FEMALE JUNGLE. American International, 1955. John Carradine. Lawrence Tierney, Jayne Mansfield, Kathleen Crowley, Burt Kaiser, Bruno Ve Sota, Eve Brent (billed as Jean Lewis). Screenplay by Burt Kaiser and Bruno Ve Sota, based on a story by the former. Produced by Burt Kaiser. Directed by Bruno Ve Sota.

   No matter if it’s only a second- or third-rate movie, you can’t go very far wrong if it begins with a wailing saxophone playing over a darkened street scene, followed by a woman coming rushing out out a neon-lit bar, only to be seen strangled to death, her body left lying in the street.

   This doesn’t leave Eve Brent, in her first movie role, very much screen time, but that fact is mitigated by the presence of Jayne Mansfield in this film, also in her first movie role. Even more significant is the strong performance by Lawrence Tierney in a leading role, that of a drunken police sergeant who’d been in the bar that evening, but who has no memory of what he did for long periods of time while he was there.

   He may even have committed the crime himself. He is not sure, and not knowing is eating away at him. Even though he’s not on duty and has officially been told to go home and sleep it off, he takes it upon himself to do some investigating on his own. The primary suspect is John Carradine, who plays a cultivated but somehow creepy looking newspaper columnist who had escorted the dead woman, an actress, to the premiere of a movie and party afterward earlier that night.

   The story line of the movie is even more complicated than that, however. There is a night club caricaturist involved, and his wife, with whom he has had a fight. And then there’s Candy Price, played by Jayne Mansfield, who appears to be a woman of easy virtue and who lives in the apartment below them. The movie is in black and white, with a lot more black than white, which adds immensely to the pervading atmosphere of hidden motives and underlying menace.

   If this sounds like your kind of movie, it probably is, but I have to add one big warning. The script is not up to tidying up any loose ends that are seemingly tossed aside, even after the movie’s over. The film doesn’t work as a detective story, in other words, which it pretends to be, but as a top notch film noir, it’s aces high.