When I first heard about this film, I knew I had to see it. I love Lawrence Tierney and his bad-guy persona on screen (and supposedly off screen as well) and when he's in a movie, you know it's gotta be good. So, after searching for a DVD copy, I finally found one and after the movie was done the first time, I was mesmerized. Such a short film, yet so effective with it's suspense, numerous plot twists and most of all, the brilliant camerawork, providing for us multiple closeups of Tierney and even one of Nan Leslie, an RKO starlet of the late 1940's who was mostly cast in Tim Holt westerns. All of those aspects make this low-budget thriller seem like a top-notch film noir with all the trimmings.
The film's storyline is rather simple: about a killer who hitches a ride from a traveling salesman on his way home from a convention. Along the way, they pick up two other women looking for a ride to L.A., played by Nan Leslie and Betty Lawford. Then, as the ride gets more and more dangerous, Tierney is able to manipulate his way into staying at a rather remote beach house along the shore, and as the night progresses, everybody starts to figure out who he really is... causing Tierney to want to kill to keep from talking.
So, it sounds like a routine RKO "B" picture at first, but when you watch it, you find that it's a lot more than that. It's laced up with a couple of minor shootouts, a car chase, and murder, so just from those plot points alone this film is already a film noir.
Lawrence Tierney is great as the lead, as usual, and Ted North's character is more standard than the rest, but adequately played in my opinion. We find out Nan Leslie's character has ambitions to become a Hollywood movie star, and Betty Lawford is an ordinary fun-time gal, whom, we find out later on in the film, is smarter than we thought. All in all, the cast is great, with some other great supporting players such as Andrew Tombes, Harry Shannon, and Glenn Vernon, but Betty Lawford really does almost steal the entire picture, and after looking into her a little bit I was surprised to find out she didn't have much of a film career, as it seemed she preferred stage work. This was her last film appearance before tragically dying in 1960. She was also the cousin of more popular actor and playboy Peter Lawford, who, as many of you probably know, was in a lot of films at MGM, a big step-up from the little RKO studios. But, personally, I like RKO films better, because even Eddie Muller considers the studio as "The House Of Noir" and I'm inclined to agree because they did produce one of the best film noirs of all time, 1947's Out of the Past starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. This one, too, plus all the other film noirs released by RKO in the late 40's (Crossfire, Race Street, They Live By Night, The Woman on Pier 13) prove that RKO really was the "House Of Noir."