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

 
PAYOFF, THE (director: Arthur Dreifuss; screenwriters: story by Arthur Hoerl/Edward Dein; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Charles Henkel Jr.; cast: Lee Tracy (Brad McKay), Tom Brown (Guy Norris), Tina Thayer (Phyllis Walker), Evelyn Brent (Alma Doren), Jack La Rue (John Angus), Robert Middlemass (Norris, Newspaper Publisher), John Maxwell (Moroni), Pat Costello (Reporter), Forrest Taylor (Hugh Walker), Ian Keith (Inspector Thomas); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Schwarz; Alpha; 1942)

 
"It results in an unconvincing twisty ending to a film that ran out of gas long before the ending."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fading star Lee Tracy once again plays a fast-talking newspaper reporter in this B-film crime drama. Arthur Dreifuss ("Boston Blackie's Rendezvous"/"The Quare Fellow"/" Double Deal ") directs from a screenplay by Edward Dein and a story by Arthur Hoerl. It offers an unconvincing twisty ending to a film that ran out of gas long before the ending (in other words, the payoff stinks). The complicated plot line never made much sense, as it was muddled in its presentation.

Special Prosecutor Pearson is murdered just when he was writing a confidential report to arrest Moroni (John Maxwell), a hoodlum gangster tied to organized crime, and his unknown bosses whom he was about to reveal. Ace reporter Brad McKay (Lee Tracy) is ordered to investigate by the paper's new wealthy owner Mr. Norris (Robert Middlemass). Cub reporter Guy Norris (Tom Brown), son of the publisher, tags along with Brad, to learn the ropes. 

To the dismay of the police investigators, Brad provides Moroni with an air-tight alibi, since they were playing poker all-night. Moroni pays him back for the favor by giving him the scoop that Hugh Walker, who was the former assistant to the prosecutor but got disbarred, did the shooting. But Brad gets a tip from his hunchback street hustler informant that Moroni did the killing, and both the tipster and Moroni soon turn up dead. When Phyllis Walker (Tina Thayer), the daughter of Hugh, reveals to Brad that pop left an envelope in a railroad station locker containing marked bribe money in the amount of $100,000 and doesn't trust anyone else in town except him, the reporter realizes the plot is more complex than first thought. With a marked $100 bill, the reporter goes to mob-connected John Angus' (Jack LaRue) gambling club and smokes out Angus as setting up all the murders. But the reporter still doesn't know who Angus is fronting for. Brad gets unexpected help from the film's femme fatale, one of Angus' hired hands, Alma Doren (Evelyn Brent), who falls for the reporter and doesn't execute him as ordered. The two make a love connection and go after the big boss, with marginal help from the police inspector, Guy and Phyllis. The lookalike brother of comedian Lou Costello, Pat, has a small part as a reporter. 

REVIEWED ON 4/30/2007        GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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