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Naked Alibi
Noir, Favorite

1954 | 4:3 | BLACK & WHITE | Quality: Excellent

Sterling Hayden

Gene Barry

Gloria Grahame


Joe Conroy (Sterling Hayden) is a tough, hard-boiled Police Chief whose entire department is under investigation for police brutality. "Respected community man" Al Willis (Gene Barry) winds up being arrested for drunkenness and attacks the arresting officers, leading him to get roughed up. Willis swears revenge and the group of policemen wind up murdered. Enraged, Conroy busts in on Willis at work and demands that he confess, but a reporter happens to be on the scene and the publicity gets Conroy fired. Despite being stripped of his badge, Conroy is sure he's got the right man and continues to put the screws to Willis - eventually driving the "model citizen" from town to Border City, where he's living a double life as a hoodlum with bar-singer mistress Marianna (Gloria Grahame) - whom he treats abusively. Conroy tails Willis to Border City in Mexico, where he recruits Marianna to his scheme to bring Willis to justice. A climactic cat-and-mouse game ensues, leading to a blazing rooftop shootout.

Although there are some implausible plot elements, this is a pretty good noir anchored by stellar performances from Sterling Hayden (in a part quite similar to his role in CRIME WAVE, from the same year) and the great Gloria Grahame (whose character is rather suspiciously close to her part in THE BIG HEAT, from the previous year). Gene Barry is very good too, although I can't say much about him without spoiling things. The film takes an unpredictable second act twist, at least it was far different from what I was expecting. Grahame's entrance is strange -- she looks a bit awkward doing the nightclub singer shtick, but perhaps it suits her character to be uncomfortable in that position. The story is paced very well and has some brutal scenes, fine cinematography and generally good dialogue. Maybe not one of the greats, but definitely worth checking out, especially for Grahame fans.

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