Shoot to Kill, 1947, b&w. William Berke (dir.), Russell Wade, Luana Walters, Edmund MacDonald, Robert Kent, Vince Barnett, Nestor Paiva, Charles Trowbridge. 1:04.
The first in a quartet of barely-feature-length films, all just over an hour. This one is all told in flashback by a woman in a hospital bed, there after surviving a car crash following a police chase and shootout—a chase in which her husband (the incoming district attorney) and a gangster (escaped from prison, where he was sent for a murder in a case tried by the husband) both die. She tells the story to a newspaper reporter who’s obviously much more than that.
It’s quite a story: Civic corruption on a grand scale, crooks battling crooks, a phony marriage (to avoid bigamy)…and ever so much more. It’s mostly fast moving and it holds together quite well. While it’s not a great film, it’s well-made, well-acted and more plausible than quite a few of this ilk. Oh yes: There are two musical numbers written and performed by pianist Gene Rodgers, who is damn good. I’ll give it $1.50.
Shadows on the Stairs, 1941, b&w. D. Ross Lederman (dir.), Frieda Inescort, Paul Cavanagh, Heather Angel, Bruce lester, Miles Mander, Lumsden Hare, Turhan Bey, Mary Field. 1:04.
An odd one indeed, mostly set in a London boarding house (explicitly identified as 1937, I guess to make it explicitly pre-war) but starting with a mysterious scene on the docks. So many people seem involved in various shenanigans, mostly with no apparent purpose, that it’s hard to either follow the plot or perceive that there is a plot. There are various subplots (possible adultery being one), but nothing that really hangs together.
Indeed, that’s true for about half of the film: All very odd, little of it leading much of anywhere. Then the murders and suicides, and cursory police work from an idiot police sergeant, begin and, well, it doesn’t hang together very well even then. The surprise ending makes it all sensible, or maybe not.
Here’s the thing: Silly and confusing as it all is, it’s also well played. It’s a trifle with an odd, meandering plot, but the print is excellent and I’ll give it $1.25.
Prison Train, 1938, b&w. Gordon Wiles (dir.), Fred Keating, Dorothy Comingore, Clarence Muse, Faith Bacon, Alexander Leftwich. 1:04.
The hero (?) of this brief, not especially mysterious, flick is a racketeer, who runs the policy (numbers) racket, also owns a nightclub and is a charmer. A rival nightclub-owner/racketeer wants to bring him down and agrees to cooperate with the crusading DA (you know, the kind of crusader who goes out looking for racketeers as compatriots).
The “taking down the numbers man” plot never amounts to much. Instead, we have the racketeer’s lovely and innocent sister, the handsome lawyer son of the rival crook, and a sequence that results in the racketeer “accidentally” killing the son. (Hey, he only meant to teach him a lesson…) And getting sent up for it. And the father—the rival racketeer—trying to shoot the first racketeer for killing his son, but botching it. But the rival gets out on bond, even though he was caught in the act and is pretty clearly intent on offing his rival. Oh: Side plot: The first racketeer was trying to turn the numbers racket over to the rival and go off to Europe with the sister.
Anyhoo…this brings us to the film’s title and the simple fact that filming on a moving train always adds class and interest. It does not, unfortunately, add plausibility, and the whole rest of the flick (another con on his way to Alcatraz keeps telling the racketeer that he’ll never make it to the last stop; he doesn’t; there are lots of complications along the way) just seemed to amount to very little. It seemed a lot longer than it actually was. I’m being charitable with $1.00.
They Never Come Back, 1932, b&w. Fred C. Newmeyer (dir.), Regis Toomey, Dorothy Sebastian, Edward Woods, Greta Granstedt, Earle Foxe. 1:04 [1:02]
The title refers to the idea that boxers never successfully return to the ring once they’re sidelined with an injury—in this case, the hero’s left arm. That’s after ten minutes of somewhat aimless boxing footage; along with another five minutes or more later in the movie, that’s a quarter of the flick for which no dialogue or acting was required—which, in the case of this film, may be a good thing. In the middle, I think another five or six minutes are taken up with some really bad dance routines (don’t high-steppers usually make some attempt to synchronize with the music?)—so, in essence, there’s about half an hour of acting.
The plot? The washed-up boxer, whose mother died as he was preparing for the fight, is living with his sister (who he brought out from the mother’s house, I guess) and looking for a job. He finds one as the “assistant manager”—that is, bouncer, as he says—for a nightclub. He gets interested in a showgirl, who’s also a focus of the club’s owner, and meets the cashier—the showgirl’s sister. Before too long, we get a scene where the cashier asks the bouncer to hold the fort while the cashier runs an errand; at the end of the evening, the house is $500 short and, lo and behold, there’s the money in the bouncer’s jacket. It’s a frame, of course, but he winds up spending six months in the joint (apparently without benefit of trial). During those months, the showgirl comes to see him every week.
Partway through, the cashier admits to his sister (the showgirl) that he framed the boxer, because he had to: He’d “borrowed” $1,000 from the club and knew he’d be sent to jail if he didn’t do the frame. The sister figures she’d better play ball…
Anyway, the boxer gets out, sees the sister with the owner, finds out that his sister and the cashier are an item (I think that happens earlier), and—rather than knocking the cashier’s block off for framing him—goes to sign up for a fight to get the $1,000 to clear the cashier. It all winds up with a big fight at the club and, apparently, all living happily ever after.
That’s way more description than this sad little flick deserves. No mystery, no drama, nothing of any particular interest, and not much in the way of acting. Unless you’re heavy into poorly-filmed boxing or are a big Regis Toomey fan, there’s nothing here. Generously, $0.75.