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Author Topic: Shield For Murder (1954)  (Read 1159 times)
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« on: February 14, 2013, 07:41:13 PM »

Directors: Howard W. Koch, Edmond O'Brien with Stars: Edmond O'Brien, John Agar, Marla English, Emile Meyer, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, Vito Scotti, and Richard Deacon.



Police detective Barney Nolan (O’Brien) commits a murder in an alley and collects 25,000 of mob money from the victim then frantically tries to cover his tracks. With His ill gotten gains he plans to buy a tract house for his cigarette girl girlfriend. The mob becomes suspicious and sends two muscle men after him.



Biggest surprise in this was Carolyn Jones' bit performance as a tipsy B-girl, she looks quite stunning as a blonde, prior to this as a blonde in other films she always looked off.

Jones & OBrien



From Shadowsandsatin

Favorite scene:

This was kinda hard – there are several scenes that stand out, but I finally chose this one: Detective Nolan is seated at a restaurant bar, trying to drink his troubles away and attempting without success to reach his girl, Patty (Marla English) on the telephone. A blonde (Carolyn Jones) seated nearby sidles over and throws him a couple of lines, including a suggestion on how he can look more tough by shrugging his shoulders and squinting his eyes. Barney’s not interested, but when a cop enters the establishment, he abruptly decides to take the dame up on her offer to move to a booth. Between more drinks, Barney continues his efforts to contact Patty, and when he finally does, he is incensed by the news that she was harassed by a couple of private dicks who have been trailing Barney. Barney promptly makes another call and before long, the two dicks are walking into the bar to meet him. We’re not quite sure what Barney has in mind when he joins the two men at a table and meekly asks one for a light, but we don’t have to wait long to find out – before you can say Jack Robinson, Barney commences to beating the crap out of both men with his pistol. We don’t see the men during the violent thrashing – instead, we’re able to envision the results via the horrified looks and frightened shrieks of the restaurant’s patrons, including a man who never stops munching on his spaghetti even as he seems to be trying to climb into the wall behind him. (Honorable mention to the chase scene/shoot-out at the public swimming pool later in the film. It’s awesome!)


The taglines for the film were: “So savage, so stark, so vicious, it’ll make your skin crawl!” and “If ever a picture was crammed with guts, this is it.” 7/10

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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2013, 04:45:10 AM »

From IMDb

Edmond O'Brien as bad cop in brutal Eisenhower-era look at police corruption, 18 August 2004

Author: bmacv from Western New York

In Shield for Murder (a movie he co-directed with Howard Koch), Edmond O'Brien plays a Los Angeles cop `gone sour.' Bloated and sweaty, he's a sneak preview of another bad apple – Orson Welles in Touch of Evil. In a pre-title sequence, he guns down a drug runner in cold blood, relieves the corpse of an envelope crammed with $25-thou, then yells `Stop or I'll shoot' for the benefit of eavesdroppers before firing twice into the air. When his partner (John Agar) arrives, there's only a few hundred dollars left on the body, and it looks like a justifiable police action – though O'Brien's shock tactics have already drawn the unwelcome attention of his new captain (Emile Meyer).

O'Brien wants the money to buy into the American Dream – to put a down-payment on a tract house, furnished (oddly enough) right down to the table settings. It's a bungalow to share with his girl, Marla English, as well as a handy place to bury his cash in its yard. But a couple of things go wrong. First off, a local crime boss wants back the loot O'Brien ripped off and dispatches a couple of goons to retrieve it. Then, though there were no eye-witnesses to the murder, there was in fact an eavesdropper – an old blind man whose acute hearing picked up a sequence of shots that don't add up to the official story. When this good citizen decides to tell the police what he heard, O'Brien decides to pay him a nocturnal visit....

Based on a novel by William McGivern (who also wrote the books from which The Big Heat, Rogue Cop and Odds Against Tomorrow were drawn), Shield For Murder embodies some of the shifts in tone and emphasis the noir cycle was showing as it wound down. Its emphasis is less on individuals caught up in circumstance than on widespread public corruption; its tone is less suggestive than ostentatiously violent. The movie ratchets up to a couple of brutal set-pieces.

In one, O'Brien, knocking back doubles at the bar in a spaghetti cellar, is picked up by a floozie (Carolyn Jones, in what looks like Barbara Stanwyck's wig from Double Indemnity). `You know what's the matter with mirrors in bars?' she asks him. `Men always make hard faces in them.' While she eats, he continues to drink. When the goons track him down there, O'Brien savagely pistol-whips one of them (Claude Akins) to the horror of the other patrons who had come to devour their pasta in peace. Later, there's an attempted pay-off (and a double-cross) in a public locker-room and swimming-pool that ends in carnage. It's easy to dismiss Shield For Murder – it has a seedy B-picture look and a literalness that typified most of the crime films of the Eisenhower administration. But it's grimly effective – almost explosive.

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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2013, 03:51:15 AM »

Carolyn Jones as B-Girl Beth:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O4ajt8eLcg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xPIVCRCZCk

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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2014, 07:51:55 AM »

I liked this very much. The only problem I have for it is O'Brien: i just don't like him. But the scene in the restaurant is simply GREAT. That only earns the movie a 8\10. Why Carolyn Jones wasn't given more parts in noirs inistead of all those unattractive and  not just as good actresses is a mystery. Her dialogues with O'Brien aare briliant but the finale of the scene is simply terriying. And the scene in the swimming pool quite original. I'll try to check McGivern's novel.

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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2017, 09:38:45 PM »

This movie was Eddie Muller's selection for this week's Noir Alley, which plays every Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

I'd never heard of this movie before. It's a real good noir. I give it an 8/10

Your typical noir main character is not really a "bad guy." Usually, (aside from the private eye, who is typically a "good guy,") a noir main character is a decent person who somehow finds himself way in over his head, or a "gray" area. Not in this movie. Edmond O'Brien is a thief and a murderer, plain and simple. And a cop! Not a guy who fell in love with a dame who led him astray and got him to do something he'd ordinarily never do (like, say, in Double Indemnity). No, O'Brien is a killer, plain and simple. Yeah, there's some talk about how once upon a time he was a good cop, blah blah blah, explaining why John Agar likes him, etc. But bottom line, O'Brien is evil, plain and simple. And gets nuts as the movie goes along. Yes, he is one of the most evil main characters in noir. Sure, there are other cops who do bad in noir - for example, next week's noir alley selection will be The Prowler, with Van Heflin as a cop who goes astray when he falls head over heels for Evelyn Keyes. But O'Brien is just plain evil - a cold and calculating murderer and thief.

Here is Eddie Muller's introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_FWF_pt8fU&feature=youtu.be

Here are Eddie Muller's closing comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQXg0GoZSN0&feature=youtu.be

Muller is awesome. Lots of great info. Noir Alley is just one movie a week – Sundays at 10 a.m., just when noir folks will be ending their Saturday nights out  Wink – and he really goes all out  Afro Afro Afro

The TCM print looks very nice.

Movies that play on TCM are sometimes available online for some time via TCM on Demand, but you have to be a subscriber to certain cable providers, and log in with the username/password of the cable provider.

Shield for Murder is available on TCM on Demand until May 14, 2017 http://www.tcm.com/watchtcm/movies/?ecid=subnavmoviesondemand

The movie is available in a BRD from Kino Lorber

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01DEEVJHG/dvdbeaver-20/ref=nosim

DVD Beaver review: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film5/blu-ray_reviews_72/shield_for_murder_blu-ray.htm

« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 09:55:42 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2017, 09:58:03 PM »

I saw this a while ago and wrote a review.

“For 16 years I’ve been living in dirt, and take it from me, some of it’s bound to rub off on you. You get to hate people – everyone you meet. I’m sick of them… I’m through with them all.”

Shield for Murder is an unpretentious Noir, co-directed by its star Edmond O’Brien.

Embittered and crooked veteran cop Barney Nolan (Edmond O’Brien) has come to the conclusion that the straight and narrow is the path to nowhere and decides it’s time to get a piece of the action. He wants his slice of the American Dream, a suburban model home with a two-car garage and backyard BBQ. Instead of saving, he opts for the easy route: he kills a bookie for $25,000 which should buy him the middle-class domestic bliss he’s been longing for with his girlfriend Patty (Marla English).
Unfortunately the 25G was mob money, and the mob wants it back. On top of that, a deaf mute old man saw Nolan commit the crime, and Nolan knows he can’t leave any loose ends…

The 50s saw several “dirty cop” Noirs, that dealt with police corruption in one way or another (Rogue Cop, Private Hell 36, The Prowler, Pushover), hit the screen.
A decided shift in tone could be noticed compared to the 40s. It was less about powerlessness in the face of pre-ordained fate, more about moral corruption, with emphasis on personal culpability.

Shield for Murder is a good example of that type of movie, but it’s neither the most stylish nor the most hard-hitting of its kind. The photography is slightly uninspired, and the storytelling is straight-forward and not overly imaginative, it’s nuts and bolts. It offers nothing particularly new in its depiction of disillusionment and dashed dreams. A bit more polish and subtlety may have elevated it to A status, what it does well though is realism.
Unfortunately, it plays too much like a morality play, O’Brien’s character would have benefited from a little more moral ambiguity.

O’Brien though, who was by then in his character actor phase, is absolutely believable in his role as burned-out cop. His everyman good looks were gone. He is sweaty and bloated, and it’s easy to believe the anger that is seething in him. Killing doesn’t lie heavily on his conscience. In his view the people he goes after are not dead because he killed them, they’re dead because they didn’t deserve to live.
Bitter and hateful, he’s been working the streets too long and his attitude on the job has become more and more vicious over the years. He’s been sliding for a long time, the precinct is well-aware of his less than orthodox methods. Not long before he shot two Mexicans for no particular reason at all. Even before he killed the bookie, brutality and strong-arm tactics were his MO.

But interestingly, he is not a loner but a man in love. Only his girlfriend is able to mitigate his cynicism somewhat. She is the reason behind his rather banal suburban Dream.
It is telling that we only ever see the housing development with the model home at night, it is nothing more than a pre-fab dream in the darkness, a promise that doesn’t come true.

Just once do we get a glimpse of the man Nolan used to be when a young man is brought to the police station who has been arrested for stealing a bag of groceries. One look at him tells Nolan it was the kid’s first crime and that he did it to feed his family. He lets him off with a warning.
He still is capable of understanding and compassion. It's a quick flashback to the man who became a mentor to his young friend on the force, John Agar, himself a former street kid.

Later the same night Nolan brutally pistol-whips two private dicks who were tailing him at a bar, to the horror of the patrons watching.

As the conflicted protagonist, the audience should be on Nolan's side but it’s hard to identify with him. His crook is not human enough for that, Nolan is not a basically good man gone wrong. He's firmly in bad guy territory. In the end we think he gets his just deserts, dying on the lawn of his dream house in front of a phalanx of squad cars.

Marla English plays O’Brien’s finance. She looks fabulous in her cigarette girl outfit and those two make a strange but intriguing couple. She is attracted by his strength, but gets more and more scared by the out-of-control brutality he shows. Beauty and the Beast in Noir country.

Carolyn Jones (as a blonde) has a small role as a flirty B girl in a bar who throws herself at Nolan and whose preferences seem to be decidedly on the kinky side.

Unpretentious but effective B Noir. Recommended.

D & D, thanks again for Muller's intros!


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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2017, 10:07:51 PM »

Jessica, your reviews are always enjoyable to read, but I have to disagree with you here.

This movie is "not the most hard-hitting of its kind"? Really? Can you tell me a noir with a more evil main character, particularly a cop?


"As the conflicted protagonist, the audience should be on Nolan's side but it’s hard to identify with him. His crook is not human enough for that, Nolan is not a basically good man gone wrong. He's firmly in bad guy territory. In the end we think he gets his just deserts, dying on the lawn of his dream house in front of a phalanx of squad cars."


There is nothing at all to identify with O'Brien about. He is pure evil, plain and simple. Maybe once upon a time he was decent, but when we see him he is a just plain bad guy. The only noir main character I can think of that I felt not an ounce of sympathy for, and I was not rooting for him in any way.

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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2017, 04:31:59 AM »

Quote
Can you tell me a noir with a more evil main character, particularly a cop?

Cop no not off the top of my head, but John Russell in Hell Bound and Steve Cochran in Highway 301 are pretty ruthless.

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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2017, 05:46:48 AM »

This movie was Eddie Muller's selection for this week's Noir Alley, which plays every Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

I'd never heard of this movie before.
And yet . . . you were able to find this thread with no problem. A thread that CJ started in 2013. You know, this board doesn't ONLY exist to give you a place to masturbate in public. There's actually info on it posted by other people. You could occasionally read it to find things out!

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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2017, 05:52:14 AM »

Shield For Murder (1954) - 7/10. This very entertaining Bad Cop Noir must be unintentionally funny at times--but who knows, maybe the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing every step of the way. Edmund O'Brien (who not only starred by also co-directed with Howard W. Koch) is a crooked detective who bumps off a mob runner and pockets the $25,000 the guy was carrying. His precinct buddies--including partner John Agar--give O'Brien a pass, but there's a deaf-mute who witnessed what he did and tries to come forward. Well, when you've killed one, it's easy to make it two. Trouble is, the mob boss who's out the 25 large wants his cash back, and sends Claude Akins and another goon against O'Brien to get it. Akins plays a creep you love to hate, so there are a couple of neat pay-offs: first, when O'Brien pistol whips Akins into unconsciousness, and later, during a shootout between the two that begins in a locker-room and ends at a crowded public swimming pool. The choreography is such that Akins ends up on the diving board just as O'Brien shoots him, thus making him (heh heh) take a dive. There's also another gag with a model home. O'Brien takes his girlfriend (Marla English) to the house to give her a taste of the good life, now, seemingly, only weeks away. And he stashes the loot there. So OF COURSE this is destined to be the scene of the climax. The filmmakers get to end the film with O'Brien, in uniform, shot down, cash falling from his fingers, in front of the home. This double underlining of the irony had me screaming. Another pleasure of the film is all the bit parts filled by classic faces. Emile Meyer, Robert Bray, William Schallet, Stafford Repp, Richard Deacon ("Mel" from Dick Van Dyke) are all in this. At one point, O'Brien goes into a bar and Vito Scotti is behind the counter! Then Carolyn Jones slides over and tries to pick O'Brien up. Jones is hilarious--she goes into her routine and the plot gets put on hold. I didn't mind at all. This film can now be had on Blu-ray--but why pay, when amazon Prime members can stream it for free?

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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2017, 09:06:14 AM »

D & D, I agree with you that Nolan is pretty bad all the way through, though he does have his achilles heel. He's still capable of emotions like love and sympathy, but obviously no one wants to see him get away with his crimes, as the audience did for example with Fred McMurray in Pushover. I think Van Heflin in The Prowler is probably the most evil dirty cop.

As for calling it not the most hard-hitting, it is because the picture is what I call a respect-worthy genre entry, it is solid standard fare, BUT a little bit of polishing up could have elevated the film to something more. It is without a doubt compelling to watch, but better cinematography and a tad more ambiguity would have helped greatly to make it stand out more. And as such it would have been more effective.

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« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2017, 01:38:12 AM »

What doesn't make sense to me is why O'Brien doesn't kill the deaf-mute immediately.

O'Brien clearly has no qualms whatsoever about killing. The deaf-mute is a man who has clearly shown that he is interested in reporting the murder – but when he comes to his home to speak with him, he offers the guy a bribe and pleads with him to take it, to keep his mouth shut. That makes no sense. How could O'Brien know for sure that the guy will keep up his end of the bargain? How does he know the guy won't agree to take the money (just cuz he is scared that night with O'Brien in his house) and the go to the cops the next day and report O'Brien? Killing this guy is easy, gets rid of witnesses, and doesn't cost him a penny. No reason why he wouldn't kill the guy. Movie-wise, it may be better this way – that the guy dies accidentally, and this is the murder he is initially busted for, not the real murder he committed. (Sort of like John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice, who gets off for the initial murder but then gets convicted of murdering Lana Turner, which was a real accident.)

As I am writing this now, I am thinking: Maybe O'Brien is hesitant to kill the man because, if the man who lives right above the murder scene from the night before suddenly is discovered dead the next day, it may start raising questions about coincidence, and then the cops may realize that the guy was a witness to the previous night's events, and so they'll put two and two together and nab O'Brien. But still, is that riskier than knowingly leaving alive a witness who has shown a willingness to talk ...?

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« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2017, 04:59:53 PM »

Quote
What doesn't make sense to me is why O'Brien doesn't kill the deaf-mute immediately.

As you say, it's just for plot purposes, I guess.

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