Destination: Murder (1950): Cahn’s B-Level Film Noir

Obscure even among film buffs, Edward L. Cahn was actually a prolific filmmaker who had made about 100 pictures, all B (or level) flicks. One of his better known is Destination: Murder, an over-simplistic yet sporadically and superficially entertaining film noir (especially if you view it with low or no expectation), starring Joyce MacKenzie, Stanley Clements and Hurd Hatfield.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

Destination Murder
Destination Murder poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The tale’s best moment occurs early on, when during a five-minute intermission, Jackie Wales leaves his date a theater, gets into a car, changes into a messenger’s outfit, rings the doorbell of Mansfield, shoots him, and then rushes back to the theater. Pronto.

Laura Mansfield spots the killer hurdle the house’s gate, and reports to the cops.  At the police station, looking at suspects in a lineup, she spots Jackie, who later offers her a ride. She then notices that Jackie hurdles the gate, just as her dad’s murderer did.

When the police lieutenant ignores her tip, Laura takes matters into her hands and begins dating Jackie in order to keep an eye on him. After losing money gambling, he goes to the Vogue nightclub to get payoff from those who run it. However, the boss, boasting  a great villain’s name, Armitage, beats Jackie while club’s manager Stretch Norton instructs the player piano to use music in order to drown out the noise.

Laura, frustrated by Lt. Brewster’s inaction, then takes a job as a cigarette girl at the club to learn more about Jackie’s employer. Alice Wentworth, a gold-digging woman Armitage loves who flirts with Stretch, proposes a scheme. Write a confession to the murder, implicating Armitage for hiring him, then get $5,000 blackmail payment, to be split.

But Laura ends up falling in love with Stretch, and confesses her true identity, failing to realize that Stretch is the gang’s actual boss, and that Armitage works for him.

Alice is persuaded to double-cross Jackie, then is killed by Armitage at the club, and Jackie is also found dead.

Stretch then drugs Armitage, puts a gun in his hand, and gets Laura to shoot him.  In the end, Laura is forced to admit that all along she should have trusted the police.

Unfortunately, both Myrna Dell as Alice and Stanley Clements as Jackie, the only film’s most interesting character, are killed off early on, resulting in a ridiculously plotted, unsatisfying crime thriller that fails to obey even movie logic.

In a career spanning three decades, Cahn is better known for directing the Our Gang comedies from 1939-1943, and It! The Terror from Beyond Space, a 1958 movie that, among other sources, inspired Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979.

 

Cast
Joyce MacKenzie as Laura Mansfield
Stanley Clements as Jackie Wales
Hurd Hatfield as Stretch Norton
Albert Dekker as Armitage
Myrna Dell as Alice Wentworth
James Flavin as Police Lt. Brewster
John Dehner as Frank Niles
Richard Emory as Police Sgt. Mulcahy
Buddy Swan as Arthur – Blue Streak Messenger
Bert Wenland as Dave, Blue Streak Messenger
Franklyn Farnum as Arthur Mansfield, Laura’s Father
Steve Gibson and the Redcaps as Singing Group

Credits:

Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Produced by Cahn and Maurie M. Suess

Screenplay by Don Martin
Music by Irving Gertz
Cinematography Jackson Rose
Edited by Philip Cahn

Production company: Prominent Features Inc.

Distributed by RKO Pictures

Release date: June 6, 1950

Running time: 72 minutes

Note:

TCM showed this movie on October 17, 2020.