22 September 2003 | django-1
no-frills Monogram crime drama, interesting characterizations
Monogram was a wonderful little factory of b-movies, films that delivered the goods week after week for small town and neighborhood audiences. UNDERCOVER AGENT is a typical Monogram programmer, directed by Howard Bretherton, a man who directed many fine westerns and two interesting Columbia serials in the mid-40s, but it contains many small tidbits of particularity and humanity that make it somehow special even today, 60+ years after it was made. The plot involves sweepstakes fraud (I remember a similar plot being used in a 1930's Frankie Darro vehicle)and Russell Gleason, as boyish as ever, convincingly plays a postal inspector who is put on suspension due to an warranted but technical illegal shooting. He is gradually working his way up the ranks and wants to marry his girlfriend, played by Shirley Deane. One interesting detail in the story is that Ms. Deane's father, played by J. M. Kerrigan, is a hardcore alcoholic who is seen pawning his daughter's confirmation ring in the film's first scene. He is turned down and thrown out of establishments in scenes that echo of TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM. The film, like so many forgotten little b-movies of yesteryear, is full of such small details that still work today. Kerrigan's character, of course, eventually finds redemption (no surprise there!), but the sweepstakes scam is cleverly put together by the criminals, and cleverly busted by Gleason.