An MGM film by Director Joseph H. Lewis (My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), So Dark the Night (1946), The Undercover Man (1949), Gun Crazy (1950), The Big Combo (1955)), gives us a topic that is quite on the front burner these days. Written by Howard Dimsdale, adapted by Cyril Hume, from a story by Lawrence Taylor.
The cinematography was by Paul Vogel (Lady in the Lake (1946), High Wall (1947), Black Hand (1950), Dial 1119 (1950), The Tall Target (1951), The Sellout (1952), and The Money Trap (1965)). The music was by Hal Schaefer.
The film stars Hedy Lamarr (Crossroads (1942), Experiment Perilous (1944), The Strange Woman (1946)) as Marianne Lorress, John Hodiak (seven classic noir) as Peter Karczag, James Craig as Frank Westlake, George Macready (four classic noir) as Palinov, Steven Geray (six classic noir) as the Frenchman, Bruce Cowling as Archer Delby James, Nedrick Young as Harry Nordell, Steven Hill as Jack, Robert Osterloh as Lt. Lannahan, Trevor Bardette as Lt. Carfagno, and Charles Wagenheim as Ramon Santez.
The long immigration route to the U.S.A. in the immediate post WWII era often passed through Havana, Cuba. The final bottleneck was the U.S. Embassy where scores of potential immigrants would wait for their interviews to see whether or not they would be granted visas. As a result, a well organized illegal alien smuggling ring arose to alleviate the problems for those with enough money.
A Dead Man
|an obviously back lot NYC|
|a flight and death by taxi|
|all his worldly effects|
A dead man with no ID in New York is traced by N.Y.P.D. investigation of his pocket contents to a flight from Miami, the evidence collected from his shoes finds traces of sugarcane and red clay that is only found in Cuba. The potential that the man is an illegal alien triggers an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
|Pete and Palinov (Macready)|
It's also implied very sub-textually (the film is after all made under the MPPC) that Marianne has been letting Palinov play hide the sausage with her for accommodations in the rooms above his cafe. Marianne also makes a remark that since she is not allowed to work under Cuban Law she must find her bread "on the streets." It's not hard to make the leap to streetwalker. It's all very quaint in hindsight.
Anyway Palinov is head over heels infatuated enough with Marianne that he breaks with his usual demand of a thousand dollars upfront. He agrees to accompany her himself to Savannah, Georgia where her father has previously immigrated to and where she assures him he will be paid by daddy. It's a not hard to figure out why Pete decides to use Marianne to find out the day and time of Palinov's next scheduled operation. As he gets close to her he also finds himself smitten by her allure, and he too is soon also in love. Soon Pete is thinking about quitting the service and telling Marianne that he is in love with her and that she should stay with him in Havana.
Palinov jealous, has Pete shadowed, and eventually his men discover that Pete is actually an immigration cop. It all goes Noirsville when Palinov exposes this information to Marianne, who decides to leave for the US on the next smuggling flight.
The films strengths lie in its on location Havana sequences, once the immigrants take flight to the US and crash land in the Everglades the film looses some of it's magic.
All of the cast do well and are believable. Watch for a fantastic Cuban dance sequence by Nita Bieber. An entertaining enough time waster. Screen caps are from a DVDr of a cablecast, there is a new release as of 2006. 7/10