US / 65 minutes / bw / Astor, Rose Tree Dir: Joseph Lee, Arthur J. Beckhard Pr: Robert Presnell Sr. Scr: Cedric Worth, Arthur J. Beckhard Cine: Victor Lukens Cast: Richard Coogan, Rosemary Pettit, Frank Albertson, Harry Bannister, Edith King, Charles Bollender, Renee De Milo, Joseph Sullivan, Mike O’Dowd, John Krollers, Scott Hale, Florence Beresford, Harold Grau, Loretta Dale, plus the dancers: Valerie East, Maria McKenna, Roxanne, Goldie Saunders, Karen Valo, Dorothy Westcott.
Reporter Bill Martin (Coogan) is hiding out at Blake’s Carnival with his girlfriend Janet (Pettit) while the cops hunt him for the murder of his managing editor, George Marsh. The carnival has been at the center of a vice inquiry spurred on by Bill’s reporting; the latest newspaper headline says the inquiry has been axed and Bill fired. Although it’s never made entirely plain to us, it seems that the carny’s dwarfish owner, Blake (Bollender), and local vice kingpin Clay Reeves (Bannister), plus an unnamed Mr. Big, have been smuggling some of the dancers from the carny’s Girls of All Nations burlesque show across state lines for immoral purposes.
Bill (Richard Coogan) and Janet (Rosemary Pettit) cower in hiding.
Reeves owns the local PD, a sergeant (Hale) from which is combing the carny in search of the fugitive pair, sometimes with Reeves and taking orders from him, other times alone and clearly very deeply resenting the fact that he’s forced to take those orders.
Carnival owner Blake (Charles Bollender) seems intent on playing both ends against the middle.
With the connivance of Lil (King), the raucous old broad who’s in charge of the Girls of All Nations sideshow, Janet hides out among the exotic dancers and at one point is pressed into service on stage among them. Meanwhile Bill, by way of camouflage, volunteers himself as opponent for three rounds to prizefighter Bat Milligan (O’Dowd), the quondam champion of Oklahoma; the choreography of their bout in the ring is poor even by the standards of the other fights in this movie, which is saying something. At the end of it Blake, who knows who Bill is, hires him to be the “volunteer” for Bat’s future fights. In fact, Blake seems to be playing all ends against the middle, because he alternates between aiding the fugitives and betraying them to Reeves.
Lil (Edith King) shows in no uncertain terms what she thinks of Blake (Charles Bollender).
Proceedings meander along. In between those appallingly choreographed fights and interminable sequences of the exotic dancers revealing not nearly enough, there are some quite good moments, but they never get strung together in any coherent way that might have built up a measure of suspense, or even narrative lucidity. It’s clear the movie was shot with great haste and little budget; on several occasions characters muff their lines, correct themselves and carry on: no repeat takes here.
The shooting of Lil (Edith King).
Matters are enlivened by an elderly couple (Grau, Dale), he small and henpecked, she forcefully trying to make sure he doesn’t help himself to too much of an eyeful of the girls, and by a brief uncredited appearance of Steve McQueen in his very first movie, as a punter preparing to battle the Try Your Strength machine.
That’s Steve McQueen with the mallet.
Most of the best lines go to Red (Krollers), the barker outside the Girls of All Nations tent:
Cop: The sergeant in there?
Barker: Yeah, but why? Since the last pinch the girls are wearin’ so many clothes . . .
And a little later we’re treated to some of his spiel:
An exhibition that makes the old feel young and the young feel better! Six tantalizing morsels of loveliness from every corner of the world!
Red the Barker (John Krollers).
Krollers is, in fact, probably the pick of the actors, although King does all you could expect of her as the dame who’s seen it all, done it all, and drunk or smoked most of it. Pettit turns in a creditable performance, too, and makes a very lovely and sympathetic heroine; this was the last of her five movies. The credits make a point of the fact that the movie is “introducing” Renee De Milo; she plays Gigi, seemingly a product of the French-speaking region of New Jersey and the highlight of the girlie show—and certainly the only one who ever threatens that the movie might merit so much as a PG rating. This was her only screen outing.
Gigi (Renee De Milo — no relation to Venus) displays her, ‘ow you say, charmes exotiques.
Coogan, who died a few weeks ago just short of his hundredth birthday, began his career as a radio and stage actor before landing the role of Captain Video in the TV series Captain Video and His Video Rangers in 1949; he left the show at the end of 1950, thereafter appearing in various TV series, usually as a cop or a cowboy.