Phil Karlson’s extra-tasty film noir, tabloid fodder from Samuel Fuller’s 1944 novel THE DARK PAGE*, barely puts a foot wrong in a tight 82-minutes. Brusque & blunt, Broderick Crawford stars as an editor using shock tactics (gruesome pics, lonely hearts club balls, sex scandals) to revive a once dowdy big-city rag. He’s even got his own personally mentored tiger-cub reporter digging up lowdown scoops (disconcertingly pretty John Derek). But his circulation stunts are about to blow up in Crawford’s pug-ugly face when a lonely-hearts gal turns up from his own past, kicking off a downward spiral of blackmail, death, cover-up & bowery bum murder. And it’s his own favorite reporter/surrogate son who’s hot on the trail. He’s proud of the kid; and terrified of being found out. Donna Reed, a leftover reporter from the previous staff, is fine as Derek’s girlfriend/conscience, but standout turns come from Rosemary DeCamp & Henry O’Neill as a doomed pair of life’s losers. Shot by Burnett Guffey with the photo-journalist flair of Weegee covering a professional hit at a tenement walk-up, this big city thriller is served neat, no chaser.
DOUBLE-BILL: The original posters pushed this as a follow-up to THE MOB/’51, a pretty good Robert Parrish pic that puts Crawford’s undercover cop on the waterfront. Great first half (with a terrific, young Richard Kiley), less so after that, but worth a look.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *What might Fuller have made of his own book? Next year’s PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET/’53 shows him at his writing/directing best, but B-pic specialist Karlson is a tough guy to beat.