Wed 28 Jul 2010
THE MISSING JUROR. Columbia Pictures, 1944. Jim Bannon, Janis Carter, George Macready, Jean Stevens, Joseph Crehan, with Trevor Bardette & Mike Mazurki (both uncredited). Director: Oscar Boetticher Jr.
Two stars carry over from the movie which I previously reviewed here, Janis Carter and George Macready (in The Fighting Guardsman), and Jim Bannon was in the one I reviewed before that (in The Great Jesse James Raid). It’s like old home week here on the blog.
Jim Bannon plays Joe Keats in The Missing Juror, an ace reporter who saved a man from going to the gallows for a crime he didn’t commit. Too late, though, for the previously condemned man (played most convincingly by George Macready) had gone mad while on Death Row, and he perishes instead in a mental institution – by his own hand, his body burned beyond recognition.
Bad karma all round, you might say, but then things start to get interesting. The members of the jury who convicted the innocent man have begun to disappear or to die in a series of unfortunate accidents. Janis Carter plays Alice Hill, one of the jurors who has survived so far, and in the process of warning her – she doesn’t believe a word of it at first, naturally – Keats finds himself falling in love with her.
It’s a great premise for a real noirish tale. It’s only too bad that no one involved in the production of this movie knew how to produce a real noirish tale, nor even how to tell a tale that makes any more sense than this one does.
There are enough holes in the story to sink a battleship, and no one in the cast ever stops to make the obvious questions – with the answers equally obvious – if there are any. Some questions simply don’t have any answers, or at least none that I can think of.
It may be as obvious to you, if you’ve read this far. I’ve tried to careful in how I described the basic structure of the plot, but with deficiencies as great as those that this movie has, I’d have to say nothing to avoid saying anything.
But do you know what? It doesn’t really matter that the story has more leaks in it than a sieve that’s been used for target practice. This is a fun movie to watch, from beginning to end. And some (if not most) of that is due to the director, more familiarly known as Budd Boetticher. Unusual camera angles, imaginative lighting and clever dolly shots keep things interesting, and the story doesn’t stop moving once, even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense.