As Freddie and Lugger, employees of Bovhini, are waiting in the parking lot of the Club Sirocco for Ruth Parmelee, they see a woman accost Ruth and then shoot her and speed away in a car. Bochini, who has loved Ruth, vows revenge. Mordecai Breen is devoting his life to welfare work among the city's needy, and publishes a small newspaper called "The Friend in Need," assisted by his former prize fighter friend, Happy Hogan. An advertisement headed "I'll Buy Your Life" appears in the paper and Breen decides to investigate. At the address given, the swanky Alhambra Arms apartments, Breen learns that the advertiser is Alfred Darnell, an orchestra leader and writer of detective stories. A number of girls answer the ad, but Dale Leyden, after being interviewed by Darnell and Velencia Duncan, is the successful applicant. As she leaves, Breen tells her that if she should find herself in the need of any assistance, to let him know. Dale tells her blind musician brother Philip that an uncle who formerly lived in South America has left them twenty thousand dollars. Meanwhile, back to the original story, Breen calls on his friend, Police Lieutenant Hammer, who shows Breen the evidence from the Parmelee murder: a pearl pendant from a bracelet, a piece of sequin from a woman's gown and part of a heel from an evening slipper. Dale calls on Breen, tells him her name is Mary Jones and gives him an envelope. When he is notified that Mary Jones is dead, he is to open the envelope that contains two letters. If he receives the sum of $18,000, he is to open the first letter and deliver the money to the name and address given, and destroy the second letter without opening it. If he doesn't get the money, he is to open the second letter and see that justice is done. Is Mary giving her life to take a fall for the killer of Ruth Permelee in exchange for money to provide an operation for her blind brother? Highly probable. Is the plot plausible? Highly improbable. Did Elmer Clifton direct worse films. Quite often.
"I'll Sell My Life" is a low-budget B-movie with a cast of mostly unknown actors. This isn't a complaint--such films are often quite good. Unfortunately, while the film had a really great plot idea, the execution of the plot left me quite cold due to indifferent writing, acting and direction.
The film begins with a woman murdering another woman--though you only see part of it and aren't sure who the killer is. Soon, a famous mystery writer places a very unusual ad--that he will pay handsomely for a woman's life. What exactly does this mean? Well, whoever agrees to this arrangement will confess to the murder, get convicted and executed--and then this person's family will receive a huge check. One woman answers this ad, as she feels intensely guilty for an accident she caused in which her brother was left blinded. With this money, he could afford to get much needed surgery to restore his sight. However, a newspaper man sees the ad and decides to investigate for himself.
As I said, the plot was pretty good--and very creative. The problem is that the film did nothing with this decent script idea. The overall results are a bit listless and dull and SHOULD have been better. The IMDb synopsis for this work, contributed by the redoubtable Les Adams, will allow a prospective viewer to have a firm idea of the storyline for this low-budget affair that might well serve as a template for how a flagrantly outrageous melodrama was to be constructed during its cinematic time frame, the years from the mid-1930s through the mid-1940s. The picture is taken from a long story entitled "I'll Buy Your Life" by Walter F. Ripperger (incorrectly listed upon the credits screen as Rippenger), first published in Street & Smith's DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, March, 1941. Ripperger's tales appeared with frequency from 1934 to 1941 in pulp fiction periodicals, these magazines paying authors by the word, accepting nearly any submission that adhered to established popular standards, even if too whimsical to succeed as even a remotely rational narrative, as is the case with this film. Director Elmer Clifton, with aid from dialogue director George Rosener, is accountable for this treatment of the Ripperger original, and the result for the most part butts up against basic canons of common sense, essentially becoming merely artificial tosh that must go without the courage of its lack of conviction. An undernourished plot benefits from several musical numbers. A significant amount of the action occurs in a cabaret, Club Sirocco, where entertainment is provided for the most part by a highly popular Cuban band of the film's era, Eddie Durant And His Rhumba Orchestra, with Durant himself singing a version of Mysterio, by Leo Rojo. Talented second female lead, the striking Joan Woodbury, dances with skill and also sings a novelty number, "Incidentally", composed by her real-life husband, actor Henry Wilcoxon. Robert Regent, cast as lead Rose Hobart's blind brother, offers an abridged version of Stephen Foster's Beautiful Dreamer in his fine baritone. Clifton's established propensity for artistically composed closeups, maintained since his palmy days at the helm of top-tier silent motion pictures, has increased the merit of some episodes, but a strong barrier remains to viewer pleasure: a hackneyed scenario that as a consequence lowers the film to its station as merely a tiresome exercise in anti-climax. Despite flat direction that thereby pardons hamminess displayed by some veteran players, these are depreciated when always effectual Hobart is on screen, persuasively creating her role of a woman ready to sacrifice her life for a noble purpose. Reissued by Alpha Home Entertainment, the first name among those companies supplying little loved older films to a DVD buying public, has not, in accord with its policy, remastered this film; however, the print is visually satisfactory throughout, and its sound quality is fine, skips and elisions being infrequent. There are, as must be expected from Alpha, no extras provided upon the disk. 7cb1d79195
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