The Las Vegas Story, 1952. 6/10

Victor Mature, Jane Russell, and Vincent Price star in this semi-noir crime drama. Price and Russell are the Rollins’s, Lloyd and Linda. Mature is Lt. Dave Andrews, a former flame of Linda’s. Hoagy Carmichael provides some hip tunes as Happy, Mature is backed up by Jay C. Flippen as Capt. Harris, Brad Dexter is insurance investigator Tom Hubler, and Mr. Drucker is played by Gordon Oliver.

At the casino where she used to work as a singer, Lloyd runs up a bit of a debt. Things snowball from there, involving Linda’s missing necklace, the casino owner, Clayton (Robert Wilkie), who ends up dead, and Linda, who’s taken hostage. Tom investigates the jewel theft, Dave zeroes in on the murder deal.

Happy starts with a narrative over a panorama of Vegas; then, a focus on Linda and Dave. When the happy newlyweds get into town, Tom sees them, and alights as well. Then Dave shows up at their hotel; tipped off by a cabbie who recognizes Linda, he goes in to the casino.

After some small talk with Drucker, he goes off to bust some underage marriage hopefuls. Already getting into it with Lloyd, Linda says “you roll your dice and I’ll roll mine.” Back at her old club, she spies Dave, who is reminiscing about her days there.

She checks in with Happy and Mike. Clayton butts in; ordering Mike (Will Fogarty) around. That guy was shoved under the rug when Clayton took over the joint. Anyway, with Happy playing the piano, Linda sings a bit. Dave comes trolling by; they sit down together, and argue. Strangely, she butters him up, and he disdains her.

Lloyd finds that Linda wants to get away from Vegas; he’s seemingly oblivious of her dilemma, and disagrees. Next day, Tom bugs her at the pool. They got a call from back East; apparently an “associate” of Lloyd’s has died, mysteriously. Drucker basically wants to kick Lloyd out for his unsavory connections. He won’t even take the $150k necklace as collateral on $10k credit. Linda reinforces the fact that they should make themselves scarce.

Even Tom is bugging them. Now here comes Clayton. Time for Linda to sing; the ‘Monkey Song’ must’ve been popular, but sounds awful to me. When that’s over, she learns that her necklace is missing. Now it seems Lloyd did get his $10k stake covered by the necklace. It’s obvious by now that the thing is stolen.

I’m going to skip over the underage couple subplot. Anyway, Dave manages to scoop up Linda, and take her back to his pad. Now they’re buddies, err, make-out buddies. Back at the casino, Lloyd’s trying to weasle more dough out of Clayton, but (literally) no dice. More gratuitous slamming of Mike.

At Dave’s, things chill between the reunited lovers. He leaves. When he gets back to the station he finds out that Clayton’s dead. Mike looks like the obvious suspect; but, wisely, he fingers Lloyd. Happy says the same, but, in the process, he might’ve made himself a suspect too. Tom and Dave confer about the killing.

Tom, knowing about the re-kindling thing Dave had with Linda, uses that bit to fend off questions about why he was tailing Lloyd. The Captain has enough evidence to hold Lloyd. Linda is able to talk privately with him. She wants to stand for his bail, but then he brings up the fact that he’s onto quick-moves Dave. Then it’s Tom that puts the moves on her.

And a veiled threat. She was seen exiting the club about the time of Clayton’s death. Dave hears some interesting stuff from the cabbie, which supports Tom’s suspicions about her. Now Dave’s going through her belongings–so much for the romance. Next stop for Dave, the casino and Happy.

Now Happy clues him in about Tom, who thought he was baiting a trap by having Linda reenact the crime. Tom did the charade in a way that only the killer would think of. Anyway, Tom basically kidnaps her. I guess if he takes her, then she’s an ‘insurance policy’ of sorts.

Anyway, he ditches the rental car for a woodie wagon. Dave gives chase in a copter. Tom tries some evasive action, which is futile. But they end up on an abandoned airbase. Predictably, Tom parks it in a hangar. Now Dave, using Linda as cover, gets Dave to drop his gun.

Even worse, the pilot’s shot. Dave gets away, holing up in a building. Actually, the control tower, where Dave, with incredible luck, and about ready to fall to injury, if not death, Tom walks directly under him. Great stunt work as Dave manages to drop on our bad guy. Dave gets the gun and blasts him.

But that’s not exactly the end. The sheriff wants to spring Lloyd, but, with perfect acuity, Dave manages to show that Lloyd’s wanted back East. Embezzlement. Incredibly, Linda just melts under his wing, and is going to stick around, and get her old job back.

Well, that makes sense practically speaking, as it’s more of a career than a prison-hanger-on. It’s just way too neat. We weren’t even spared the gee-whiz, we-got-dad’s-permission-to-marry young couple nosing in. At least it finally ends.

With a promising premise, a great setting, and an excellent cast, I was expecting this to be a bit more entertaining. The breezy beginning and the exciting denouement bookended a rather turgid mash-up in the middle.

Actually, the murder mystery is pretty good; there’s four suspects, each with about equally weighty motives. Tom’s unintentional ‘tell’ is clever Perry Mason stuff. But the suspense doesn’t last long enough to maintain our interest.

In addition to the slowly paced plot, and the silly junior edition subplot, the major problem is Price. He’s completely overshadowed by Russell and Mature. That’s surprising; playing a weak-willed character, as he sometimes does, shouldn’t make his performance weak. There’s little of that charming greasy gusto he’s usually so good at.

The weirdest bit was a steak dinner wager between Dave and the sheriff over the Linda’s fate. Is a guy who, at the very least, has some feelings for his ex, going to gamble that she’s dead or alive? In a light-hearted mystery, ok. But not in what’s essentially a crime-drama.

Interesting here and there, but disappointing overall. 6/10.

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