Movie Critique - Destination Murder

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: Mostly consisting of second-lead actors who become main leads in this low-budget B film noir gives several unlikely situations spinning the viewers head in every which way, stretching the plot in all angles, making it a very strange and odd film noir.

Destination Murder is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Edward L. Cahn, produced by Cahn and Maurie M. Suess. The film has Joyce MacKenzie, Stanley Clements, Albert Dekker, Myrna Dell and Hurd Hatfield in the lead among other cast. Story and Screenplay was written by Don Martin. 

When Jackie Wales (portrayed by Stanley Clements) murders her father and escapes the rap, Laura Mansfield (portrayed by Joyce Mackenzie) takes matters into her own hands to capture Jackie. However her chase leads her into the underbelly of night clubs, plethora of suspects and a trouble of falling in love.

Joyce MacKenzie has top billing in the film. Although I saw her recently in the 1951 American film noir The Racket as Mary McQuigg, wife of Captain Thomas McQuigg portrayed by Robert Mitchum, I failed to remember her face. She played a coed home from college in the film but she looked much older than her role. 

Her character Laura Mansfield, plays an amateur detective like Nancy Drew or Miss Hildegarde Withers, going undercover. She could be a twin to Barbara Hale, Perry Mason's Della Street. But she goes beyond the limits of any of these amateur detectives go. Joyce's Laura was like Philip Marlowe where every girl in the plot falls for him, only every guy in the plot falls for Laura. 

James Flavin plays Police Lieutenant Brewster who is assigned to find Laura's father's killer. However Laura's constant intrusion and to the extent she goes appalls him. He looks like another one of those cops who comes very late in the game after all the hard work is done by the amateur sleuths. 

Myrna Dell plays the part of Alice Wentworth, the femme fatale in love with Armitage (played by Albert Dekker), the man from the wrong side. She is a veteran star playing a blonde hard-biting scheming bimbo just as any film noir would have one. 

Stanley Clements portraying the part of Jackie Wales was actually famous for his role as "Stash" before moving on to Stanislaus "Duke" Coveleskie in The Bowery Boys film series. Seeing him as a tough kid in those to a rough gangster in this film must have been a surprise to the audience. 

And finally checkout Hurd Hatfield in the role of Stretch Norton. Another handsome bad guy role for him. But don’t you remember him from the 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray?. I fell in love with Hatfield in that movie. And 5 years later in this film he still oozes the same charm and captures you again even though he is on the wrong side of the track. 

This film has the same recipe that the Columbo TV Show, that started in 1968 and ended in 2003, used in every single episode of it, a good 18 years after this film was released. The viewers know who the killer is, what the motive is and also how the killing is done in the beginning of the film itself. Now it is up to the investigators, amateur and professional alike, to prove everything that the viewers already know. 

But that is where the similarity ends between both. The film is confusing, baffling the audience with so many disconnected pieces. I am sure Peter Falk and makers of Columbo have perfected the theme by the time they came along. And oh the overly used "Armitage" all through the film. 

Yet the film keeps you engaged, makes you move to the edge of the seat wondering what the next twist would be, even though you know whatever is coming at you is really absurd and unbelievable or disconnected totally with the thread of the plot preceding it.

Overall not a single character is truthful in their entirety and it spins the viewers head to catch up with so many double crosses, triple crosses, illogical, but pure fun in the end. Incidentally the player piano plays a key role from finish to the end. 

Listen to Steve Gibson playing in the night club with his band Steve Gibson's Redcaps. They perform two songs in the movie - Let's Go to a Party written by James Springs and Steve Gibson; Palace of Stone written by James Springs.

The open credits roll out on a scene where someone is putting a gun inside a car's glove compartment, leaving a cap and coat on the passenger seat. Then they follow into the city lights, followed by someone underlining the time on a chart 

The film was originally made independently by Edward L. Cahn but RKO films bought it from him two months after the shooting was finished. A B film that confused the heck out of the audience. 

Mostly consisting of second-lead actors who become main leads in this low-budget B film noir gives several unlikely situations spinning the viewers head in every which way, stretching the plot in all angles, making it a very strange and odd film noir. Watchable on those days when you have nothing else to watch. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The theater in which the opening scene is shown was the famous Marcal Theatre which was first opened in 1925, and went on to become a World Theatre at some point, before closing in 1986. It is now being used as a night club called Academy after going through a bunch of renovations.

b. Note that the marquee on the theatre shows them running a revival double bill of 1942 Flight Lieutenant and 1943 Corregidor. And Flight Lieutenant is the clip that viewers see on the screen in the opening scene.

c. Other posters outside the theatre include of the 1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1948 Germany Year Zero and 1949 The Hidden Room.

d. One of the scene where the police lieutenant Brewster explains to Laura how the police line up works is very much similar to the introduction we hear in the old time radio show The Lineup which aired on CBS radio from 1950 to 1953. 

e. Look for a familiar film noir fixture Albert Dekker in the role of Armitage in the film.  

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Armitage asks Stretch to turn on the player piano to play music loud right before he starts beating Jackie. However in the next shot when Alice is shown we can hear the music but the piano keys aren't moving. 

b. The position of Laura's cigarette tray changes positions when shown from a long shot vs a reflection in the mirror with Alice. 

c. In the long shot shown from top of Jackie's apartment window, Jackie parks his car beside a parking meter within the car park defined by painted lines. But when the scene shifts to the close-up of car, there are no parking meters or painted car park or the sidewalk. Instead the car is in front of a building with double doors. 

d. When Alice is in Stretch's apartment, we can hear the player piano playing in the next room. However a few scenes later when Armitage and Stretch are discussing business in Stretch's apartment Armitage suggests to bring the player piano from the night club to Stretch's apartment. No where does Stretch mention that he already has one in his home nor they acknowledge that they are talking about a second player piano. 


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