Murder Is My Beat ★★★½

The first forty minutes here are probably Ulmer’s best film, displaying his ingenuity when it comes to made on the cheap and transcending those limitations. Classic setup: the wayward detective whose gone into the case too far and now has got to explain his story. But what’s different here is the belief in the innocent, so much that the detective goes completely out of his way at a chance for redemption, to find something extraordinary. The long sequence where Paul Langton stares at Barbara Payton’s eyes, searching for her truth while the train rushes onward shows the care that Ulmer took with actors. They may have not been the best with their dialogue, but he always chose people with great faces (Tracy Roberts’s little mole on her face, or the shocked Kate MacKenna who bulging eyes can’t believe unmarried folk are having sex). The film’s mini-detective story—all set along a small town instead of a dark city—makes the paranoia more existential than physical, the rear-projection literally breaking these people from their surroundings. The film kind of cramps down once the flashback ends and the two begin solving things, but this is one of Ulmer’s most thrilling works.