US / 61 minutes / bw / Paramount, Specialty Dir: William Berke Scr: Geoffrey Homes Cine: Fred Jackman Jr. Cast: Robert Lowery, Phyllis Brooks, Charles Arnt, Jack La Rue, John Eldredge, Victor Kilian, Alec Craig, William Edmunds.
Crooked attorney Daniel Bergstrom (Arnt), working from the South American port of St. Angel, tracks Joe Beck (Lowery), who for six years has been working for oil companies in the British Honduras, to tell him he’s inherited $200,000 from his grandmother; he should take the Southern Queen to Galveston to claim his fortune.
After leaving Bergstrom’s office, Joe’s attacked by a knife-wielding mugger, whom he soundly beats; believing he may have killed the man, he instead ships out aboard the tramp steamer Merman. The steward, Dawson (Craig), proves in due course to be an undercover insurance investigator hoping to expose the Merman‘s Captain Saul (Edmunds) and First Mate Buck Harris (Kilian), who, in league with shipping company executive Vaughn (Eldredge), have been scuttling the line’s ships for the insurance money. Also aboard is chanteuse Nita Paxton (Brooks), who’s fleeing the lowlife and is in cahoots with Dawson. Soon Joe and Nita are in love.
After Dawson has been murdered and a clumsy attempt made to frame Joe for the crime, Bergstrom joins the ship along with the St. Angel mugger, Mike Zomano (La Rue), whom Bergstrom plans to pass off in Galveston as Joe in order to steal the money. The agendas of the two sets of crooks collide when the mariners deliberately run the ship onto rocks and leave the rest to face a watery fate . . .
As one would expect from Homes, this tight little noirish thriller is more than competently scripted. Lowery and Brooks work well together, managing to ensure that even the potentially schmaltziest lines come over as quite fresh. Craig does well in his small part as the diffident steward/investigator. Of the rest of the cast, none make much impact except Arnt, who does an excellent Sydney Greenstreet impersonation despite the physical dissimilarity.
A few years after this, Lowery would take the lead in Batman and Robin (1949 serial), the second actor to take this role (after Lewis Wilson in Batman [1943 serial]). Brooks was later married to Congressman Torbert Macdonald, a close friend of John F. Kennedy, who was godfather of their eldest son.
On Amazon.com: Dangerous Passage