The Counterfeit League (1963 TVM)

US / 52 minutes / bw / Talent Associates, Paramount, CBS Dir: William Corrigan Pr: Robert Costello Scr: Harold Gast Cine: uncredited Cast: Bruce Gordon, Diane Ladd, John Balzac, Robert Readick, Joseph Warren, Jess Osuna, Joseph Dellasorte, Frank Ferrer, Alan Rich (i.e., Allan Rich), Charles Durning, Howard Caine, Henry Hamilton

In Durango, Mexico, Arthur Henry Moline (Gordon) conceives a great new counterfeiting plan: instead of printing fake bills he’ll print fake US Treasury checks, which can have a far higher face value and are generally trusted more than ordinary folding currency. He forces local printer Francisco Guiterrez (Dellasorte) to cooperate in his scheme.

Bruce Gordon as Moline

Anxious to insulate himself from the law, Moline sets up a distribution scheme whose kingpin eventually becomes motel owner, white slaver and general scumbag Bennett “Ben” Ulmer (Caine). Moline instructs Ben to cut Ben’s nephew Dorsey Ulmer (Osuna) out of the setup because Dorsey, who’s a few tokes short of nirvana, has a narcotics rap hanging over him. But Ben gives Dorsey a few of the dud checks to pass anyway.

Sure enough, Dorsey’s soon apprehended, although at least he refuses to assist the Secret Service in their inquiries. But Dorsey’s waitress girlfriend Charlotte Cable (Ladd) has ideas of her own, and strikes up a deal for passing bogus checks with a New York crook she encounters at the café where she works, Victor (Balzac). Sadly for Charlotte, Victor is actually a Secret Service undercover agent, and so the collapse of the criminal enterprise is set in motion . . .

Diane Ladd as Charlotte

John Balzac as Victor

This was Episode #10 of the final season of the anthology series Armstrong Circle Theatre, which ran for 13 seasons in 1950–63. It’s presented as a sort of Dragnet-style pseudo-documentary, with much of the storytelling being left to a somber-sounding narrator (Hamilton).

I found the movie/episode entertaining enough, and it seemed shorter than its fifty minutes, but I can’t say my pulse ever quickened as I watched. (Apparently it was the policy of Armstrong World Industries, Armstrong Circle Theatre’s principal sponsor, that the show should eschew violence and the like, but The Counterfeit League is ‘way tamer than that stricture might imply.)

Joseph Dellasorte as Francisco Guiterrez

Howard Caine as Ben Ulmer

Diane Ladd’s the big attraction, of course, and she doesn’t disappoint: her Charlotte is coquettish, charming and just intelligent enough to be a danger to herself. Ladd is still working, by the way, her latest screen role being in support of Sam Jackson, Ed Harris and others in the forthcoming war drama The Last Full Measure (2020).

Jess Osuna as Dorsey Ulmer

Some of the dialogue in The Counterfeit League, especially from the narrator, shows itself as a product of its age:

“Moline timed his [border customs] crossing attempt for the height of the rush hour, and brought a woman along to lend a holiday air.”

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