THE CROOKED WEB. Columbia Pictures, 1955. Frank Lovejoy, Mari Blanchard, Richard Denning. Screenwriter: Lou Breslow. Director: Nathan Juran.


   If you take my advice, and I hope you do, dont read any reviews of this movie anywhere you might see one. (Except this one of course.) Every last one of them that Ive read gives the whole story away, or at least the part of it that counts. Ill tell you more in a minute, but not I guarantee you anything you should not know ahead of time.

   Frank Lovejoy, the nominal star of this movie, has one of the most male distinctive voices I know, except for perhaps someone like Andy Devine, whom Id have to concede can be recognized on an airport runway with 15 jet planes taking off or landing all at the same time.

   No, I mean in an everyday sense, a fellow with a voice of an everyday guy, talking in everyday tones and I can still tell its Frank Lovejoy, no matter what movie, or more importantly, what radio show he may be in, and he was in quite a few.

   He plays the owner of a curbside hamburger joint in The Crooked Web, and Mari Blanchard is the carhop hes engaged to. Its established early on that Stan (hes the man) is willing to take a gamble or two, so when Joanies brother (Richard Denning) comes through town with a secret deal in the works, he (Stan) is more than willing to cut himself in.

   Of course, as is always the case in low budget crime films like this one, things do not go exactly as Stan has planned, and here is where my warning comes in, and let me repeat: Do not read another review of this film. You might not even want to read the writing on the poster.

   Most reviewers of this film do not rate it very highly, and I agree. The last two-thirds of the movie is (are?) fairly ordinary indeed. Things do not go smoothly, though, and even though this is not a noir film, it has all of the trappings of one, so it is, as always, enjoyable seeing the protagonists work their way of their mishaps and other assorted screw-ups.

   Any leading roles that co-star Mari Blanchard ever had were, I believe, only in low-budget movies like this one, but shes certainly easy enough on the eyes, speaking on behalf of the male half of the population. I found two posters for the movies, so you can see for yourself, although Im not convinced that either pose shes in is actually in the movie.