Shield for Murder Film Details
Overview: When a brutal police detective Lt. murders a bookmaker’s runner for $25,000 in cash, a deaf mute sees him do it and now he finds he must kill again to cover his tracks.
Tagline: Thrill after thrill hits you where you feel it most!
Review: Detective Barney Nolan (Edmond O’Brien) drags a two-bit bookie into an alley, shoots him in the back, robs him, and later claims it was done in the line of duty. His young partner, Mark Brewster (John Agar), believes him unquestioningly but their superior is a little more realistic, seeing as Nolan shot and killed a couple of Mexicans two years earlier. Believing that “a cop is given a gun and the authority to use it and one’s no good without the other”, the Captain closes the case but things heat up when gangster “Packy” Reed lets it be known that the bookie was carrying $25,000 of the mob’s money and they want it back. A deaf-mute witness to the crime comes forward but when he, too, winds up dead, Brewster begins to have doubts about his partner/mentor and starts to fall for Nolan’s girl, Patty Winters (Marla English)… In the late 1940’s, Los Angeles was one of the most corrupt cities in America. In 1949, Governor Earl Warren appointed a California Crime Commission to investigate and one of the witnesses was Sgt. Charles Stoker, an honest cop. Some of the problems were depicted in Fritz Lang’s roman-a-clef of the “Black Dahlia” case, THE BIG HEAT(1953) and was given a happy ending that didn’t occur in real life. Hounded off the force, Stoker would go on to write “Thicker ‘N Thieves” and “L.A. Rogue Cop” in the early 1950’s. The public’s interest in police corruption reached its peak around this time and three movies were made from the books of William P. McGivern (who also seems to have used Stoker as inspiration): Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT, SHIELD FOR MURDER and Robert Taylor’s ROGUE COP. SHIELD FOR MURDER is an unpretentious programmer that leaves messages to Western Union, putting the focus on action and violence instead. What social commentary there is comes from an old newspaperman who’s seen it all and offers the opinion that it isn’t bad cops that frustrate society but the “tin wall of silence” that goes up whenever there’s an investigation. Detective Nolan is a vicious bad egg but, strangely enough, also has a softer side; he lets a young shoplifter go free the way he did his protégé, Brewster, years before. Nolan says of working so long in the kind of environment he does, “some of it is bound to rub off” and things eventually spiral out of control and a dragnet (“Operation Tin God”) is formed to bring the rogue cop down. The everyday brutality and strong-arm tactics that went into police work back in the day are also shown in a relatively matter-of-fact manner. Many faces from the Golden Age of Television pop up including Claude Akins as an underworld enforcer and Carolyn Jones as a bar fly who witnesses Nolan’s sadism. Jones was also a B-girl in THE BIG HEAT. This was the “official” film debut of 50s cult movie star Marla English, “the poor man’s Elizabeth Taylor”, and she acquits herself well as Nolan’s frightened girlfriend. Co-directed by star Edmond O’Brien (with producer Howard W. Koch), SHIELD FOR MURDER is a fast-paced crime drama that builds to an exciting climax and would play great with THE BIG HEAT in a “good cop/bad cop” double feature that doubles as a Carolyn Jones two-fer. Well worth checking out. Trivia: The shadow of a boom mike is clearly visible in the alley during the opening sequence. 7/10
Country: United States
Duration: 82 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
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