Joe Victor(George Raft) wanted to get back into the States and he’d found his ticket. He missed the limelight, the dames, the gambling. A former big time gangster, he’d been deported and lived in Lisbon these days. He gets his way back when he’s hired for a mission in Montreal. We don’t know what that mission is early on and pick up the pieces as the picture moves along. Joey wants to reassemble his old gang, scattered since his deportation, for the job.
One is Joyce Geary(Audrey Totter), now running a Talent agency in Havana. She wants to stay straight, but is forced back into the gang at her old job, being the attraction, distraction, for the target.
Inspector Raoul Leduc(Edward G. Robinson) has three murders in a month on his hands in Montreal. All three are tied together by one innocent bystander: Dr. Carl Macklin(George Dolenz), a nuclear physicist. The first murder is a police constable, bludgeoned to death. Macklin remembers seeing him shortly before his death early one morning. The only other person around then was an organ grinder. When a hair found on the constable comes from a small monkey, that ties in the organ grinder, who happens to turn up dead. The third body is that of Macklin’s secretary, a plain jane young woman who;d been seeing a man on the sly, slipping out on her older sister to meet him. She was found with two bullets in her back. The sister sees the car and the man and when the car, a rental, is found, the fingerprints lead them to a member of Joe Victor’s gang. He becomes the fourth murder, while in a card game.
It seems obvious to Leduc that Macklin is the target. He or something he’s working on. Geary had got something about testing out of him, meeting him at a driving range and pretending ineptitude. But she also begins to fall for the handsome professor and wants nothing of the plot. She’d been straight and was forced to come to Montreal. She plans to send a message to Leduc when she leaves.
They never specify what Macklin is working on. One surmises it’s likely an atomic bomb, but they simply call it the device. The headline on the secretary’s murder calls her “an atomic scientist’s secretary.”
The plan is to get the device and Macklin aboard a freighter headed behind the iron curtain. Leduc is along on the truck taking the device to the testing site, the vehicle is bugged, followed by a fleet of officers, and the real device is not aboard.
The truck is allowed to be taken because Leduc wants the ringleader as well. But they lose the truck anyway, ending up at the harbor, the whole truck, with Leduc and his driver, another cop, in the back, hoisted into the hold.
Where the title comes into place is the end. Joe Victor is a hood, but he’s also an American and a patriot, surprising himself as much as Leduc.
A decent little noir/thriller. Two of the names involved on this one are Daniel Mainwaring(as Geoffrey Holmes) of OUT OF THE PAST(1947) and A. I. Bezzerides who soon after contributed to a better film, KISS ME DEADLY(1955).
For more overlooked films, see Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.
One final note: George Dolenz, who played Dr. Macklin, was the father of Mickey Dolenz of Monkees fame – or would that be infamy?
Here’s a clip of a few scenes. Couldn’t find a trailer.