This Jerry Hopper directed Noir proved to be a tense 86 minutes starring a pair of the genre’s most accomplished names, Sterling Hayden and Gloria Grahame. Released by Universal-International, the film also offered up the usually likable Gene Barry a raw, violent turn as the heavy.
“I get even. I always do!”
This from Gene Barry to the three detectives grilling him about a string of robberies after things get out of hand with some rough housing. The half drunk Barry was brought in on suspicion but deemed to be the wrong man and he’s going back home to the little lady and his son. In the backdrop we’ll see Hayden make a brief appearance as the Chief of Detectives.
The central detective that Barry threatened is gunned down in the following scene in the dead of night. Just who pulled the trigger is what Hayden intends to find out and for obvious reasons Barry is his number one suspect. The problem is that Barry seems to be as respectable as they come. He runs a bakery and looks to be an upstanding family man. Gene swears his innocence but when two more officers are killed in a car bombing, the same two officers who were in the opening scene, Hayden brings him in and things get physical. End result? Hayden’s tough guy tactics are deemed irresponsible and with no definitive proof he’s fired from the force.
Barry is once again released.
The plot is soon to take a defining twist and to be honest, it better if we’re going to squeeze Noir beauty and sometime Femme Fatale, Miss Grahame, into the proceedings.
Barry begins to feel the pressure of the newly minted private citizen, Hayden, keeping him under close watch and takes/makes a break for the Mexican border. It seems he isn’t the lovable type after all but rather a violent criminal leading a dual life. South of the border he’s working as a smuggler and lays claim to the sexy lounge singer we all know as Oscar winner Gloria Grahame.
What is it about this lovely lady that lends to her being manhandled violently on camera. If you’ve seen The Big Heat then you’ll know exactly what I mean. In that film it was Lee Marvin and the infamous coffee pot, here she takes a real slapping around from Barry when his jealousy rages and if he was pulling those punches, he sure have fooled me.
Hayden has followed his man across the border and quickly finds himself in need of help in the small town he’s trailed Barry too. He’s been knifed and rolled by a tourist set up. Thankfully he befriends a young boy who just happens to enlist Grahame to nurse him back to health.
Worlds are soon to collide when Barry puts two and two together. Now all Hayden has to do is prove Barry’s guilt north of the border and to do so he’s going to need a friend. One that might even lead to a romance.
Lines like the one Grahame says to Hayden “I should have met you sooner, Joe… long ago. It could have been so different.” were made for the bad girls that Grahame always seemed to excel at.
Naked Alibi is really a three part film done over the near ninety minutes. The first third being the clean cut all American set up for Barry despite the three killings. The second being Hayden’s adventure in Mexico with Gloria while the third morphs into a road trip home and race against time to prove Barry’s guilt to the authorities and for Hayden to reclaim his worth in the eyes of his peers.
That final third is a very physical one with plenty of fisticuffs and chase scenes between our two main protagonists. As much as I like the film I’d have loved to have that final fadeout rewritten but I can’t say much more than that without playing spoiler. If you’ve seen the film then maybe you know just what I mean.
Jerry Hopper who directed the film had already worked with Barry on the 1952 suspense thriller, The Atomic City and 54’s Alaska Seas. He’d direct a number of entertaining films for Universal-International in the early to mid 1950’s. Among them a trio of Charlton Heston titles, The Private War of Major Benson, Secret of the Incas and Pony Express. He’d subsequently move into television and direct everything from Perry Mason to The Addams Family, The Fugitive to Have Gun Will Travel. He even helmed 11 episodes of Barry’s popular series Burke’s Law.
Aside from his work in television and his hit show, Bat Masterson, I should think that Gene Barry is best known for his leading role in the now classic 1953 science fiction film, War of the Worlds. When it comes to Noir, Miss Grahame, worked with a number of the genre’s poster boys. She was in Macao with Mitchum. Met Bogie in In a Lonely Place. Palance in Sudden Fear. Douglas in The Bad and the Beautiful. Ford in The Big Heat and Human Desire. Ryan in Odds Against Tomorrow and with Hayden here. That’s a pretty solid score card for those keeping count.
Sterling Hayden was in his prime during this era and easily moved from crime thrillers to murder mysteries and westerns. His rugged looks combined with his authoritative voice matched these genres well enough to keep him busy throughout the decade and beyond. Just thin, the history of movies might been somewhat different had he taken on the role of Captain Quint in Spielberg’s Jaws. For my money he steals Dr. Strangelove from Sellers and Scott and that’s no easy feat. His final film was 1981’s Venom.
This proved to be another first time viewing and again that’s thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics who continually cater to fans like myself who have an appetite for good yet rare hard to find titles.