Another title completely new to me,THE UNKNOWN MAN starts out as a reasonable crime thriller, with a crusading lawyer (Walter Pidgeon) fighting a crime cartel.But plot developments took me completely by surprise ,and, for once, I am not going to reveal the details!
As far as I know, it’s quite a rare film ( well, here in the UK), so maybe quite a few folk haven’t seen it.
The plot revolves around Pidgeon getting Keefe Brasselle off a murder charge and then finding Brasselle actually is guilty. Wasted in a minor role is Ann Harding as Walter’s wife.
Also wasted in a subordinate role was Barry Sullivan as the district attorney trying to put the cartel behind bars.
Lewis Stone also has a small part as a judge at the trial , and Eduard Franz is the head of the crime commission which Walter wants to join.
Also totally underwritten and therefore unnecessary to the plot are Richard Anderson as Pidgeon’s son and English actress Dawn Addams as Anderson’s girlfriend.
The 86 minute length could have lost 15 minutes easily .
Brasselle is convincing as he portrays himself as the down trodden victim of circumstances, with no money and no hope – and then after the trial,Pidgeon sees him in his apartment, with girlfriend Mari Blanchard at his side, showing an entirely different face, and offering Walter money for getting him off.
An actor I only know from “The Seventh Cross’, Konstantin Shayne , was memorable as the father of the boy Brasselle killed. One of those talented character actors whom classic Hollywood is famous for.
The Unknown Man of the title refers to a ploy by Pidgeon to suggest Brasselle may not have been the only person at the scene of the crime.
Although Barry Sullivan has little to do, he gets the best line of the film at the end.
The French poster below shows the film title as THE RIGHT TO KILL.