SHOOT TO KILL. Screen Arts Pictures, 1947. Also released as Police Reporter. Russell Wade, Luana Walters [as Susan Walters], Edmond MacDonald, Robert Kent [as Douglas Blackley], 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 within the first one, but not confusingly. I don’t think anyone will any problems following the story.

   It begins with the current acting 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 Dixie Logan (Douglas Blackley), one of the town’s most notorious gangsters, 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 extremely 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.

   I’m not a big fan of movies told in flashback format, but I have to admit that in this case what it does is to introduce an element of mystery to the entire proceedings, producing 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 more than your money’s worth of entertainment.

Note: This is a slightly revised version of a review first posted on this blog in August 2009.