John Wayne had no one to blame but himself (and fellow producer Robert Fellows) for this lame crime story that sends him off to Hawaii, along with James Arness, as House Un-American Activities Committee investigators hunting down a Communist Ring. Half-hearted noir stuff with Wayne in a Robert Mitchum role. The Commie plot looks faintly ridiculous now (they never actually do anything), not that there weren’t ‘Party Line’ loyalists, but the presentation and police procedural formulas are so poorly handled, not even location shooting on the islands keep this from coming across as two-fisted hokum. Well, four-fisted what with Arness. He’s particularly ripe, flying off the handle at the mere mention of Commies. (Though fun to see someone tower over Wayne by a couple of inches & thirty pounds.) Nancy Olson shows up for some rapport-less romance with the Duke; and poor Hans Conreid trying in vain for what one imagines is supposed to be comic relief as a nutty nuclear professor. Journeyman director Edward Ludwig, with some interesting looking credits in the ‘30s, proves a very dull boy and can’t stage action. Even cinematographer Archie Stout, a favorite of Wayne and John Ford, seems uninvolved . . . on location in Hawaii!
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For Wayne in Anti-Commie mode, William Wellman’s BLOOD ALLEY/’55 hits the target, with Lauren Bacall matching up nicely with Wayne against the exotic Chinese backdrop.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Note our German poster which swaps out HUAC/Commie Hunt for drugs. The same substitution used for Samuel Fuller’s PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET/’53 in France: Commies & microfilm out/mob guys and drug smuggling in. It made the film a lot easier for the proto-New Wave/Cahiers du Cinéma gang in France to love.