Murder Is My Beat (1955)

Murder Is My Beat (1955) is a cheapo classic class act Edgar G. Ulmer snow-time sleazy cop uh oh detective and sleazy dame thanks for the company, now it's time to take a little ride, who do you think you are film noir from the back annals of the lost lots of the dark style.

Even as it checked out and evolved into the new riffs of the 1960s and the miracle cop movies of the seventies did elect to emulate its own hey day with pictures like Murder Is My Beat (1955) which seems stuck to 1940s noir tropes in an almost nostalgic manner, as if the picture craved to be made in 1945 and not in 1955.

Patsy Flint as the voiceover tells us, has a hard little package with a cunning brain sharpened by constant grinding against the world. And is that kind of snapping theatrical flat wobbling noir, with its amazing snow-scene surprise, one of the best snow noirs on the block.

It's a frankly exciting story right on the ridge of peril, and with noir merit to spare. It slips in all types and travails, including "I'd seen enough killing in the Pacific," as the noir hero makes weary work in his suit and coat through the worst snow drift in film noir.

In the midst of this tangled tale lies the silver lining of Detective Patrick's arduous journey through a relentless snowstorm, a chilling backdrop that almost sent me scrambling for my winter gear. 

Yet, amidst the frosty chaos, the allure of Hollywood's enfant terrible, Barbara Payton, beckons as she bids farewell to the silver screen. Alas, her final performance falls short of stirring any genuine emotion. Beyond her fetching sweaters, one wonders how seasoned cop Patrick could succumb so swiftly, jeopardizing all he holds dear for her dubious charms.

Navigating through the labyrinthine plot feels akin to deciphering a cryptic puzzle, with a cacophony of who's been slain and who's truly departed. Suspension of disbelief becomes a prerequisite as the reels unravel. Nonetheless, Patrick's race against time unfolds over a mere 77 minutes, propelled by Langton's stalwart portrayal and complemented by the enigmatic presence of Tracey Roberts, a tantalizing enigma begging for further exploration.

Had this been crafted five years earlier, maestro Ulmer might have woven a tapestry of atmospheric noir. Yet, the cinematography and lighting, disappointingly pedestrian, leave much to be desired. 

The absence of that quintessential noir ambiance robs the narrative of its potency, failing to delve into the murky depths where reality and illusion entwine.

Payton's swan song, alas, lacks the fervor one might expect from a star-crossed icon. Her apparent disinterest mirrors the lackluster proceedings, leaving one to ponder if perhaps it is for the best.

Despite the nods to noir tropes—a sacrificial scapegoat, a femme fatale—the essence of noir remains elusive, a shadowy specter haunting the periphery of this forgettable 1950s crime drama.

In the realm of cut-rate cinema, maestro Edgar Ulmer delivers a hodgepodge noir, a patchwork quilt of borrowed motifs from the annals of cinematic classics—Laura, Shadow of a Doubt, Out of the Past, and Chinatown—crafted on what must have been a shoestring budget and a brisk shooting schedule. Yet, for the discerning viewer, it's a veritable steal.

Enter Ray Patrick, the quintessential straight-arrow detective poised for a promotion until a case gone awry tangles him in a web of corruption. Stirred by the pleas of a dame he once fingered, Patrick embarks on an illicit quest for truth, with his superior hot on his heels.

Edgar G. Ulmer, hailed by a dedicated few as a cinematic maestro capable of transcending the limitations of low budgets, earned his cult following through films that shimmered with a rare quality. However, when not wielding the creative reins, Ulmer's directorial touch often succumbed to the mundane, as evidenced by MURDER IS MY BEAT—a pedestrian "B" thriller tracing the tale of a lawman risking his career to aid a wrongly accused maiden and unmask the true culprit. 

Unlike Ulmer's signature visual panache, absent here, this picture lacks the compelling allure that defined his oeuvre. Seek enlightenment in Ulmer's magnum opuses like DETOUR or THE BLACK CAT to truly grasp his cult-worthy mystique.

Despite the improbable narrative, Ulmer works his magic once more, deftly weaving a tapestry of suspense with minimal resources. 

Paul Langton, in the role of the renegade detective, may not rival the likes of Mitch or Dana Andrews, but he exudes the same enigmatic aura, ensnared by the allure of a femme fatale—none other than the tragic Barbara Payton, a noir archetype personified. 

And amidst the fray, Kate McKenna shines in fleeting yet impactful appearances as witness Miss Sparrow, stealing scenes with effortless finesse.

Ulmer's mise-en-scène immerses us in a world teeming with seedy undercurrents, where Patrick tramples on rights and rummages through lingerie drawers in his pursuit of justice, heedless of propriety. Through normally fast and stylish easy editing and evocative montages, Ulmer does his bit on the lot and crafts an experience that transcends its humble origins, offering a tantalizing blend of intrigue and deception.

Mystery, pursuit and guilt entwined with cop-o-drama, Murder Is My Beat (1955) spins a yarn where believability takes a backseat to Hollywood theatrics. Paul Langton steps into the gritty shoes of a hard-boiled detective, tasked with the improbable duty of escorting murder suspect Barbara Payton to her penitentiary fate. 

But when a spectral figure resembling the supposed victim materializes, the narrative veers into the realm of the absurd.

As Langton's infatuation with Payton blossoms, their impromptu pursuit of the phantom figure leads to unlikely alliances, including the enigmatic Inspector Henderson, portrayed by Robert Shayne of Superman fame. Such improbable plot twists defy logic, yet serve as quintessential fodder for the silver screen.

Deep snow noir in Murder Is My Beat (1955)

The discovery of Mr. Frank Deane's charred remains, his countenance obliterated within the hearth, thrusts homicide detective Ray Patrick (Langton) and his seasoned superior Bert Rawley (Shayne) into the chilling depths of a brutal slaying. Their swift apprehension of nightclub chanteuse Eden Lane (Barbara Payton) as the prime suspect swiftly leads to her conviction.

Yet, during the somber journey to her incarceration, a fleeting glimpse through the train window ignites Eden's conviction. Convinced she has spotted the very man she was accused of slaying, Patrick and Eden plunge headlong into a harrowing pursuit, days melting into fruitless hours as they comb the urban labyrinth.

Amidst the swirling maelstrom of uncertainty, Patrick's encounter with Patsy Flint (Roberts), Eden's enigmatic former companion, unveils a tapestry of deceit and shadowy alliances. But as the fog of suspicion thickens, betrayal lurks in the shadows, with Rawley's sudden appearance signaling an ominous shift.

In a tense negotiation for exoneration, Patrick beseeches for a mere day's reprieve, a race against time ensnaring them in a sinister web of deceit and treachery. Through deft flashbacks and evocative editing, Ulmer masterfully conjures an atmosphere of palpable dread, each twist and turn casting doubt upon the veracity of truth.

Payton's haunting portrayal as the enigmatic femme fatale, her allure masking a tempest of secrets, resonates with a beguiling intensity. Meanwhile, Langton's wavering resolve, torn between duty and desire, adds a visceral layer of tension to their perilous odyssey.

In this dark symphony of shadows and subterfuge, Ulmer's deft hand guides us through a noir landscape where truth and deception intertwine, leaving us ensnared in the chilling embrace of uncertainty.

Murder is My Beat
rises above above mediocrity by essence of its self-knowledge and effort. Were it not for the allure of a notable director and a notorious leading lady, the film would likely fade into obscurity, offering little incentive for cinephiles to seek it out. Paul Langton's presence only compounds the film's shortcomings. If ever there were a man ill-suited for a leading role, it's him. 

Despite a lengthy tenure as a character actor in countless forgettable television dramas, Langton's turn in Murder is My Beat falls flat. With a lackluster performance and a charisma deficit, Langton resembles a sack of potatoes in an ill-fitting suit — his haircut being the most noteworthy aspect of his appearance.

Harold Wellman's cinematography doesn't fare much better, though the meager budget may offer some explanation. While some of the second unit shots capture the essence of period Los Angeles, particularly the naturally lit exteriors, the interiors lack depth and are marred by overexposed backgrounds and harsh lighting. However, despite its visual shortcomings, Murder is My Beat still manages to embody the essence of film noir.

Edgar G. Ulmer's directorial prowess shines through, albeit dimly, in certain scenes. Take, for example, the train sequence where Detective Patrick succumbs to his burgeoning affection for Lane. Set against a rear-projection landscape, Ulmer ingeniously employs a single set to convey intimacy and restraint. By focusing on the listener rather than the speaker, Ulmer deftly sidesteps the need for elaborate setups and costly reshoots, demonstrating his resourcefulness in the face of budgetary constraints.

Much has been said about the tragic fates of Hollywood starlets like Barbara Payton, and her story is indeed a poignant one. Struggling with addiction and personal demons, Payton's career spiraled into oblivion, culminating in a lackluster performance in Murder is My Beat. Gone was the vivacious starlet who once graced the silver screen; in her place stood a mere shadow of her former self, her beauty tarnished and her talent overshadowed by personal turmoil.

In hindsight, Murder is My Beat serves as a reminder of the harsh realities of Hollywood's golden era, where talent often succumbed to the relentless demands of fame and fortune. While the film may offer fleeting moments of intrigue, its lasting legacy lies more in the academic discussions it provokes and the tragic tales of its cast and crew than in any cinematic achievements it may boast.

Langton's portrayal, though seasoned, fails to evoke the raw intensity of his noir counterparts, while Payton's presence—marked by a palpable disconnection and physical decline—hints at the tragic trajectory of her career's twilight.

While lacking in nuance and emotional depth, Murder Is My Beat offers a nostalgic glimpse into the realm of 1950s police dramas, catering to aficionados of the genre. Ultimately, its appeal rests in its embrace of cinematic clichés and unabashed theatricality, reminding viewers of a bygone era where suspension of disbelief reigned supreme."

Murder Is My Beat (1955)

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Screenplay by Aubrey Wiseberg

Story by Aubrey Wiseberg | Martin Field

Produced by Aubrey Wisberg

Starring Paul Langton | Barbara Payton | Robert Shayne

Cinematography Harold E. Wellman

Edited by Fred R. Feitshans Jr.

Music by Albert Glasser

Production company Masthead Productions

Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures

Release date February 27, 1955 (United States)

Running time 77 minutes

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