Plot: Times are tough for Detective Trees (Jerome Cowan), as work is slow and even his faithful assistant Pandora (Marjorie Hoshelle) is starting to lose patience with the gap between paychecks. At one point, she even offers to loan her boss the money to pay her, to illustrate her frustration. But a new case has found its way into Trees’, one that even a veteran gumshoe like him is hard pressed to take at face value. John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart) is a man with a serious problem and as fate would have it, his troubles involve a loose lipped bird. A shady character plans to use his talking blackbird to blackmail Rhodes, who has political ambitions and can’t have any negative press. The bird has been trained to squawk “don’t kill me Rhodes,” as its owner is in deep with some bookies and if he is killed, the evidence then points to Rhodes. So Rhodes is being squeezed for the cash to bail out the degenerate gambler, but can even Trees crack a case that revolves around a bird as a key witness?
Entertainment Value: Say what you want about Find the Blackmailer, but any movie that involves a frame up centered on a bird is a winner in my book. This movie has a strange narrative that is even weirder than the whole bird premise suggests, so even if it isn’t great, it is never dull. This is in no small part thanks to a brisk pace and a short run time, which clocks in at under an hour. So with a convoluted narrative, an abundance of twists, and breakneck speed, Find the Blackmailer is able to hold your attention, even if it doesn’t leave much of a lastin impression. The story kicks off on an odd note, then spirals into a chaotic mess of surprises and strange decisions, all soaked in dialed up takes on the usual detective movie tropes. The latter ensures that between the more absurd touches, the movie remains familiar and to fans of the genre, at least covers the basics, even if it is sometimes in offbeat ways. I also appreciated the characters, most of which were passable, but some stand outs are here and a lot of sleazy folks pop up, including our own lead. Find the Blackmailer might not be a great movie, but it is a brisk, always interesting watch.
Jerome Cowan is our lead as Detective Trees, a character that’s always quick with a wisecrack and sports that classic mustache. He’s a humorous presence that relies on sleazy charm and quick wit, not exactly the most likable person on paper, but he makes the role work quite well. I also like how the movie didn’t push him as the typical tough guy private eye, letting him lean on his sharp verbal barbs and when called for, his trusty sidearm. But the movie is stolen lock, stock, and barrel by Faye Emerson, who gives us a fun, memorable femme fatale turn that proves to be the best part of Find the Blackmailer. She makes the most of the material and really gets blood from a stone at times, just a terrific effort. Marjorie Hoshelle is also a lot of fun as Cowan’s right hand woman, stealing a few scenes herself. The cast also includes Gene Lockhart, Robert Kent, and John Harmon.
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