Friday, May 16, 2014

A FEVER IN THE BLOOD

I watched A FEVER IN THE BLOOD (1961) for the first time last night. I had recorded it off of TCM and while I enjoyed the film, while I was watching I kept thinking  how many television actors appear in this film. Here's the lineup:

Efrem (THE F.B.I.) Zimbalist Jr., Angie (POLICE WOMAN) Dickinson, Jack (MAVERICK) Kelly, Robert (THE TIME TUNNEL) Colbert, Carol (ALL IN THE FAMILY) O'Connor, Parley (Mayor Stoner on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) Baer and Jesse (the Maytag repairman) White are all in this film.

The story is a mash-up of two film genres: the courtroom and political dramas. Zimbalist stars as a judge presiding over a sensational murder trial. Jack Kelly is the district attorney prosecuting the case. The defendant is the nephew of a former governor and he's accused of murdering his wife. The audience knows he's innocent because we see the murder take place in the opening scene of the film. The real killer is Robert Colbert. But much hinges on the outcome of the trial because both Zimbalist and Kelly have political ambitions outside of the courtroom. They both want to run for governor but so does U.S. Senator Don Ameche.

All three men clash during the course of the trial and it looks like an innocent man is about to be convicted, a verdict that will certainly add momentum to Kelly's candidacy as a vigorous prosecutor. Zimbalist is the one honest man in the whole affair and he still carries a torch for Ameche's wife, the lovely Angie Dickinson. Baer and White are flunkies for Kelly while O'Connor is a newspaper publisher backing Zimbalist.

Director Vincent Sherman keeps things moving at a steady pace and gives the film several nice moments. The presence of so many television actors and the back lot look of the film make A FEVER IN THE BLOOD feel like something that might have been made for television in the early '60s but several of the plot elements were far too raw and provocative for television in those days. Some consider this film a late noir or neo-noir but I must respectfully disagree with that assessment. It's a compelling and interesting film but I don't see any noir elements in the story. A FEVER IN THE BLOOD is a good, solid little movie that's worth seeing at least once.

1 comment:

  1. good review. small correction: Parley Baer portrayed Mayor Roy Stoner, successor to Mayor Pike, played to comedic perfection by Dick Elliot.

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