Good production values and a solid performance by Stewart lift this overlong film out of the doldrums, although it is essentially an FBI propaganda film, extolling the virtues of one man, the despotic J. Edgar Hoover, through the heroic actions of his underlings. The film opens with
Stewart slaving away in a backwater bureau office in 1924. (It was then known as the Bureau of Investigation, was poorly organized, and run haphazardly by one-time private eye, William J. Burns.) His wife, Miles, wants Stewart to quit his job and become a lawyer so they can better themselves.
Stewart goes to Washington, DC, to resign, but, upon meeting the new chief, Hoover, and being inspired by his plans for a modern FBI, he decides to stay with the organization. While he and Miles produce children and move from one bureau to another, Stewart battles the forces of evil in episodic
segments, first taking on the sinister Ku Klux Klan in the South during the late 1920s, then solving a brutal murder of an Osage Indian by sharpers bilking oil rights during the oil boom in Oklahoma. All of the infamous gangsters of the early 1930s--Ma Barker and her sons, Baby Face Nelson (who
shoots Stewart's partner, Hamilton), and John Dillinger--are paraded before the viewer in brief shootouts. Stewart next deals with Nazi agents during WW II and then Communist spies during the Cold War period, while struggling to maintain his family. At one point Miles leaves him but returns,
realizing that he is dedicated to his work. It's a good portrait of the kind of unsung agent who did the dirty work for Hoover, and there were many of these truly heroic men. LeRoy, an old hand at crime-and-cops films (I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG, 1932), does a creditable job rehashing
familiar territory, and Steiner's score is top notch. A tableau of old myths worth watching if only for the visual rewards.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Good production values and a solid performance by Stewart lift this overlong film out of the doldrums, although it is essentially an FBI propaganda film, extolling the virtues of one man, the despotic J. Edgar Hoover, through the heroic actions of his unde… (more)