Five Star Final ★★★★

An incendiary screed against yellow journalism, this is a bit of a forerunner to modern films like Christine and Nightcrawler that delve into the soul-sucking, lurid nature of blood and guts-oriented local news; it does stack the decks a bit ridiculously, though. At first it seems set to be a fun His Girl Friday-style look at the bed-hopping and corporate intrigue across several floors of a tabloid paper whose bigwigs want higher circulation numbers, but the humor abruptly cuts out after about half an hour. Edward G. Robinson snarls thrillingly as a morally conflicted editor getting pushed in multiple directions as he uses dirty tricks (in the form of Boris Karloff!) to wreck the lives of a family whose matriarch long ago murdered her rapist and has lived in relative anonymity up to now, the eve of her daughter's wedding. These people are a little too warm and innocent for the film to be dramatically credible, but it's still startling and engaging in its pre-Code extremism, and the tragedies in the third act genuinely hurt, and despite the heavy-handedness it's pretty exciting to see a movie that goes this far to make a point. Robinson and the cast do push the buttons a bit forcefully in the final act when a bit of subtlety might have worked, though "I did it for circulation" is a chilling prediction of the last line of Network, and I couldn't help wishing that a certain gun had been fired rather than snatched near the end. If you admire the deep-rooted cynicism of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, you really should give this a look.

Shout-out to the bored phone operator who keeps showing up, whose expression, voice and entire getup is A Mood (as with all of the stunning actresses and their wardrobes in this film; gah, what a time).

Nathan liked this review