WARNING: This review contains more than a few SPOILERS! 🙂
Okay, despite the fact that so much of this movie resembles the plot of The Postman Always Rings Twice, there are some very clear differences.
A showgirl (Julie played by Cleo Moore) meets an older man who owns a garage and junkyard (Gus Hilmer, played by Hugo Haas, who also wrote and directed the film) and apparently is pretty well-off, financially. They get drunk and he takes a shine to her. Next thing you know, wedding bells are ringing for the two of them.
However, all is not perfect bliss. Or it is and one of Gus’s employees (who Gus befriends to the point of near mentorship) also has eyes for Julie. And so the conflict in this plot becomes pretty obvious.
Outwardly, Gus and Julie seem perfectly content as a couple. One never really gets the sense that Julie’s terribly dissatisfied. And, yes, she might have been settling for a kind and giving older man (with money) rather than falling thoroughly head over heels in love with him. But I would hardly call her “hot to trot” for the employee (whose name is Frank and who’s played by Vince Edwards). In fact, when Frank starts getting handsy with her, she literally shoves him away each time. Until, she doesn’t. But that’s after Gus insists that she … I can’t remember precisely what he said, but something to the effect that she should “be nice to him” and “accommodate him.” So … she does.
And for reasons only Gus can understand, he insists that Frank live with them in a spare room or somewhere on the premises.
At some point, my husband remarked, “She’s trouble.” I said, “No. He’s trouble.” And after several bouts of Frank practically attacking Julie (and I think a forced liplock with her counts as one, since Julie has previously given every indication that this contact is unwanted, ergo, it’s battery), while Julie does her best to either fend him off or comply with her husband’s supposed wishes, I think my husband had a change of heart on the matter.
Frank is the obvious homme fatale here. Especially after he insists that she take a ride with him in some old car he fixed up. And once he tosses her into the passenger seat, she can’t possibly jump back out, right?
And it is Frank that drives them (without explanation of where they’re going and what he intends) to another of Gus’s properties—an old house. Gus is seen going into the place. Then Gus is seen coming out. Then Frank aims the car at Gus and runs the guy over, killing him in the process.
Now, compare this with the description on Wikipedia (at least, as of this date). “Julie begins a romantic affair with Frankie and then plots with him to get rid of her husband.” Wow, what movie was that writer watching?
Then, get this. It goes on to say that “Frankie runs down Gus with a car, killing him. He and Julie are free to be together and run the garage.” Not exactly. More like Frank blackmails Julie into not going to the police, because he claims she’s an accomplice. Even though she was a mere passenger and, hey, who did the driving? And, frankly, who are you more likely to believe? Well, I guess we’re all supposed to assume she couldn’t possibly resist ole Frankie’s charms. (Blecgh (sp?)) And calling the cops would keep her from becoming an accessory after the fact, which Frankie doesn’t bother to point out.
So it is Julie’s total lack of legal knowledge that’s her Achilles’ heel, rather than falling for this creep.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Gus’s twin brother (who just got sprung from the joint on parole) shows up in time for the “reading of the will.” I guess that’s an actual requirement somewhere other than the movies. It’s definitely not required in the state where I used to practice law. So I always get a kick out of the old “reading of the will” part. 🙂
But, yeah, there are definite shades of Postman in this one. But Cleo Moore isn’t Lana Turner. And Julie definitely isn’t the femme fatale here.
It’s a film noir delivered with a bit of “a wink and a smile” at the end, as Eddie Muller put it on TCM Noir Alley. By someone I won’t name since I’ve already revealed so many damn spoilers. But then, they’re not terribly hard to guess, are they?
Here’s what Eddie Muller had to say when introducing the film! 🙂
* * *
Directed by Hugo Haas
Produced by Hugo Haas
Screenplay by Hugo Haas (Story by Herbert O. Phillips)
Suspenseful enough to keep you watching! And guessing! 🙂 Even with the spoilers!
PS: This review contains one affiliate link! See if you can find it. 🙂