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Noir-vember 2013: Backlash

Posted by martinteller on November 6, 2013

“Aw look, Jerry, I’m tired! This has been a tough case, I wanna forget it.”
“Forget it? It’s just getting interesting.”

The car belonging to defense attorney John Morland (John Elredge) is found on Mulholland Drive, burned up and with a corpse inside.  When bullet holes are discovered in the body, detectives Jerry McMullen (Larry Blake) and Tom Carey (Richard Benedict) try to solve the mystery of Morland’s murder.  The list of suspects is a spiderweb, each with a powerful motive.  There’s the hood Red Bailey (Douglas Fowley), a former client of Morland’s and known to have made a phone call from Morland’s lodge.  There’s Morland’s partner O’Neil (Robert Shayne), who was owed a great deal of money by Morland… and coincidentally, seems to be shacking up with Bailey’s gal Marian Gordon (Louise Currie).  And there’s Morland’s wife Catherine (Jean Rogers) and the district attorney Richard Conroy (Richard Travis), who are implicated in Morland’s diary as carrying on an affair.

The dialogue quoted above occurs with 10 minutes remaining in the film.  Unfortunately, it’s only at that point when things start getting interesting.  Prior to that, it’s a lot of ho-hum red herrings without any zip.  The dialogue tries to be tough, but typically falls flat (or just nonsensical, like Morland’s weird line comparing murder to solitaire).  It’s clearly a B production, with no flash, bland sets, and a roster of no-name bit players who fail to craft an interesting character among the lot of them.  The plot is confusing without providing a hook that rates anywhere above adequate.

Immediately following the lines I quoted is the most compelling scene in the film, where one of the main characters meets a philosophical hobo, who is strangely uncredited.  It’s the only point where the movie reaches beyond its twisty and tiresome plot for some kind of insight into the human condition.  And although the elements of the film make it fairly easy to classify as a noir as a whole, it’s one of the few scenes that truly walks and talks like a noir, dark and cynical and tense.  From that point on, the dangling ends start to come together and the excitement ramps up.  Too little too late, I’m afraid.  Even if the available print wasn’t muddy as hell, this movie is too routine and uninspired to be worth even its scant 66 minutes.  Rating: Poor (54)


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