Monday, August 3, 2015

Shield For Murder (1954)

(SLWB  - February 14, 2013)

Directors: Howard W. Koch, Edmond O'Brien with Stars: Edmond O'Brien, John Agar, Marla English, Emile Meyer, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, Vito Scotti, and Richard Deacon.

Police detective Barney Nolan (O’Brien) commits a murder in an alley and collects 25,000 of mob money from the victim then frantically tries to cover his tracks. With His ill gotten gains he plans to buy a tract house for his cigarette girl girlfriend. The mob becomes suspicious and sends two muscle men after him. 

Biggest surprise in this was Carolyn Jones' bit performance as a tipsy B-girl, she looks quite stunning as a blonde, prior to this as a blonde in other films she always looked off. 

Jones & OBrien
Carolyn Jones as B-Girl Beth:

From Shadowsandsatin IMDb

Favorite scene:

This was kinda hard – there are several scenes that stand out, but I finally chose this one: Detective Nolan is seated at a restaurant bar, trying to drink his troubles away and attempting without success to reach his girl, Patty (Marla English) on the telephone. A blonde (Carolyn Jones) seated nearby sidles over and throws him a couple of lines, including a suggestion on how he can look more tough by shrugging his shoulders and squinting his eyes. Barney’s not interested, but when a cop enters the establishment, he abruptly decides to take the dame up on her offer to move to a booth. Between more drinks, Barney continues his efforts to contact Patty, and when he finally does, he is incensed by the news that she was harassed by a couple of private dicks who have been trailing Barney. Barney promptly makes another call and before long, the two dicks are walking into the bar to meet him. We’re not quite sure what Barney has in mind when he joins the two men at a table and meekly asks one for a light, but we don’t have to wait long to find out – before you can say Jack Robinson, Barney commences to beating the crap out of both men with his pistol. We don’t see the men during the violent thrashing – instead, we’re able to envision the results via the horrified looks and frightened shrieks of the restaurant’s patrons, including a man who never stops munching on his spaghetti even as he seems to be trying to climb into the wall behind him. (Honorable mention to the chase scene/shoot-out at the public swimming pool later in the film. It’s awesome!)

From IMDb

Edmond O'Brien as bad cop in brutal Eisenhower-era look at police corruption, 18 August 2004

Author: bmacv from Western New York

In Shield for Murder (a movie he co-directed with Howard Koch), Edmond O'Brien plays a Los Angeles cop `gone sour.' Bloated and sweaty, he's a sneak preview of another bad apple – Orson Welles in Touch of Evil. In a pre-title sequence, he guns down a drug runner in cold blood, relieves the corpse of an envelope crammed with $25-thou, then yells `Stop or I'll shoot' for the benefit of eavesdroppers before firing twice into the air. When his partner (John Agar) arrives, there's only a few hundred dollars left on the body, and it looks like a justifiable police action – though O'Brien's shock tactics have already drawn the unwelcome attention of his new captain (Emile Meyer).

O'Brien wants the money to buy into the American Dream – to put a down-payment on a tract house, furnished (oddly enough) right down to the table settings. It's a bungalow to share with his girl, Marla English, as well as a handy place to bury his cash in its yard. But a couple of things go wrong. First off, a local crime boss wants back the loot O'Brien ripped off and dispatches a couple of goons to retrieve it. Then, though there were no eye-witnesses to the murder, there was in fact an eavesdropper – an old blind man whose acute hearing picked up a sequence of shots that don't add up to the official story. When this good citizen decides to tell the police what he heard, O'Brien decides to pay him a nocturnal visit....

Based on a novel by William McGivern (who also wrote the books from which The Big Heat, Rogue Cop and Odds Against Tomorrow were drawn), Shield For Murder embodies some of the shifts in tone and emphasis the noir cycle was showing as it wound down. Its emphasis is less on individuals caught up in circumstance than on widespread public corruption; its tone is less suggestive than ostentatiously violent. The movie ratchets up to a couple of brutal set-pieces.

In one, O'Brien, knocking back doubles at the bar in a spaghetti cellar, is picked up by a floozie (Carolyn Jones, in what looks like Barbara Stanwyck's wig from Double Indemnity). `You know what's the matter with mirrors in bars?' she asks him. `Men always make hard faces in them.' While she eats, he continues to drink. When the goons track him down there, O'Brien savagely pistol-whips one of them (Claude Akins) to the horror of the other patrons who had come to devour their pasta in peace. Later, there's an attempted pay-off (and a double-cross) in a public locker-room and swimming-pool that ends in carnage. It's easy to dismiss Shield For Murder – it has a seedy B-picture look and a literalness that typified most of the crime films of the Eisenhower administration. But it's grimly effective – almost explosive.

The taglines for the film were: “So savage, so stark, so vicious, it’ll make your skin crawl!” and “If ever a picture was crammed with guts, this is it.” 7/10

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