SHOOT TO KILL. Screen Arts Pictures, 1947. Russell Wade, Susan [Luana] Walters, Edmond MacDonald, Douglas Blackley (Robert Kent), Nestor Paiva. Director: William Berke.


   This tough-minded B-programmer from 1947 was included in a box set of Noir films, and in that category, it’s certainly marginal, if not a full-fledged entry. It’s told in flashback form, with at least one flashback with the first one, but not confusingly – but not to the story’s advantage, either, when it comes down to it. (I dislike prologues in books, too.)

   It begins with the new D. A. (Edmond MacDonald) being found dead in a car, having gone over one of those cliffs that are always on the outskirts of town in B-movies like this one. In this case, though, what makes the headline of the day is that also in the car is one of the town’s biggest gangsters (Nestor Paiva), also dead. Surviving the crash is the D.A.’s recently wedded wife (Susan Walters).

   The flashback begins as the latter tells her story to the sympathetic ear of reporter ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, played by soft-spoken Russell Wade. None of the players in this picture ever made it big in Hollywood, as I’m sure you’ve realized already, but most of them had long careers in movies very much like this one – speaking budget-wise, of course.

   Susan Walters, most often billed in her many movie appearances as Luana Walters – many of them westerns – was making a bit of a comeback in Shoot to Kill, her first film in several years, but to little avail, making only five more after this one (including a short role as Superman’s mother in the 1948 serial). Still very beautiful at the age of 35, she also shows more weariness than the role calls for, caused, one imagines, by tragedy and other problems in her personal life.


   Maybe I ought to take back my deprecating remarks about the flashback format. The process of simply sitting here and writing these comments up seems to have cleared my brain and made it (the flashback format) work better for me than it had before. What it does, I have to admit, is to introduce an element of mystery, a puzzle that would have been harder to create if the tale had to build up to it in purely linear fashion.

   More. There are plenty of dark shadows in this one, along with a dash of dark-edged violence as a double-edged bonus. Add plenty of mysterious goings-on and some better than average plot twists along the way, making the 64 minutes of running time just the right length for half an evening’s worth of entertainment. The other half I leave to you.