Vivian, a B-girl working at "The Grass Skirt," is being brushed off by her rich, married boyfriend. To confront him, she hijacks drunken customer Henry Shanway and his car from Boston to Cape Cod, where she strands Henry...and is never seen again. Months later, a skeleton is found (sans clothes or clues) on a lonely Cape Cod beach. Using the macabre expertise of Harvard forensic specialist Dr. McAdoo, Lt. Pete Morales must work back from bones to the victim's identity, history, and killer. Will he succeed in time to save an innocent suspect?Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film gets some notoriety because it introduced audiences to forensic science long before "Quincy" and "CSI" became hit shows on television. But don't be misled: forensic science is only a part of this film; it is not like watching a CSI episode. It's mainly simply a crime story where we meet a bunch of characters responsible for a killing that took place.
I thought the leading characters, played by Ricardo Montalban and Bruce Bennett, were upstaged by a couple of ladies, namely Elsa Lanchester and Jan Sterling, although the latter is killed off quickly. Too bad; I always found Sterling a fascinating actress and someone well-suited for film noir. Don't get me wrong: Montalban is a solid actor, a lot more than the "Love Boat" guy people remember him for. The same goes for Bennett, but neither has a lot of spark in here. By the way, if you liked Montalban in this kind of movie, check out "Border Incident," a noir he starred in the previous year.
This particular story won't keep on edge because we know early on who is the murderer. Like a "Columbo" TV episode, the fun is seeing how the cops figure it out. "Lt. Morales" (Montalban) gets valuable help from "Dr. McAdoo" (Bennett) is piecing the case together.
It's "Mrs. Smerling" (Lanchester) who is the most fun to watch in this film. I think most viewers would agree with that.
The movie certainly gives a lot of favorable publicity to the Harvard Medical School. I remember watching this and thinking the school must have bankrolled the movie, it's gets so much positive air time.
Finally, it's nice to see this on DVD. If it hadn't been included in this "Film Nor Classics collection Vol. 4" set I probably never would have seen this film. The transfer is fine, highlighting the wonderful black and white cinematography we film noir fans so enjoy. Kudos to photographer John Alton and director John Sturges for that. Alton was behind the camera on a number of beautifully-shot film noirs of the late '40s
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