Rival mobsters competing to control a big city gambling racket fall under suspicion when one of them is gunned down. A crusading DA takes one the remaining hoodlums to task, and one of them agrees to turn state’s evidence. However, the mysterious killer strikes again…
A dreary low-budget programmer from bargain-basement PRC Studios that soon outstays its welcome. The title was obviously intended to convey some supernatural, or science fiction, content but this simply does not exist. Director Sam Newfield hides behind the name of Sherman Scott for yet another weak entry in his prolific 217 feature film career; this one being a tired, half-baked mixture of crime thriller and romantic comedy.
Sue Walker (Grace Bradley) is the Gazette’s hotshot crime reporter. She’s even a step ahead of the homicide department led by detectives Lt Jerry Brown (Roland Drew) and Sgt Pat Dugan (Willian Newell). When one of the local crime bosses is knocked off, Drew and Newell race to the scene, only to find they’re behind Bradley, who gleefully swerves through all the city traffic to block them and get there first. It’s all part of the fun because Drew just happens to be her boyfriend. At the scene, she’s allowed to interview suspects and join in with the investigation. Instead of being arrested for dangerous driving and obstructing the police. Only in Hollywood.
The murder is the last straw for crusading DA Richard Sutton (Crane Whitley, billed as Clem Wilenchick) who decides to get tough with organised crime on his patch. The problem is that his intended, Gloria Cunningham (Jean Brooks, billed as Jeanne Kelly) is hanging around with mob mouthpiece Arthur Enslee (Alex Callam) and may be implicated in the rackets. More killings follow and, although guns are fired, death arrives via a poison that is administered in some unknown fashion. How is it done and who will crack the case first; the forces of law and order or the (apparent) only crime reporter in town?
This is a pitiful production in many ways. The story is painfully thin and generic, the action limited to a few drab interiors, and the lighter aspects are bloodless and forced. The relationship between Bradley and Drew seems to be aiming at some kind of screwball comedy, but the rest of the film is so grounded in cheap gangsterisms that both elements fail to convince. Furthermore, Bradley’s character quickly begins to grate with her overbearing, selfish behaviour, sabotaging any chance of audience engagement.
The mystery itself is lame, and the killer’s identity reasonably evident from the start. His method of murder is vaguely original (if you want to be kind), but it’s a feeble way to justify the pictures’ title. There’s also some tiresome drunken schtick from David Oliver, who plays Whitley’s butler. Yes, District Attorneys have butlers in PRC’s no-budget world. Also, there’s the little matter of Bradley’s success as a crime reporter, which seems to be based almost entirely on a never-ending series of tip-offs. From almost everyone. Even Detective Newell joins in, even though she’s continuously bad-mouthing the department in her articles. Why do they do it? Well, she never pays for information as far as I can see. Perhaps it’s just her winning personality. Oh, wait…
Newfield’s 42-year career in the canvas chair seldom left the low-budget arena. After making short subjects from 1926, he graduated to features with ‘Reform Girl’ (1933) and never looked back. His crimes against film are many, and it would take too long to list his entire rap sheet here, but special mention must be made of ‘midget’ Western ‘The Terror of Tiny Town’ (1938), ‘Radar Secret Service’ (1950) and ‘Lost Continent’ (1951). In his defence, some of the horror pictures he made for PRC such as ‘The Mad Monster’ (1942), ‘Dead Men Walk’ (1942), ‘The Black Raven’ (1943) and ‘The Flying Serpent’ (1946) are quite entertaining. However, almost their entire appeal is down to the casting of the wonderfully sinister George Zucco in their leading roles.
Despite a supporting role in the Bing Crosby/Ethel Merman musical comedy ‘Anything Goes’ (1936), Bradley’s career remained stuck in the world of the ‘b’ movie, and she quit in 1944 to look after the professional interests of her long-time husband, William Boyd. His shift as Marshall Hopalong Cassidy lasted almost 20 years and comprised more than 60 movies, a few featuring a young Robert Mitchum, and a 40 episode TV series. Brooks played in a couple of Val Lewton’s notable horrors, including the second female lead in ‘The Leopard Man’ (1943). She also sparred with Tom Conway in a couple of pictures featuring amateur detective The Falcon.
A dire scribble of a film; an underdeveloped assembly-line product of the most uninspired kind.