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In 1803 France, Napoleon Bonaparte (Robert Cornthwaite) orders the capture of notorious highwayman "Purple Mask" (Tony Curtis), who routinely rescues imprisoned nobles and harasses the Revolutionary officials.
Police detective sergeant Jeff Andrews is working on a case involving a gang of shoplifters, and he allows himself to falsely arrested as a petty thief, in order to make contact with the gang. Meanwhile, Faye Burton, a petty shoplifter and the daughter of a prominent judge, is blackmailed by the gang into joining them on the promise that they will get back a confession signed when she was caught by a department store detective, who had her sign the document rather than calling the police. It takes Jeff and Faye a lot longer to figure out who is the 'brains' behind the shoplifting gang than it does the audience, and the audience has less information than they do.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Principal roles in I Was A Shoplifter fell to Scott Brady (Lawrence Tierney's brother), the evergreen Mona Freeman, Andrea King and the young `Anthony' Curtis. Smaller, almost invisible parts go to Charles McGraw, Peggie Castle and Rock Hudson. That's not a dream cast, but all had done and would do better work in far better vehicles than this dead-serious and deadly dull documentary-style look at `boosters' organized shoplifters.
Mousy librarian and prominent judge's daughter Freeman saunters through a big department store absently filling her pockets with trinkets, like a magpie flying off with anything that glitters. She's spotted, hauled into the manager's office and forced to sign a confession. Also caught in this retail dragnet is Brady, a professional booster as opposed to Freeman, who's written off as a `klepto' a basically harmless nuisance.
But later Freeman has visitors. The first is hard case King, who has a photocopy of Freeman's confession and blackmails her into joining the her nest of boosters; the second is Brady, who works undercover on a police task force trying to crack the ring. He falls for her, as does, more brutally, Curtis, one of King's torpedoes. The `action,' such as it is, moves south to San Diego then crosses the border to Tijuana for an (almost) final reckoning.
Laughably, the shoplifting syndicate operates on a level of ruthlessness and secrecy on a par with the Nazis in The House on 92nd Street, the heroin smugglers in To The Ends of the Earth, or the Communists in The Woman On Pier 13. But I Was A Shoplifter has been picked clean of wit, style and suspense; it stands as a grim example of a particular post-war posture of humorless self-importance, passing itself off as entertainment.
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