Cast & Crew
In Washington, Tom Kayler, an investigator with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is assigned to go to Los Angeles to discover who is illegally supplying the drug amphetamine to long-distance truck drivers, who use it to help them stay awake at the wheel. Overuse of the drug, known in pill form as "bennys," induces hallucinations that have resulted in several fatal accidents. In Los Angeles, Tom poses as a student truck driver and moves into a boardinghouse run by Val Owens, the young widow of one of the dead drivers. When Tom meets hipster Mink Reynolds, a fellow roomer who works for Bodmer Freight Lines, the company that has hired Tom, Tom observes that Mink is obviously under the influence of some form of stimulant. The next day, Tom is assigned to go with old-timer Wally on a run to Portland, Oregon. While still in California, Wally makes a routine stop at Dunc Clayton's service station, then continues the journey. As they drive, Wally warns Tom about "bennys" and tells him how they have just caused another trucker's fatal collapse. After Tom says that he thought the pills were only available by prescription, Wally tells him that they are very easy to obtain and although he admits to using them, Wally says that he intends to find out who is behind their supply and put them out of business. Later, at the Six Points truck stop café, Tom and Wally encounter Mink, who is "higher" than before, and tells Tom that waitress Amy Phillips can supply him with bennys, although she later denies it. Between trips, Tom returns to the boardinghouse and meets Val's old friend Steve Hummell, who is visiting her. Tom and Wally are on another run when Wally stops at the same café and gets out of the truck while Tom sleeps. Wally is then beaten to death by two thugs who have been following the truck. Later, when Tom and Val return from Wally's funeral, Val asks Tom to keep her company and a romance develops betweeen them. Tom is next assigned to drive with Mink, and when they stop at the café, Tom tells Amy that he suspects that she may have been involved in Wally's death as he was trying to expose the benny suppliers. Amy, who is also addicted to the drugs, promises to tell Tom the name of her supplier on his return trip. However, when Tom returns, the café owner tells him that Amy left suddenly. Although Val and Tom continue their involvement, Hummell proves to be a frequent, puzzling visitor. Tom is alarmed when, one day, Mink shows up at work after a night of partying, and insists upon driving while swallowing several bennys. After nearly having several accidents on the highway, they arrive at the café, where Tom is handed a letter from Amy, in which she names her supplier as a "Mr. Brown" who works with a prominent pharmaceutical company. When the café owner's wife refuses to dance him, Mink goes berserk then later falls asleep in the cab when Tom and he drive off. After Mink wakes up, hallucinating, and tries to stab Tom, they struggle for control of the truck until Tom overpowers him. Tom then takes Mink to a local hospital where Mink recovers, but remembers nothing of the past few hours. After a repentant Mink tells Tom that Dunc is his supplier, Tom sets a plan in motion to entrap Dunc. One day, Val, curious about Tom's background, enters his room and goes through his papers, discovering Amy's letter and Tom's real profession. Later, Tom is surprised when confronted by Val, Hummell, Dunc and a gun man. After Tom accuses Hummell of being "Mr. Brown" and Val of being his accomplice, the men then take Tom to a remote area, intending to kill and bury him there. When Tom convinces Dunc that Hummell will probably also kill him, as he knows too much, Dunc assists Tom in overpowering the other two and, after shooting Hummell, Dunc surrenders to Tom. When Tom returns to the boardinghouse, Val tries to persuade him that they can still be together, but Tom resists her appeals and tells her he intends to turn her in. Val attacks Tom then runs out of the room into the arms of two police officers.
Robert B. Williams
Fred E. Sherman
Robert Wiley Miller
Allen K. Wood
Death in Small Doses (1957) - Death in Small Doses
John McGreevey's screenplay for Death in Small Doses was based on an article of the same name by Arthur L. Davis that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on January 21st, 1956. The film opens with a pre-credits sequence of a truck driver speeding along a hilltop road at night, popping pills with one hand and steering with the other. He hallucinates a pair of oncoming headlights that are not there in reality, swerves to "avoid" them and plummets into a ravine in a fiery crash. A disclaimer following the credits is apparently geared to appease pharmaceutical companies ("nothing in this picture is intended to minimize the importance of the drug 'Amphetamine' when properly used under a doctor's prescription...")
Synopsis: Stately music accompanies the Washington D.C. office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where chief inspector Frank Ainsley (Robert Shayne) is briefing FDA investigator Tom Kaylor (Peter Graves). In the aftermath of several deadly truck crashes, the Interstate Commerce Commission has called on the FDA to curb the proliferation of bootleg "bennies" among the truckers. Ainsley sends Kaylor and five other agents to different locales to uncover the source of the pills, which he explains are "as easy to buy as cigarettes or chewing gum." Tom goes to Los Angeles to pose as a student driver and checks into a rooming house for truckers run by Val Owens (Mala Powers), herself the widow of a dead trucker. A fellow roomer down the hall is Mink Reynolds (Chuck Connors) who is clearly hopped-up on Bennies. Mink shows Tom the ropes, which includes easy access to "co-pilots." During his first day on the job, Kaylor witnesses an old-timer who has been sidelined to the loading dock experience a psychotic episode and collapse dead of a heart attack. Mink, who never seems to sleep, later introduces Tom to truck stop waitress Amy Phillips (Merry Anders), who is also a supplier of pills. Another trucker - Wally Morse (Roy Engel) - is beaten to death by thugs after trying to give information about the drug network to Kaylor. Over time, Tom develops a romance with Val while continuing his risky investigation of Amy and her contacts within the drug ring.
By 1957, actor Peter Graves had been in films for six years and had carved an interesting career for himself, appearing in key supporting roles in a few important, prestigious pictures while at the same time landing leading man roles in low-budget science-fiction films and crime melodramas. Among the actor's early supporting parts is the prickly Sgt. Price in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17 (1953) and the prison inmate who gets the plot moving in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955). While appearing in these key 1950s titles, Graves was also saving the world as the stalwart leading man of such sci-fi pictures as Red Planet Mars (1952), Killers from Space (1954), It Conquered the World (1956) and Beginning of the End (1957); films that are still fondly remembered decades later.
The future leader of the IMF (as in "Impossible Missions Force" of the TV series Mission: Impossible, which aired from 1966 to 1973) may be efficient and entertaining in Death in Small Doses, but it is fellow future TV star Chuck Connors (The Rifleman, 1958-1963) who barrels through the movie in lid-popping, breakneck fashion. The script makes an unusual demand on the actor - Connors' Mink spends the entire film hopped-up on Bennies, and he has a lot of screen time playing this one-note hipster. The casting was clever; one gets the feeling that Mink was devouring enough amphetamine pills to kill a normal man, but Connors was a very imposing 6-and-a-half foot tall athlete (he had played both baseball and basketball as a professional) capable of absorbing the speed. Mink is constantly "turned up to 11" spouting lines like "Zombies! They spend their crummy lives in the sack - I ask you, what's so great about sleep?" He is a terror on the road, parties all night and shows up for work at the trucking company in the morning in a convertible, two girls draped around his stylish Hawaiian shirt. Once seen, Mink is not easily forgotten.
Watching likeable actors like Graves and Connors trade lines and inhabit scenes in otherwise predictable programmers like Death in Small Doses is what film buffs count on when taking a chance with such low-budget fare. It is also often the small moments that provide the greatest joy. For example, in one throwaway shot Graves is following Connors to his convertible; as Connors/Mink exuberantly hops from the curb straight into the front seat, we see Graves/Tom hesitate behind him at the curb, his body language showing that he is pondering for a moment the possibility of throwing out his stiff G-Man persona just long enough to hop in too. Staying true to character, he casually opens the door instead.
Producer: Richard V. Heermance
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Screenplay: Arthur L. Davis (article); John McGreevey
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Music: Robert Wiley Miller, Emil Newman
Film Editing: William Austin
Cast: Peter Graves (Agent/Tom Kaylor), Mala Powers (Valerie 'Val' Owens), Chuck Connors (Mink Reynolds), Robert Williams ('Dunc' Clayton), Roy Engel (Wally Morse), Merry Anders (Amy 'Miss Diesel of 1958' Phillips), Harry Lauter (Steve Hummell/Mr. Brown)
by John M. Miller
Death in Small Doses (1957) - Death in Small Doses
The opening titles include the following written statement: "Nothing in this picture is intended to minimize the importance of the drug 'Amphetamine' when properly used under a doctor's prescription. However, as with any drug, when taken to excess, the results can be disastrous." According to a April 1, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, actor Tom Lockwood was to make his debut in Death in Small Doses, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.