29 November 2005 | rsoonsa
Successful Formula As Before, Sharply Scripted.
"Big Town", a shallowly disguised New York City, is of importance in a number of modes for popular United States culture, initially being a radio programme from 1937 until 1962, then on to television episodes, 1952/1956, and eventually as a comic book series, 1956/1958, with the protagonist in each manifestation being Steve Wilson, originally a reporter working for the Big Town Illustrated Press, later becoming its editor-in-chief, and played in this, the third of four films based upon the radio show, by Philip Reed who is featured in all of the four. In the production here, Wilson's almost girl friend and ace crime reporter Lorelei Kilbourne (Hillary Brooke), after her first novel has been accepted for publication, gives him two weeks notice of her resignation from her newspaper position but, to her chagrin, she is almost immediately replaced by the Illustrated Press owner's niece Susan (Anne Gillis), who by appearances also wedges herself into Steve's affections, although in reality he is using her to discover information of crooked Big Town activity involving an illegal gambling ring that preys upon college students. Susan is possibly not what she appears to be, and while Steve explores the girl's connection with local gambling kingpin Chuck LaRue (Richard Travis), owner of the Winners' Club, a night spot for gambling that is near to the campus where Susan attends, Lorelei also investigates her new rival's activities, with her efforts yielding more than she has expected, as all three of them may be in serious peril from the Forces of Evil. This is better than a routine "B" programmer, as it provides some incisive and hard bitten dialogue, a clever subtext based upon poker playing, and a generally edgy quality pervading the characterizations that lifts the work above the norm and, in spite of budget restrictions that rule out retakes, and a necessity for filling demands of its melodrama genre, there is plenty of "business" for a viewer to enjoy. Reed and Brooke make an elegant and worldly pair, veteran character players William Haade and Joe Sawyer perform as LaRue henchmen, and Vince Barnett has a substantial part in this Pine/Thomas production with producer William Thomas also directing and capably utilizing a crisply composed Whitman Chambers script in an always interesting, skillfully edited, briskly paced and well-cast film that additionally includes an effective original score by Darrell Calker, Gotham flavoured, of course, although the extensive location shooting is along Normandie Avenue on the east side of Hollywood.