UNDERCOVER GIRL. Butcher’s Films, UK, 1957. United Artists, US, 1958. Paul Carpenter, Kay Callard, Monica Grey, Bruce Seton, Jackie Collins, Maya Koumani. Director: Francis Searle.

   If you start watching this movie waiting for a girl to go under cover in any way, shape or form, you’re going to wait for a long, long time. There isn’t one. Don’t hold your breath. It never happens. Not even close.

   Now that I have that out of the way, let me ask (and answer) another question I had: Is this a forgotten film noir, as I was informed when I bought my strictly collector-to-collector at some long ago forgotten pulp or movie convention? In a word, no. It’s a black and white crime film, made in UK, and that’s all it is. And while it can hold your interest all the way through, if it had stayed forgotten, except by collectors who collect every movie even closely related to noir, no one would ever have reason to regret the fact.

   There is a skill, a technique, an art, if you will, in making a black and white film that is mostly lost today, and many of the crime films of this era, both US and UK, can display flashes of noir lighting, set design and so on without being noir films at all. Such is the case here.

   When the brother-in-law of Johnny Carter (Paul Carpenter), a journalist for a weekly news magazine, is murdered, it is assumed that it was because he was digging too deeply into the case he was working on. Carpenter is warned off the investigation by his editor, but does he heed the warning? Of course not, and his snooping around on his own turns up a gang of sophisticated blackmailers. By sheer coincidence one of their victims is the sister (Jackie Collins) of Carpenter’s very close lady friend (Kay Callard).

   The story is well told, but it’s a simple one and very slow moving. To fill out the full running time, just over an hour, a totally extraneous photo shoot with the reigning Miss Brazil is, well, interesting and fun to look at, but as I say, in no way is it essential to the tale.