The print was owned by some fellows who used it to practice their axe-juggling act; it’s all hacked up. Here’s the first thing you see:
So you wouldn’t even know the name if you didn’t have the sleeve to help you. It’s “The Chase.” It’s about a guy who’s down on his luck (Bob Cummings, who’s light on his feet as ever) and finds a wallet - belonging to a big mobster! When he returns it, we meet the heavy:
Peter Lorre - and he’s smoking? Nah! Can’t be. But he’s not the mobster. We meet the mobster soon enough . . .
. .. and learn he’s a FILTHY BEAST who beats up his manicurist because she cut him. As you can imagine, such a fellow has trouble retaining staff, so he recruits Bob Cummings to be his chauffeur.
Complications ensure. First off, he tests the new chauffeur by using his secret back-seat control device to make the car go 110 MPH. Yes, he has a backup gas pedal in the back:
He’s so crazy he tries to make the chauffeur beat a train, and when it becomes apparent he can’t, he hits the brakes. How long does it take a car to come to a dead stop when it’s doing 110? This long:
Later, a man is brought to the house, and the mobster makes him a business proposition. When he’s slow to accept, he is fed to a tiger that lives in the wine cellar.
It’s that kind of movie.
Noir? Well, it has this . . .
You like the shadows? We know a guy who gets them wholesale. Slanting shadows are always your guarantee of genuine noir. And it has a Troubled Wife who could be Trouble if the chauffeur falls for her:
Of course, she wants to get away from the FILTHY BEAST, and won’t he help her? He can’t say no, can he? Ask any man who’s blown into town alone and taken employment with a sociopathic criminal, and he’ll say sure, I’d sleep with the boss’ wife, first week out.
You know where this is going. But it doesn’t go there. Halfway through it turns into an entirely different movie, and it started to seem very, very familiar. Turns out I'd heard the story on an old Suspense radio show called "The Black Path of Fear." Went back to the credits; that was the name of the book from which the movie was taken. You can hear the episode here; you can watch the movie, for free, here. Compare and contrast: if I remember correctly, the radio program is simply the middle act of the book; after it takes a big turn, it takes another, and you can't help but sit back and wonder what else it has in store.