Stocky film noir mainstay Edmund O’Brien parlays his expertise as a telephone wiring whiz into a job with an illegal bookmaking racket, rising quickly thru the ranks . . . straight to his doom. It’s all smashingly effective under the sharp megging of Joseph M. Newman, a modestly talented hack whose work here (more in the vein of great B-pic specialists like Joseph Lewis or Phil Karlson) seems transformed with the addition of legendary cinematographer Franz Planer, a first choice guy for the likes of Ophüls, Zinnemann & Wyler. The script doesn’t do much for the three gals O’Brien dates (Joanne Dru gets little motivation for swapping mob guy Don Porter for mob guy O’Brien; and an interesting subplot with lovelorn accountant Dorothy Patrick gets short shrift), but the behind-the-scenes gambling stuff & parallel-track police probe are neatly handled. While the big Boulder Dam climax is about as immaculate an action set piece as you will find. Hard to know who pulled this all together on such a small indie budget, even the background score by Sol Kaplan is a standout.
DOUBLE-BILL: O’Brien’s time-delay ruse for a last big score on the horses was pinched for the climax of THE STING/’73.