Loosely based on James M. Cain's novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit, this fascinating low-budget film noir stars Payne as a small-time hoodlum who works for crime kingpin de Corsia. The latter's criminal empire is threatened when a law-and-order candidate decides to run for mayor and it looks
as if he'll win. Seeking to short-circuit the candidate's campaign, de Corsia assigns Payne to begin smear tactics. Payne uncovers information regarding the candidate's redheaded secretary, Fleming, and her sister, Dahl, an immoral vixen who has served time in prison, who also happens to be a
redhead. Digging for more incriminating information, Payne begins to date Fleming. He soon falls in love with the secretary, and with a new-found sense of honor decides to work for the reform candidate by providing the information necessary to convict de Corsia. The information is turned over to a
newspaperman, causing the enraged de Corsia to kill the reporter. Faced with a long jail term, de Corsia flees the city vowing revenge on Payne. Payne takes over the mob, but his reign is plagued with confusion and self-doubt, especially since Fleming's sister Dahl is trying to seduce him.
Eventually de Corsia returns, determined to kill Payne. In an effort to stall de Corsia until the police arrive, Payne allows the deposed mob chieftain to shoot him several times. By the time the police show up Payne has sustained several wounds, but de Corsia is caught with the smoking gun in his
hand. De Corsia is captured and the badly wounded Payne is led off with Fleming and Dahl following behind. The film is unusual for its use of Technicolor in the traditionally black-and-white world of film noir, and veteran director Dwan, along with his cinematographer Alton, used the color to
advantage by creating a shadowy world accentuated by lurid colors. The visual effect is unsettling at times, proving that film noir can be just as effective in a colorful environment as it is in black and white. Kurt Neumann had originally contracted to direct the film, but Dwan brought in his
talented team of regulars (he'd helmed a string of westerns with the help of cinematographer Alton and art director Polglase), who proved to work as effectively in wide-screen color as they did in black-and-white.
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