Cast & Crew
Edward L. Cahn
During a five-minute intermission between shows, Jackie Wales slips away from his date at a Los Angeles movie theater and climbs into a waiting car. As he rides with a man named Armitage to a nearby house, Jackie changes into a messenger boy outfit, then shoots and kills well-to-do businessman Arthur Mansfield as he stands in his doorway. Jackie's sprint back to the car is witnessed by Mansfield's daughter Laura, who later picks Jackie out of a police lineup. Although Laura is unable to positively identify Jackie, she complains when police lieutenant Brewster releases him. Convinced that Brewster is not doing enough to find her father's killer, Laura undertakes to investigate Jackie herself. After striking up a friendly conversation with Jackie outside the police station, Laura accepts a ride home with him. She then watches him hurdle over her front gate as he did after shooting her father and feels sure that he is the killer. Laura telephones Brewster with her deduction, but to her annoyance, the lieutenant downplays its significance. Continuing her investigation, Laura begins to date the unsuspecting Jackie, who lavishly spends all of his ill-gotten money on her. When Jackie's $1,500 casino debt comes due, he goes to the Vogue nightclub to "call in" a favor from Armitage. While Laura waits outside for him, Jackie demands $2,000 from Armitage, the club's brutish owner. Armitage, however, refuses to be blackmailed and, while club manager Stretch Norton turns up the volume on a player-piano, beats Jackie with a belt. Suspecting that Armitage is involved with her father's murder, Laura returns to the club the next day and, calling herself Laura Ashton, asks Stretch for a job. Stretch is attracted to Laura and hires her as a cigarette girl, to the dismay of Alice Wentworth, Armitage's inconstant, ambitious girl friend. Stretch then suggests to Armitage that they kill the interloping Jackie, making his death look like a suicide and implicating him as an accomplice of Frank Niles, Mansfield's business rival, who has been arrested for his murder. Before Armitage can carry out the plan, however, Alice goes to Jackie and convinces him to write a confessional letter to use as leverage against Armitage. In exchange for keeping the letter safe, Alice is to receive fifty percent of Jackie's blackmail money. As directed by Alice, Jackie returns to the Vogue and informs Armitage about his confession. After Armitage pays Jackie $5,000, Stretch suggests that Alice seduce the messenger and retrieve his confession. Later, Alice sees Jackie with Laura, and when Jackie, who knows nothing about Laura's job at the Vogue, brags that he is dating his victim's daughter, Alice deduces Laura's true intentions. Alice then meets Stretch at his apartment, handing him Jackie's letter and suggesting that they enter into their own blackmail scheme. After Stretch burns Jackie's confession, however, Armitage suddenly appears and murders Alice as the player-piano is running. Later, Brewster tells Laura that Jackie, whom the police had been following, was found dead, an apparent suicide victim. Brewster also reveals his suspicions about Armitage, but tries to discourage Laura from pursuing him on her own. Ignoring Brewster's advice, Laura begins dating Stretch to get to Armitage, unaware that the thug is only a front for Stretch, the real owner of the Vogue. Soon, however, Laura finds herself falling in love with Stretch and, after he proposes marriage, reveals her identity and asks him to help bring Armitage to justice. Anxious to please Laura, Stretch decides to implicate Armitage in Mansfield's murder by writing his own version of Jackie's confession and then killing him. While Laura waits in an adjoining room, Stretch pretends that he is being shot by Armitage and then allows a terrified Laura to shoot the drugged, half-conscious thug in apparent self-defense. Later, Brewster tells Laura that Stretch is now under suspicion and asks her and Niles, whom they have released from jail, to help resolve the matter. Following Brewster's directions, a gun-wielding Niles goes to Stretch and announces that he is "taking over" Armitage's territory. Unaware that the police have placed listening devices in his office, Stretch tells Niles that he is the true boss and offers to become his partner. Laura then enters the office, revealing that their conversation is being recorded. Desperate, Stretch grabs Niles's gun and tries to take Laura hostage, but is soon gunned down by the police. Later, Laura apologizes to Brewster for doubting the police and is commended for her bravery.
Edward L. Cahn
Steve Gibson's Redcaps
Edward L. Cahn
Maria O. Donovan
Garry A. Harris
Jackson J. Rose
Maurie M. Suess
The plot machinations and character motivations of Destination Murder are about as murky and complex as they come. Small-time punk Jackie Wales (Stanley Clements) is at the movies with his date when he ducks out between features for a cigarette. This is a cover, because he hops in a car driven by hoodlum club owner Armitage (Albert Dekker), changes into a Blue Streak Messenger uniform, then shoots businessman Arthur Mansfield (Franklyn Farnum) as he answers his front door. The criminals were not aware that Mansfield's daughter Laura (Joyce MacKenzie) fleetingly saw Jackie hop the fence and leave in the getaway car. Laura strikes up a false romance with Jackie to confirm her suspicions about him. She also gets a job as a cigarette girl to infiltrate Armitage's club; here she runs into smooth-talking Stretch Norton (Hurd Hatfield), manager of the club and right-hand man to Armitage, as well as moll Alice Wentworth (Myrna Dell), who is cooking up a separate extortion plot with Jackie. Laura leaves herself open to being discovered, and like most viewers, she does not foresee some of the plot twists to come.
Destination Murder can be termed a Film Noir by virtue of its labyrinth plot, its roster of colorful and somewhat perverse characters, and by a cynical sense that such actions displayed by low-lifes Armitage, Norton and Jackie are the norm. Director Cahn makes little attempt to bring any visual Noir elements into play; most of the film takes place in broad daylight and well-lit sets; the lighting, camera set-ups, and editing are all fairly routine.
A great attraction of Destination Murder is its cast of well-recognized character actors in featured roles. Stanley Clements was a one-time member of the East Side Kids (as "Stash") and a future member of the Bowery Boys (as "Duke," a replacement for Leo Gorcey), when he was given one of the meatiest roles of his career in the film; he is suitably quirky and menacing as the non-comedic punk Jackie. Albert Dekker had been a colorful character actor for years, perhaps best known for the title role in the horror adventure Dr. Cyclops (1940). His single-named club owner in this film, Armitage, is also a quirky fellow. As Robert Porfirio writes in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, Dekker's thug "...takes on new and unusual ambiguities...not only does Armitage like good music, own an exquisitely decorated mansion filled with works of art, but he is capable of brutal acts only when accompanied by Tchaikovsky on the player piano. That Armitage refers to himself in the third person indicates that 'Armitage' is merely a persona, a creation perhaps of Stretch Norton's..." Stretch is played by Hurd Hatfield, here very different from the colorless title character he portrayed six years earlier in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). Stretch and Armitage represent one of the oddest mobster duos in movie history. As Porfirio writes, "there are hints of both the exotic and the homosexual. Unfortunately, these implications are left undeveloped by a convoluted and often meaningless plot."
Edward L. Cahn began as an editor in the late 1920s, cutting such prestigious films as The Man Who Laughs (1928). In the mid 1930s he was signed as a shorts director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. For the next decade Cahn turned out several in the Crime Does Not Pay and Passing Parade series, and most notably, many of the post-Hal Roach Our Gang shorts. Switching to features he specialized in low-budget crime and mystery dramas, quickly descending from MGM to various "poverty row" and independent studios.
In the mid-to-late 1950s Cahn landed at American International Pictures and other studios which specialized in drive-in fare. He directed dozens of movies during this period including "bad girl" pictures like Runaway Daughters (1956), Girls in Prison (1956), and Dragstrip Girl (1957); he was also responsible for many fondly-remembered horror and sci-fi films, such as The She-Creature (1956), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958).
Producer: Edward L. Cahn, Maurie M. Suess
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Screenplay: Don Martin
Cinematography: Jackson J. Rose
Film Editing: Philip Cahn
Music: Irving Gertz
Art Direction: Boris Leven
Set Decoration: Jacques Mapes
Cast: Joyce MacKenzie (Laura Mansfield), Stanley Clements (Jackie Wales), Hurd Hatfield (Stretch Norton), Albert Dekker (Armitage), Myrna Dell (Alice Wentworth), James Flavin (Police Lt. Brewster), John Dehner (Frank Niles).
by John M. Miller
In this 1950 movie, a behind-the-times movie theater is showing Flight Lieutenant (1942) and Corregidor (1943). Posters seen outside the theater include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and _Germany Year Zero (1947)_ .
RKO purchased this film from Prominent Pictures two months after it was completed.