Fred Zinnemann got bumped from shorts to features with this tidy police procedural, a programmer made to showcase rising contract players Van Heflin & Marsha Hunt as a twosome running the city crime lab. Their current case involves systemic political corruption which has led to the murder of a newly elected mayor just starting to go after the kickbacks from a city-wide protection racket. No wonder he got blown up. But while Heflin & Hunt test evidence, with the support of crusading D.A. (and third-wheel pal) Lee Bowman, the two-pronged storyline finds Bowman moving in on Hunt (romantically); and Heflin moving in on Bowman (suspiciously). 85 years of filmed forensic sleuthing has a built-in disadvantage since their breakthroughs now look a little 'old hat.' On the other hand, 85-year-old analogue research, clues & techniques do have a camera-friendly advantage. (Magnified evidence slides; so much eye-appeal compared to computer read-outs.) Zinnemann can only do so much with some of the film’s lumbering comic bits, but watch his work in the lab using door frames, glass reflections & angles to enliven every shot with a sense of pace and place.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Oddly, after hitting the A-list on only his third pic, THE SEVENTH CROSS/’44 (with Spencer Tracy), Zinnemann regressed, making two ‘Butch’ Jenkins’ kid stuff before starting for real with THE SEARCH/’48, made with Neo-Realistic flair in post-war Germany.