.  Fred (Frank Faylen), the mechanic, is involved in a car theft ring.  He’s also a womanizer and has his sights set on Susan.  He tries to extract payment in flesh.  To make matters worse, the witness is angling for blackmail.  The situation gets worse still when Fred’s jealous, alcoholic wife Helen (Virginia Gregg) enters the picture.

As a “Poverty Row” noir, this film definitely lacks some polish.  The cinematography is mostly quite bland, with key scenes being photographed in mundane medium shots.  Some of the dialogue stinks, and the budget is obviously miniscule.  But it’s a decent little thriller.  At a lean 69 minutes, it moves swiftly and progresses nicely.  Brady (Lawrence Tierney’s lesser-known little brother) and Vohs are both good enough to pass muster, but the real MVPs are Faylen and Gregg.  Their bitter, hateful onscreen marriage rivals that of Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor in The Killing.  There are some really vicious, gritty scenes between them… a level of nastiness gives the movie a lot of edge.

And of course, everyone (except Rickards) is trying to get over on everyone else.  Corruption and deception run rampant, and when a “nice” girl like Susan gets infected with it, the consequences keep building.  It’s not a brilliant piece of noir or anything, but it gets the job done in an efficient and reasonably entertaining fashion.  Rating: Good (72)


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