RED LIGHT stars George Raft as a bitter man looking for the killer of his brother, a Roman Catholic priest just returned a hero from WW II as a chaplain in a prison camp. Raymond Burr is the thuggish villain and Virginia Mayo is a woman helping Johnny. Harry Morgan(billed as Henry) has a supporting role as a convict/killer.
Raft is John Torno, businessman/owner of Torno Freight Company. He’d raised his kid brother, Jess, himself and was happy to see him go into the priesthood. Jess was a hero in all the newsreels and was shown being embraced by John on his return.
It was those newsreels that gave Nick Cherney(Burr) the idea. It was seen at a prison showing where Cherney was about to finish his sentence for embezzling from the Torno Freight Company. Flashbacks show he’d begged Johnny not to send him up. Torn’s hands were tied though, as an auditor had found the embezzlement and the state had brought charges. Cherney has a cell mate, Rocky(Morgan), getting out a week early and hires him to kill Jess, thus giving him an alibi.
Father Jess has been given his own church and Johnny is going to drive him up to check it out, only to arrive at his hotel room to find his kid brother shot and dying. Begging for the name of who did it, Jess’s last words were “Bible…written in the bible.”
Johnny pours through Jess’s bible, one page at a time, ignoring his business, his partner, Warni Hazzard(Gene Lockhart) holding things together. He finds nothing and then a chance remark makes him realize what his brother was talking about. Every hotel room has a Gideon Bible in the table drawer. That had to be it!
But when he returns to the hotel room, the bible is gone and records show five people have had that room since his brother’s murder. And the search is on.
A bell hop, slipped a sizable tip, gets a list of the names. First on the list is Carla North(Virginia Mayo). When he clears her, she begins helping him trace down the others until he nearly kills one of them in Reno. She’s begun to fall for the rough hewn man and sees what the bitterness and hatred is turning him into.
While all that’s going on, Cherney has Rocky following Johnny. He knows about the bible and wants it. Rocky mentions that when shooting Jess, he had said “Here’s a little present from Nick!” For a bookkeeper, Cherney kills surprisingly easily. Burr plays a suitably menacing figure throughout, dispatching several people.
A lot of religious overtones in this one. The bible Johnny ultimately finds shows that Jess had circled a passage, that one that says “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord” and a handwritten message from Jess, “Johnny, thou shall not kill!”
And the dispatch of Cherney is even more religiously staged.
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