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Escape from Crime

Escape from Crime(1942)

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teaser Escape from Crime (1942)

Though Jack Warner had decreed in 1941 that Warner Brothers would no longer be in the business of producing "B" films, low budget programmers continued to roll off the studio's well-oiled assembly line, many of them reusing old scripts and miles of stock footage. On paper, Escape from Crime (1942) was little more than a reboot of Lloyd Bacon's James Cagney vehicle Picture Snatcher (1933) but in the hands of director D. Ross Lederman the result is something more than a rerun. Utilizing the same Daniel Ahern logline - a parolee attempts to go straight while working as a crime photographer, only to have his illicit past fold back on him - Lederman and screenwriter Raymond L. Schrock torque the material in unique ways. While Cagney was a bachelor, Escape from Crime's hero Richard Travis is a family man (albeit one who plots to murder his presumed unfaithful wife, only to undergo a change of heart when he sees her nursing a red-headed infant that could only be his) who gets his big break in journalism by sneaking a camera into the electrocution of his best pal (a setpiece inspired, as was its counterpart in the Cagney film, on the 1928 execution of convicted murderess Ruth Snyder). Noteworthy in the supporting cast is William Hopper, later a star of the long-running Perry Mason TV series, and Jackie Gleason, at the time a struggling 25 year-old nightclub comic who supplemented his meager income with occasional bits for Warners.

By Richard Harland Smith

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