VICE SQUAD

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Up until recently, I’d never heard of VICE SQUAD. Now I’ve seen it twice and liked it a lot.
The plot is easy to explain – a day in the working life of a Chief of Detectives in a big city precinct. But it’s the detail and the pace that makes this film.
EDWARD G.ROBINSON doesn’t miss a beat as the hardworking Chief who starts work as soon as he arrives in his office at 8am.
What happens throughout the day is serious and funny and packed with so many good character actors.

We follow a gang led by EDWARD BINNS as they make preparations to rob a bank.
The first sight of Edward G.is of him striding confidently into his office, well dressed,flower in lapel. His men update him, as does his secretary played by KT Stevens.And the story gets going.
The scene keeps changing as we follow Robinson in everything that crosses his desk that day.
We discover he is quite prepared to bend the rules in the interests of justice.

Despite containing several different plot threads,writer LAWRENCE ROMAN and director ARNOLD LAVEN expertly weave them all together.
PORTER HALL is a meak, mild mortician with a girlfriend on the side (Joan Vohs). He witnesses Binns killing a cop but is reluctant to speak out. When he is held by the police,his lawyer, BARRY KELLEY says:
“Where does your wife think you are?” And Porter replies: “Out of town delivering a corpse.”
The running joke is Barry keeps getting Porter released and the cops make up excuses to re- arrest him so they can get him to tell what he knows.

JAY ADLER is also very good as a small time conman who has information he wants to trade to Edward G.

Second billed below Edward G. is PAULETTE GODDARD who is severely under used as the manager of an ‘escort’ bureau Edward G. knows and who may be able to help him .

Another strand of the story consists of one terrific scene between Edward G. and unbilled PERCY HELTON as a delusional little man whom the Chief knows and is kind to.Percy Helton – you’re the man!

Young Adam Williams(whom I always remember as one of the hoods who kidnaps Cary Grant in North By Northwest) is very good as one of Binns’s gang who talks tough but changes his mind about the bank job.
Steely eyed LEE VAN CLEEF is also in the gang.

There is just so much going on,but it is always clear where we are as the different strands develop.

I liked KT Stevens as the Chief’s secretary. A small part for this actress who was the daughter of director Sam Wood and was married to Hugh Marlowe for 20 years.
Both Binns and Williams had been in Arnold Laven’s first film in 1952, WITHOUT WARNING.
Although some interiors were done at RKO studios, this independent production was shot in Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Santa Monica, and it was great to see these outdoor locations.

I’m amazed this was only director Laven’s second feature. He subsequently directed DOWN THREE DARK STREETS and SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE then moved into television. He died in 2009.

I really can’t praise this film enough. It was released on DVD in 2011.
Edward G.Robinson is the glue that holds it together.There isn’t a second wasted but it’s not rushed.
Maybe a notch below THE ENFORCER but maybe not!

Only quibbles – the waste of Paulette Goddard who looked great and still with that dazzling smile that I remember from THE WOMEN.
And the title – it isn’t about a vice squad. In the UK it was called THE GIRL IN ROOM 17, which at least has some relevance to the plot.

Edward G Robinson Percy Kelton

Edward G Robinson
Percy Helton

7 responses »

  1. Never seen this but it sounds great. Frankly, I’ll watch anything with Edward G and I’m always on the lookout for anything newly released with him.
    Arnold Laven did mostly work in TV but he made some reasonably good movies too. I thought Rough Night in Jericho wasn’t bad.

  2. Hi, Colin. And yes, any Edward G. film is always worth a look. I may have gone overboard with my review but you can tell I enjoyed it a lot!
    I havent seen Rough Night in Jericho.

  3. Like Colin,I have never seen this one;its on my must
    track down list.I love the fact that you name-dropped Percy
    Kelton;what a great scene stealer!
    Another Edward G Fifties film I really want to see is Hugo
    Fregoneses BLACK FRIDAY;reputedly very good.
    I must say Vienna your blog is terrific fun…….long may it
    continue!

  4. Another one I don’t know. I too would love to see BLACK TUESDAY. Thanks for the info. Interesting too that Peter Graves should be on the wrong side of the law in it.
    Glad you like the blog ,John

  5. A couple of Peter Graves movies worth checking out are
    FORT YUMA and WOLF LARSEN.
    FORT YUMA is available as an MGM/UA MOD and I believe
    it was recently released in Spain,
    Graves plays an Indian hating Cavalry officer;one of his darker
    roles. According to the imdb the film was hacked to bits by the
    censor because of its extreme violence.What remains is still a
    tough gritty little Western.
    I also enjoyed WOLF LARSEN which also stars Barry Sullivan
    who always turns in a good performance.
    Great line when Graves is fished out of the sea Sullivan asks him
    “what work do you do?”
    Im a literary critic replies Graves.
    “I said WORK” snarls Sullivan.

  6. Thanks for the information on these Peter Graves films. I’m trying to picture him as a literary critic! I like Barry Sullivan too, always dependable.
    I’ve just got hold of an Eddie G.Robinson film new to me, BLACKMAIL from 1939. Haven’t watched it yet.

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