Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bodyguard (1948)

Bodyguard is a 1948 RKO crime B-movie that is perhaps most interesting for featuring Lawrence Tierney as a good guy. I’m not saying he’s a nice guy; but he is on the side of the good guys.

Mike Carter (Tierney) is a hardbitten LA cop who is perhaps just a bit too much of a tough guy. He’s always getting into trouble and now he’s been suspended again. Carter’s idea of investigating a case is to start throwing punches and see where it leads him. It usually leads him into trouble. He figures he might as well make the suspension permanent this time so he takes a swing at his captain. It’s a good punch, but it lands Carter on the unemployment lines.

Then along comes this guy who offers him two grand for what sounds like ridiculously easy work - being a bodyguard for an old lady. Carter, being stubborn as well as hot-headed, turns down the offer. He’s too busy watching a ball game. You can see why this guy was not exactly Mr Popularity in the police force.

Carter gets dragged into the case anyway. When someone takes a shot at the old lady through a window he decides the case might be more interesting than he thought. He doesn’t like making easy money but if there’s a chance of being shot at he’s suddenly all enthusiasm.

It’s a strange little household. The old lady owns a meat-packing business and she’s loaded. Her son (or possibly her nephew) is the guy who tried to hire Mike Carter. Freddie is much too smooth to be an honest citizen. Then there’s a girl who seems to be the old lady’s companion (I’d had a few slugs of whiskey before watching this movie - you have to get into the noir mood after all - so I might be a bit hazy on some of the more involved plot points). The girl has a brother and he’s a bit of a suspicious character as well.

Meanwhile Mike Carter is in more trouble - the captain he slugged is found dead and Carter is the prime suspect. He’s not too worried - the more trouble he’s in the better he likes it. And he’s now starting to take a keen interest in this meat-packing business. He smells a racket.

Carter will get some help in solving the case from his girlfriend Doris (Priscilla Lane). She starts poking her nose in where it isn’t welcome and pretty soon she’s in trouble as well. That makes Mike Carter plenty mad. When he gets made he likes to slug people, and he’ll get plenty of chances in this movie.

Lawrence Tierney is not the most sympathetic of heroes but he gives an effective performance. Priscilla Lane is good as well, but the problem is that the two leads seem like they belong in different movies. Tierney belongs in tough-guy movies whereas Lane seems like she’d be more at home in a light-hearted feisty girl amateur detective movie. It’s hard to figure what these two see in each other, but who can tell with dames? Phillip Reed as Freddie and Steve Brodie as Fenton give good support, with Reed adding the necessary touch of sleaze.

Richard Fleischer does a solid job as director, keeping things moving along at a cracking pace. There’s not much film noir about the content but it is an RKO movie and it’s shot in the studio’s house style so it looks noir and it has plenty of noir atmosphere - rich people and sleazebags rubbing shoulders together always works well in noir.

The Warner Archive MOD disc is up to their usual standard - no extras but a very nice transfer.

Bodyguard might not be classic top-tier film noir but it is an enjoyable hardboiled crime B-movie and if that’s the sort of movie you like then this one is worth taking a look at.

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