14 July 2007 | robert-temple-1
Excellent thriller with social message
This excellent thriller deals with the sale of stolen babies by baby broker racketeers. It is thus more relevant to today, when this problem is much more widespread, than it was in 1949. The plot is sound, the script first rate, and the acting is extremely good. It is interesting to see an early Jeff Chandler performance, in a supporting role, before his hair went prematurely white, and when he was so thin he looked like he needed a good meal. There is some crackling dialogue: 'I couldn't sleep, so I took my gun for a walk,' and 'The idea of you going straight is like a vulture becoming a vegetarian.' Raymond Burr, to whom the latter remark is addressed, is a heavy of suitably sour disposition. Dennis O'Keefe is an excellent clean-cut B hero, and Gale Storm is a rather sombre and expressionless 'good girl' from a small town who has come to the wicked city in search of her murdered sister and her stolen baby; she is convincing, though unexciting. A sinister sub-plot about the father of the two sisters making his daughter get rid of her illegitimate baby seems to have been cut because it was too shocking, but enough of it survives to show that it was clearly once there. Maybe the producers thought they had enough of a social message without getting that grim and frightening their audiences further. The sale of stolen babies was an issue that needed raising, and it was thoroughly portrayed in this film well ahead of its time. The director, Joseph Newman, did an excellent job, and at one point showed off by cutting from a match being struck by one character to a lit match being used by another character. Every thriller director is entitled to at least one arty moment, especially if it hypes the pace of the action, though this was probably in the script by Irwin Gielgud. Probably the few good one-liners constituted the 'extra dialogue' by William Bowers.