11 November 2003 | bmacv
Monogram cheapie about crypto-Fascist scam organization is, alas, no Decoy
Much of the team that made Monogram's Decoy of the year before such a startling little thriller re-upped for the same studio's Violence: Director Jack Bernhard, co-scripter Stanley Rubin, composer Edward J. Kay, heavy Sheldon Leonard (the second-string Raymond Burr, who, like Burr, would find his fortune in television). Lightning, alas, failed to strike twice, so Violence remains a typically flawed Poverty-Row production.
In the basement of the Los Angeles headquarters of the United Defenders a pseudo-populist scam organization to fleece angry veterans a young recruit who stumbled onto the truth meets his unpleasant end. (This crypto-Fascist group has affinities with The Black Legion of a decade earlier.) Upstairs, however, the forced cheeriness prevails, with the head of this personality cult (`True' Dawson, played by Emory Parnell) bidding his loyal secretary (Nancy Coleman) goodbye as she leaves for a vacation to Chicago. Little does he suspect that Coleman is an investigative reporter working undercover on an exposé of the racket, which will hit the streets as soon as she's safe in the Windy City. Leonard, one of his lieutenants, does have his suspicions about, as well as unresolved feelings for, Coleman, but can't find the evidence, so off she goes.
In Chicago en route to her magazine's offices, Coleman's cab crashes trying to elude a mysterious pursuer (Milo O'Shea). Hospitalized, Coleman wakes to find herself in a state of amnesia (of the trickiest sort: She remembers things that are convenient to advancing the story but forgets everything else). Back on the coast, she has no memory of her journalistic scoop and so thinks herself a loyal soldier for the United Defenders; she also believes she's engaged to O'Shea, because he told her so. And the plot lumbers on, with the murdered man's widow showing up to find him, and an all-powerful `Mr. X' looming darkly behind the whole operation....
Violence is riddled with holes and implausibilities (of the type that, in today's Hollywood, would all but guarantee a blockbuster). Rather transparently, it draws on themes and issues that sparked the early years of the noir cycle: The dissatisfaction of returning veterans and post-war labor strife (and might the demagogue's name `True' be an echo of then-president Harry S Truman's?). But the topical references prove no more than gimmicks for a quick-and-dirty production that has little coherence or resonance.