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.
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?
Oh, most definately yes.