Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Counterplot (1959)

Again, a convoluted plot, but here goes (from AFI):

"Brock Miller is hiding out near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as he has been framed for the murder of New York importer and gambler David Nibley. Manuel, a local shoeshine boy, is helping Brock by bringing food to the abandoned beach house where he is hiding, but displays an unhealthy interest in Brock's gun. When Connie, Brock's girl friend, arrives in San Juan from New York, Manuel is hostile toward her, as he thinks of himself as Brock's best friend and feels she is destroying their relationship. Connie, who has an engagement as a singer at a local club, asks a waiter for information on Brock's whereabouts. Manuel has deliberately failed to tell Brock that Connie is in town, but Brock finds out when he hears her on a radio broadcast from the club. Fritz Bergmann, a crooked lawyer, learns that Brock is on the island and arranges to have Connie meet Brock at his house. Brock then proposes a plan to Bergmann, which he claims would benefit them both. Brock phones Steve MacGregor, an insurance agent with the company that insured Nibley, whose partner, Ben Murdock, had insured him for $200,000. The insurance company will not pay off on the policy until Brock is convicted and he is determined to prove his innocence."

Forrest Tucker, who I remember mostly from "F-Troop," stars as Brock Miller, the Wrong Man. But he is locked away in hiding for the beginning part of the film, doing nothing. Then Fritz Bergmann comes in a more interesting, if poorly acted, character, but he does not drive the film either. Nor does the girl or even the boy. The film looks at all the angles of the caper, but the only character that actually goes through a change is the boy. Otherwise, all the pieces and archetypes are put into play to collide into each other until the inevitable finale. Now, I'm not saying that this approach can't work. Just look at CROSSFIRE (1947), one of my favorite noir; but that film is taking on American society as a whole, and this film just doesn't stand up.

Judgment: not noir

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