DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HOODLUM EMPIRE (director: Joseph Kane; screenwriters: Robert Considine/Bruce Manning; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Richard Van Enger; music: Nathan Scott; cast: Brian Donlevy (Sen. William J. 'Bill' Stephens), Forrest Tucker (Charles A. 'Charley' Pignatalli), Luther Adler (Nicholas 'Nick' Mancani ), Claire Trevor (Connie Williams), Vera Ralston (Marte 'Marty' Dufour Gray), Gene Lockhart (Sen. Tower), Roy Barcroft (Morris Draper), Grant Withers (Rev. Simon Andrews), John Russell (Joe Gray), Richard Jaeckel (Ted Dawson), Don Beddoe (Sen. Blake), Taylor Holmes (Benjamin Lawton, lawyer), Roy Roberts (Police Chief Tayls); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Kane; Republic; 1952)

 
"The gangster melodramatics are all too familiar."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Joseph Kane ("Dakota"/"Flame of the Barbary Coast"/"Oh! Susanna") flatly directs this crime expose drama inspired by the Kefauver Senate Committee crime investigations of 1950-51. It's written by Robert Considine and Bruce Manning. The uninspiring film is shot in a semi-documentary style, overloaded with flashbacks and the gangster melodramatics are all too familiar. It apes the better crime expose pic entitled The Enforcer (1950), that starred Bogart.

Hoodlum Empire tells the story of Joe Gray (John Russell). He was raised in the rackets by his ruthless mobster uncle Nick Mancani (Luther Adler). The Mancani character was supposedly inspired by Frank "Fifth Amendment" Costello. Gray's combat service in WWII teaches him the American values his army buddies are ready to die for and he returns from the war a hero and changed man--trying to go straight in his rural community. But the Mob expands its gambling operation and reaches his community. Now the Senate Committee hearings need his testimony to crush Mancani's hoodlum empire, while the Mob threatens him if he takes the stand as a witness.

It spends far too much time sermonizing and patting itself on the back for saying 'crime doesn't pay.' The only fun in this dry film is to guess who all the "fictional" criminals are really supposed to be. Brian Donlevy plays Senator William J. 'Bill' Stephens, who is supposed to be Estes Kefauver. By coincidence, Stephens was Russell's commanding officer. Claire Trevor is the gun moll former girlfriend of Gray's, while Vera Ralston is the good French girl Gray marries.

REVIEWED ON 2/14/2011       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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