Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shield For Murder (1954) O'Brien Breaks Bad

Directed by Edmond O'Brien (Man-Trap (1961)) and Howard W. Koch (Crime Against Joe (1956), The Girl in Black Stockings (1957)). Screenplay by Richard Alan Simmons and John C. Higgins, it was based on the novel of the same name by William P. McGivern. Cinematography was by Gordon Avil (Big House, U.S.A. (1955)).

The film stars Edmond O'Brien veteran of 12 Classic Film Noir as Lieutenant Barney Nolan, Marla English as Patty Winters, John Agar (The Woman on Pier 13 (1949)) as Sergeant Mark Brewster, Emile Meyer another late Classic Noir vet (Panic in the Streets (1950), Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951), The People Against O'Hara (1951), The Mob (1951), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) Sweet Smell of Success (1957), The Lineup (1958)), as Captain Gunnarson, Carolyn Jones (The Big Heat (1953)) as Beth, Claude Akins (Down Three Dark Streets (1954)) as Fat Michaels, Lawrence Ryle as Laddie O'Neil, Herbert Butterfield as Cabot, Hugh Sanders (Storm Warning (1951), I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951), The Sellout (1952) The Steel Trap (1952), I Died a Thousand Times (1955)) as Packy Reed, William Schallert as Assistant District Attorney Andy Tucker, Joe Ploski as Man Eating Spaghetti and Vito Scotti as Joe the Bartender.

Lieutenant Barney Nolan (Edmund O'Brien)

Barney and the money courrier 

Police Dick Lieutenant Barney Nolan has put in a sixteen year slog with the LAPD. He's fed up with getting nowhere fast. In Barney's world dreaming big is buying a new fully furnished track house gashed into some LA hillside where he and gal pal Patty can make an LAPD Blue Heaven.

" When Whippoorwills call, evenin' is nigh
Hurry to my Blue Heaven
Turn to the right, there's a little white light
Will lead you to my Blue Heaven
You'll see a smilin' face, a fireplace, a cozy room
Little nest that nestles where the roses bloom
Molly and me, and the baby makes three
We're happy in my, in my Blue Heaven
You're gonna see a smilin' face, fireplace, cozy room
And a little nest nestled where the roses bloom
Just Molly and me, and the baby is three
We're so happy in my Blue Heaven
We're happy in my Blue Heaven
We're happy in my Blue Heaven."

Barney hatches a plan to jumpstart his dream. He whacks a bookie carrying a 25G payoff to gangster Packy Reed. Barney also makes it look like The bookie tried to escape from justice. When the police and his partner Sergeant Mark Brewster arrive Barney tells them that he was going to take the victim in when he suddenly made a break for it.

Sergeant Mark Brewster (John Agar)

The coroner's report lists the victim having only $300. Packy Reed suspects Barney stole the cash and sicks two shady PI's Fat Michaels and Laddie O'Neil on his tail to recover what's his. When they brace Barney he tells them he doesn't know anything about any stinking 25Gs.

Laddie O'Neil (Lawrence Ryle ) lt.., Fat Michaels (Claude Akins) rt.

Packy Reed (Hugh Sanders) and Barney
Barney takes Patty (who lives in an apartment) up to the dream house. There he asks her to marry him. While she's digging on the house he slips outside and digs a hole and buries the envelope with the loot.

Patty & Barney

Patty (Marla English) & Barney

Of course everything goes to Noirsville when a deaf mute shows up claiming to have witnessed the murder of the bookie. Barney tries to buy him off but when he refuses, a hefty shove from Barney causes his head to bounce off the metal footboard of his bed. Barney arranges the body to make it look like an accident and then skedaddles. Unfortunately Barney's protege Sergeant Mark Brewster finds the deaf mute's written account of the murder that pins Barney as the killer.


Barney & Captain Gunnarson (Emile Meyer)
the mute witness 

Barney wipes  away his prints

Barney and B-Girl Beth (Carolyn Jones)

This is O'Brien's film and he does a great job portraying a man whose life is coming apart at the seams. He goes from cool confident conniver to desperate desperado with both the hoods and the police after him. The last third of the film constantly escalates the suspense factor. Emile Meyer also put in a good solid showing as the police captain.

Barney's Pistol Whipping

Watch for a small cameo by Carolyn Jones as a B girl trying score a trick with Barney, and the stylistic brutal pistol whipping by Barney of the two PI's show only from the terrified perspectives of the restaurant's clientele.

Shield For Murder has some innovative sequences and is an entertaining mid fifties Noir, screencaps are from the Kino Lorber DVD. 7/10

Older review here: Former partial review of Shield For Murder here:

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