12 January 2007 | JohnHowardReid
A Third-rate Runyon-imitation screenplay!
Although produced by Damon Runyon himself, this movie by no means a satisfactory transcription of his short story, completely missing the verve and vitality, and above all the signature characterizations, language and mise-en-scene of the original. Yet Spigelgass has gone out of his way to add a whole host of new people with flashy Runyonesque names. But unfortunately, that's all they are: Names, not believable people.
The original story has only nine characters to speak of: the unnamed narrator, Butch and his baby, Harry the Horse, Spanish John, Little Isadore (who has not a single word of direct dialogue), a watchman, a fat police sergeant and an eager-beaver copper.
More Broadway identities milling around do not necessarily a better motion picture make, though it must be admitted that Shemp Howard's "Blinky" is more inspired than all the other additions. On the other hand, Broderick Crawford is simply not sufficiently Runyonesque to play the title role. In fact, as stated, all the film's characters are sketchily drawn, one-dimensional figures that have neither been filled in nor rounded out. (Considerably handicapped as they are, it's no wonder that few of the players make any impression). Nor is this the limit of the screenplay's defects. The plot now seems too weak to hold an audience's interest for 75 minutes. For a two-reeler, the one-themed story would suffice, but it has been quite inadequately strengthened for a feature-length film.
Rogell's heavy-handed and ponderously slow-moving direction doesn't help either. And even Woody Bredell's photography seems several notches below his usual standard, while the sets too have a distinctly grade "B" aura about them.
All told, a very disappointing and mediocre effort.