Continuing on with the month of “Noir-vember,” we move on to the 1956 movie The Killer Is Loose, starring Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey.
During a bank robbery, bank teller Leon Poole (Wendell Corey) tries (and fails) to stop the robbers. The policemen on the case, led by detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten), soon deduce that it was an inside job, and learn from a wiretap that it was Leon Poole’s idea. Catching up to Leon Poole at his apartment, where he starts shooting at the police, they go in with guns blazing. However, Sam accidentally shoots Leon’s wife (who they had been told wasn’t there), and Leon is caught without any further fight. As he blames Sam for his wife’s death (even though Sam was cleared), he threatens to get even with him. After being a well-behaved prisoner for a few years, Leon is sent to a state honor farm. When one of the guards requires his help with a load of produce, he takes advantage and kills the guard, making his escape. Sam is brought in, as he is assumed to be Leon’s target. However, as Leon gets by the roadblocks and into the city, they learn from his former cellmate that his target is not Sam, but his wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming)! So Sam tries his best to keep that fact from Lila, since she knows about Leon’s escape and believes Sam to be the target. Poole manages to keep ahead of the police and slowly racks up a body count, forcing Sam to offer himself as a target while trying to get Lila away.
In some respects, this movie still has a particular relevance due to its message on bullying. When we first meet Leon Poole, he ends up talking to his sergeant, Otto Flanders (as played by John Larch), who had humiliated him in the army by giving him the nickname “Foggy” since he couldn’t really see very well without his glasses. As Leon would later admit, everybody laughed at him. Everybody, that is, except his wife. Losing her was enough to send him over the edge. Wendell Corey does a great job with the character, on the one hand giving us a character who doesn’t seem like he should be a threat, but at the same time showing that even a mild-mannered bumbler can be a threat when pushed too far, and everybody around him suffers for it.
Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch, either! Joseph Cotton does great as Sam Wagner, who does the job because it’s what he wants to do, but tries to accommodate his wife (even taking a desk job, as a compromise). Alan Hale Jr. gets to be involved a little as Sgt. “Denny” Denning. But Rhonda Fleming gives a great performance as Lila. On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathize with her, as she wants her husband to be safe, but on the other hand, we can see her getting on everybody’s nerves as she doesn’t like her life being changed, and she has a hard time understanding what her husband is going through, as she can only think of herself. It’s only when her friend tells her off that everything sinks in, and even then she still has to get herself into trouble. While I have seen better noirs, I still would recommend this one, as I do enjoy watching it every now and then!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. What more can I say? Their restoration of this movie looks fantastic! I tried this movie mostly because of what I had seen before from them, and it was well worth it! So I would indeed recommend their release of this movie!
Film Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
I’ll Be Seeing You (1944) – Joseph Cotten
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) – Rhonda Fleming – Alias Jesse James (1959)