THE INNER CIRCLE. Republic Pictures, 1946. Adele Mara, Warren Douglas (as PI Johnny Strange), William Frawley, Ricardo Cortez, Virginia Christine, Will Wright. Screenplay by Dorrell McGowan & Stuart E. McGowan, based on a radio script by Leonard St. Clair & Lawrence Taylor. Director: Phil Ford.

   When the story begins, private eye Johnny Strange (whose one-man firm is called Action Incorporated) is darning the toe of his sock while at the same time calling a local newspaper to place an ad: “Wanted: secretary to human dynamo. Exclamation point. Must be blonde, beautiful, between 22 and 28, unmarried, with a skin you love to touch and a heart you can’t.”

   In walks Adela Mara as a beautiful bombshell named Gerry Smith, and takes the job, hanging up the phone and telling Johnny she has all of the qualifications. She does indeed qualify, except for perhaps that last requirement, however, the one about the skin and the heart: “Try both, brother, just try.” While she is finishing up the knitting job for him, a call from a client comes in.

   When Johnny meets her, without even a hint of what he’s being hired for, she’s dressed mysteriously all in black with a veil concealing her face. She leads him to a home where they find a dead man’s body, whereupon she knocks him on the head and leaves.

   Obviously she’s trying to frame him for the murder, but why? It isn’t as if the dead man, whose has his own radio gossip show, didn’t have plenty of real enemies who wouldn’t mind seeing him no longer around.

   Pure pulp fiction, in other words, and I haven’t even begun going into all pf the details I could to to reinforce that statement. (The screenplay was based on a radio script, but for what program, I have no idea.) There a lot of friendly banter between strange Strange and his new secretary, who comes along just in time to provide him an “self-defense” reason for killing the man.

   Johnny Strange — a rather naive individual, especially for one alleged to be a brash dynamo of a PI — is confused, and who could blame him? Much pleasurable silliness ensues, including a live reenactment of the crime over the radio, with all of the possible suspects playing their own roles. Whatever it takes to solve a crime, that’s what you have to do. (But this ending really is quite unique.)

NOTE:   The original running time was 65 minutes. The only print that seems to have survived is less than an hour long. There is an obvious break in the action about half way through, but it’s easy enough to fill in what’s missing.