13 January 2005 | RanchoTuVu
drinking, murder, and music
Dan Duryea plays a pianist and songwriter who seeks shelter in a bottle whenever he gets dumped. In the opening scene, his estranged wife gives him the brush off and he goes on the first of his binges. There's a great closeup of him stumbling from one bar to the next. In the final locale, he's drunk out of his mind and banging away at a piano, and when he hits the final chord, he passes out as his head crashes down on the keyboard. Somewhere during that blurred night, we see his wife get strangled in a grisly scene where we see the hands of the killer but not the face, setting up the main plot as to who actually was the responsible party. Duryea ties the film together nicely, not an easy task given that it gets contrived in the hurry to find the murderer before an innocent man is executed. Duryea falls in love with the man's desperate wife and sets up the second round of heavy drinking when she rejects him that leads to a night in the county hospital where he goes into a surreal dream state that unlocks the mystery of the murder, all captured in vintage 40's FX. There's just enough tension here to save the film from itself, not so much the pending execution, which uses the clock on the wall and the newspaper headlines to remind us of its impending presence, but the portrayal of drinking and drunkenness which looks pretty realistic, and Duryea's performance, which remains good even in the film's laughable musical numbers in Peter Lorre's upscale night club.