Monday, 20 March 2017

No Trace - aka Murder by the Book - 1950 film review

No Trace, also known as Murder by the Book, is a crime film from 1950 which benefits from a cast with strength in depth. It's the story of a crime novelist who finds himself driven by sheer desperation to commit murder. Ah, a familiar feeling, you may say. Perhaps I'll refrain from comment as to the plausibility of the premise!

The novelist, Robert Southley, is very successful, and has a devoted and very attractive secretary (Dinah Sheridan) as well as chums in the police force - an inspector played by John Laurie, later of Dad's Army fame, and a sergeant who also fancies the secretary, who is played by Barry Morse, later the remorseless cop who pursued Richard Kimble for so long in the seemingly never-ending TV series The Fugitive.

Southley is played by Hugh Sinclair, and this is one of those stories where a chap who is on the straight and narrow is suddenly confronted by someone from his less salubrious past who is intent on blackmail. We're asked to believe that the upright Southley was once a member of a gang that went around the US burgling places. I did find it difficult to suspend my belief here, a problem exacerbated by the fact that Sinclair is really the weakest link in the whole cast. I really wasn't sure what the secretary saw in him.

The story unfolds rather nicely - it's one of those where we see a killer execute a clever plan, and the question is whether he'll get away with it or be tripped up by smart detective work. Along the way, there are roles for Dora Bryan and the ubiquitous Sam Kydd. All in all it's a very watchable film, although some fuzziness about Southley's characterisation means that it isn't quite as gripping as it might have been.


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