Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vice Squad (1953)

There have been so many cop films made that they all begin to get boring after a while. I always like the ones where we as the audience know who the killer or thief is and the cops/good guys do not know. To me it makes the suspense and action more exciting and watching them trying to get to something we know is enjoyable. Vice Squad is just the kind of cop film I enjoy seeing.
            Captain “Barnie” Barnaby (Edward G. Robinson) has a new case on his hands: a cop was shot while trying to stop a car robbery and died. The whole bureau is on the hunt for the man who had the nerve to kill a good man. There is a witness but the man does not want to talk because he saw what happened as he was coming out from seeing a call girl at her apartment. Barnie knows the man is not saying all he knows and that he has something to hide. Through some trumped up charges Barnie keeps having the man brought back to jail which we learn at the end was so the man could identify the shooter.
            Barnie is calling out all the favors he can. He and the vice squad are very familiar with a woman named Mona Ross (Paulette Goddard) who runs a barely legal escort service. Whether the cops are familiar with Mona as clients or just for information is unclear. Apparently Barnie and Mona are on close terms. He has a feeling one of her girls was around the night of the murder but cannot be sure.
            In the middle of finding the shooter and the other robbers Barnie takes on smaller police matters such as a fraud case and being interviewed for a TV show. These smaller cases add a little more, not so much chaos but a nice touch. They let the audience get their tense nerves in order for a few moments. Also, in the mean time, Barnie gets word from an informant that there will be a bank robbery so he has people on guard at the bank. The same group who ran the car robbery are running the bank robbery. One of the robbers grabs a young bank clerk on his way out.
            The way the case unfolds and how the robbers are found is very good. At the end you can see how all of Barnies dealings during the film come together and work out.
            Edward G. Robinson is playing his same old tough guy but he is so good at it that this kind of role for him does not get old. Paulette Goddard at this time in her career was beginning to wane only played a minor part even though she is topped billed. This does not mean she was anything but great. She was perfect as the madam of an escort service. Robinson and Goddard made a bit of an odd pair to be billed together but they worked out nicely in their scenes together. I am just happy they were not a romantic item that would have not gone over very well I feel.
            Sitting through Vice Squad at first I was a little bored but looking back I see it as an interesting film.  What really makes the film very appealing is the use of location shots and the cinematography with great it’s use of light and shadows that give the film a small Noir touch. There were some moments where I really liked the direction and the plot was very well done. The film is not available on DVD or Youtube, I had it recorded from when Paulette Goddard was one of TCM’s featured actors in their Summer Under the Stars series last month.