This turned out to be a nifty thriller with a plot that played like it could have been subsequently used as a template for an episode of either The Twilight Zone or Thriller.
It’s a murder mystery involving a pair of sisters played by Jeanne Crain and Jean Peters told in flashbacks from the point of view of several characters. Vicki as played by Peters is the murder victim as the story opens. Her image is plastered all over the city on billboards and magazine covers. When the news of her death comes over the wire, cop Richard Boone demands the case.
Boone wastes little time in marking her agent Elliott Reid for the electric chair.
Both Reid and Crain will tell the story in flashback sequence of Peters’ rise to fame and the circumstances surrounding her murder including Crain finding Reid hovering over the body. A fairly graphic sequence for the time period.
Boone has all the ammunition he needs in pointing to Reid as the killer. Peters was leaving him for Hollywood thus ditching him as her agent. As far as Peters and her growing ego was concerned, “If men want to look at me, let them pay for it.”
The film is going to take a twist when hard nosed Boone who isn’t above both intimidation and physical violence in the interrogation room is spotted in one of Crain’s story telling flashbacks. There’s more to Boone’s character here than just being an early version of the vigilante cop along the lines of Dirty Harry.
While Reid continually pleads his innocence to the watchful eye of Boone, Crain as well serves as a suspicious character in the plot who just may have killed her own sister to ensure that Reid begins to take notice of her.
“I’m gonna haunt both of you like a guilty conscience.” Richard Boone makes his presence known to Crain as he continually pursues Reid edging him closer to either confessing or making a break for it thus condemning himself to the chair.
Perhaps I’m gullible but the plot from script writer Dwight Taylor had enough red herrings to keep me guessing just “who dunnit” as filmed by Harry Horner.
Both Crain and Reid seemed to have a motive in place the way Boone keeps bending it. Then there is Boone himself who has an eerie quality to him in his search for a killer. Is he just trying to find a fall guy to cover up his own crime? He’s trying awfully hard and he did demand the case from his chief, John Dehner. TV mogul Aaron Spelling is even in here as a somewhat crazed hotel boy manning the switchboard and keys at the hotel where Peters and Crain lived. Somewhere in here there is a killer and the actual outcome is rather creepy.
This Noirish thriller is time well spent with Boone proving to be an extremely forceful presence on screen. He’s both terrifying and intimidating all rolled into one. If this Fox release had been an RKO production his role has Robert Ryan written all over it. His violence and powerful performance recalls Ryan in On Dangerous Ground as the police officer with a violent streak as well as Javert of Les Miserables in his dogged pursuit of Reid.
Trivia buffs take note that both Boone and Dehner appear together in this 85 minute feature. Both would go on to play Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel. Boone to great acclaim on television and Dehner took on the role in the days of the radio shows.
This was released as part of the Fox Film Noir set on DVD and has now found a well deserved spot in my movie library. Go find yourself a copy.