7 January 2002 | django-1
exciting, well-acted crime drama about missing young women
Structured much like an exploitation film, but minus any sleaze
or cynicism, this 1948 crime drama exposes the sordid world of "modeling agencies" set up to entrap and exploit lonely runaway young women from small towns who find themselves in the big city, waiting for some kind of "break" toward a career in modeling or acting. With a first-class supporting cast (Conrad Nagel, Evelyn Brent, Wanda McKay, Ralph "Dick Tracy" Byrd), the film pits Audrey Long--the sister of the young woman whose murder opens the film-- against the seedy yet suave Kane Richmond. Richmond, in one of his last roles before retiring from the screen and re-entering the business world, is best-known as leading man in many 1930s/1940s action films and serials, yet here he is the heavy, and he uses his personal charm to comfort then exploit the young women who are all to eager for a "break." Director William Nigh--whose last film this was and whose credits as director-writer-actor-producer date back to the mid-1910s--keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, but clearly worked with each actor to capture the right tone of performance, so that as "predictable" as the elements of the film may be to the genre-film fan, each character seems real. I first saw this film six or eight years ago and just watched it again, and it's just as solid and riveting as I remember it. Kane Richmond is especially memorable in a rare villain role, and the devoted fan of B-crime films of the 40s (this was a Monogram release) should search for a copy.