When a movie has a title like Fingerprints Don't Lie you can pretty much guess that it’s going to turn out that fingerprints can indeed lie. And that is the case here. But how can fingerprints lie?
We open with artist Paul Moody (Richard Emory) on trial for the murder of a reforming mayor. The case against him seems overwhelming and the most damning evidence comes from fingerprint expert James Stover (Richard Travis). After giving his evidence a reporter asks Stover how it feels to kill a man legally since it’s his testimony that seems certain to send Moody to the gas chamber. Stover feels rather uncomfortable about this but after all what could he do? Fingerprints don’t lie. And Moody left a very clear set of prints on the murder weapon, a telephone.
Moody had been intending to marry the mayor’s daughter, Carolyn Palmer (Sheila Ryan), and the mayor was against it. That seems to supply the necessary motive.
Moody is still loudly proclaiming his innocence and Carolyn goes to see Stover to ask him if there was any chance he’d been mistaken. Stover cannot see how that is possible but he has to admit there are one or two things worrying him. The mayor had been in the process of getting rid of corrupt city officials so there are plenty of other people with even stronger motives for murdering him. And when the mayor’s office is burgled and documents implicating corrupt officials are stolen he starts to suspect that maybe Moody is innocent after all. But there are still those fingerprints.
Unfortunately the solution to the puzzle, although ingenious, isn’t too hard to guess (in outline at least). And the identity of the real murderer is blindingly obvious.
There’s some gee-whizz forensic science stuff although the movie is hampered in this area by the very low budget. They couldn’t even afford a microscope for Dr Stover but luckily they were able to send one of the crew to the five-and-dime to pick up a Junior Private Eye Magnifying Glass. And that’s pretty much the extent of Stover’s scientific apparatus.
The acting is strictly B-movie standard but there is the bonus of Lyle Talbot (a familiar face to any B-movie fan) as Police Lieutenant Grayson.
As a director Sam Newfield’s greatest asset was his ability to churn out low-budget quickies at a very rapid pace and to bring them in within budget. And the budget for this 1951 effort was obviously minuscule (as you’d expect from any movie that Lippert Pictures was associated with). One thing that has to be said in their favour is that their movies were often better than you’d expect from such ultra-low budget productions.
Even within a running time of rather less than one hour the movie seems very slow and there is a great deal of obvious padding, including some excruciating comic relief from Sid Melton as an inept press photographer.
Although it’s included in Kit Parker Films/VCI’s Forgotten Noir series 2 DVD boxed set there’s very little that’s noir about this film. Still, it’s a fairly good transfer and there’s even a commentary track so the presentation is probably considerably better than the movie deserves.
At best only moderately entertaining, it would be difficult to recommend Fingerprints Don't Lie as a standalone release but the set includes six movies for a very low price and if you’re a hardcore B-movie fan (although really this is at the bottom end of the B-movie market) the set is worth grabbing.