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Finger Man

Posted by martinteller on September 21, 2013

Casey Martin (Frank Lovejoy) is a small-time hood and a three-time loser.  He’s just been busted once again, this time for a truck hijacking.  He’s looking at jail for the rest of his life.  But the feds have an offer: help them bring down Dutch Becker (Forrest Tucker), a crime boss with his fingers in gambling, racketeering, prostitution, you name it.  Once Casey sees his sister Lucille (Evelyn Eaton) and the damage Becker has done to her by turning her into a junkie, he agrees to go undercover for the cops.  He enlists the help of his gal Gladys (Peggie Castle), one of Becker’s former “employees” to get close to the kingpin.  But he’s got to watch his every move, especially with Becker’s sidekick Lou Terpe (Timothy Carey) lurking around.

Another routine “infiltrating the organization” noir, very familiar stuff.  In fact, director Harold Schuster himself would revisit similar territory a couple of years later in Portland Exposé.  This is a slightly better film than that one, though.  Anything with Tim Carey is worth a watch, and he does not disappoint.  A legendary ham and notoriously difficult to work with, Carey steals every scene with his over-the-top line readings, twitching and gritting his teeth, mugging for the camera.  You can’t take your eyes off him.

Besides the spellbinding work of Carey, however, there’s also Lovejoy’s performance, seething with a barely buried rage.  The supporting roles are all handled nicely as well, although Castle never does much for me, even in her best movie, 99 River Street.  The film moves at a good clip and has a couple of standout scenes, including when one of the feds gets tossed under a truck (an action that would reappear, in a slightly different form, in Portland Exposé).  There’s some dark edges with the prostitution and drug angles, and the film doesn’t ever try to lighten the mood.  It’s got a gritty feel to it.  Cinematography and dialogue are mixed, but never poor, and there are a handful of fine shots and sharp lines.

As I work through the more obscure works of noir, I’m happy just to stumble across a movie that is competent.  Finger Man doesn’t break any ground and will probably be forgotten by tomorrow, but it’s a good watch… especially when Carey is on screen.  Rating: Good (75)

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