It's not the radio show. It has nothing to do with the radio show.
. . . but people probably thought it did. Even if it didn’t, what the hell? It would have suspense. You can’t call a movie “Suspense” and not provide suspense. The movie reassures everyone with one of the more . . . dramatic openings I’ve seen in the genre, and you think it’s got to be a parody. The stone-faced moll, the two thugs, the nervous victim. (Flash vid; mouse over for controls if not immediately apparent.)
Oh, whew. But let’s back up for a second to those opening credits. That building: looks familiar to some. Here it is, later in the movie:
Now, let’s meet our cast of characters.The producer and possibly criminal-type fellow, obviously a high-hat with loads of money and few scruples:
His fixer / associate, played by Eugene Pallette, who began his career in movies in 1911.
IMDB says this was his last role; right after this movie, he made a rather abrupt decision.
In 1946, convinced that there was going to be a "world blow-up" by atom bombs, Pallette received considerable publicity when he set up a "mountain fortress" on a 3,500-acre (14 km2) ranch at La Grande, Oregon, as a hideaway from universal catastrophe. The "fortress" reportedly was stocked with a sizable herd of prize cattle, enormous supplies of food, and had its own canning plant and lumber mill.
When the "blow-up" he anticipated failed to materialize after two years, he began disposing of the Oregon ranch and returned to Los Angeles and his movie colony friends.
The femme fatale, married to the guy with the pipe and the money:
That’s Belita, and we’ll get to her. The guy who enters the lives of all the characters:
Barry Sullivan. He plays a drifter who’s hired by Mr. Pipe, and soon works his way up the organization. Which is what? Gambling? Rackets? Bootlegging? No:
Ice-skating shows. It’s the only ice-skating noir ever made, I believe. Since this requires something of a budget, you’re surprised to find it’s a Monogram picture; they were known for cheapies, but they spent over a million dollars on this one, and loaded it up with ice-dancing routines. Some of them strike the modern eye as frankly inexplicable:
I guess that’s Gay 90s Gotham. But when Belita takes the ice, it’s a different movie.
The sets are enormous and gorgeously lit - and you get a feel for that strange mix of geegaw’d rococo decoration and streamlined design that characterized so much of the look of the 40s.
The new guy’s brilliant idea: have her jump through a ring of wavy knives!
Get a load of the set: more Dail-like surrealism, on an enormous and bizarre scale. Can you imagine this working better in color? I can't
She bursts through the skull's mouth to start the routine, of course.
There are musical acts galore, dressing in that charming, understated Latin fashion of the time:
That's Bobby Ramos and his band. There's also a lusty bongo-whomping Cuban named Miguelito Valdes:
Was he the inspiration for Desi Arnaz' persona and performance style? Why yes, some say. From another movie:
Anyway. It's not all ice-skating; at some point we need . . . SUSPENSE! And so a love affair unfolds between the drifter and the skater. At one point they go to the husband's cabin in the mountains, and it's one hell of a set:
The husband goes missing in an avalanche, a woman from the drifter's past surfaces with a mysterious letter, things get complicated - but the show must go on, and there's another big number before the roscoes bark and the scales of justice are rebalanced. But is it noir?