Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Illegal (1955), Lewis Allen.

Victor Scott demonstrates some theatrical lawyering.

OK.  People are going to tell you this movie is a stinker, a two star dud that pales next to Edward G Robinson's A-pictures, that it was all they would give him during his greylist period.  The last bit may be true, but forget the rest!  Now, before you accuse me of loving everything Robinson appeared in, let me tell you that sentimental claptrap Our Vines Have Tender Grapes made me want to throw up from the first frame. Fair?  Yes, Illegal is a pulp film --hey, some contemporary critics thought Double Indemnity was trash-- but it's quite entertaining.

Robinson plays District Attorney Victor Scott who suffers a professional tumble when he mistakenly sends an innocent man (Deforest Kelley) to fry in the electric chair.  (What?  If it happens in the first few minutes, it's not a spoiler)!  After going on a whisky spree, he settles for cheap and tawdry antics as a criminal defense lawyer, attracting the interests of a local racketeer who wants him on the payroll.   The film is not sluggish and is stuffed with smart lines.   Nina Foch plays a strangely complex character, a cool and collected blond raised by Robinson after her father dies who becomes his legal assistant.  I was a little puzzled by the idea that she should have been his love interest-- Daddy issues!  This movie even has an imitation Marilyn Monroe, "Angel O'Hara," played by Jayne Mansfield who demonstrates what looks like fake piano playing in several scenes.  In this movie, everyone's a little grubby! 

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