On the surface, it's just another B-criminal picture about one gambling king, Joe Hilton, mooching in on the territory of another, Oney Kessel. What gives Below the Deadline an interesting twist, though, is that Joe is a World War II vet who happily inherited the underworld job after the murder of his brother Jeffrey.
In a time when post-war movies portrayed vets as world-class heroes who, at worst, had a little trouble adjusting to civilian life, Below the Deadline must have been unique. From the moment we meet Joe, we know he's trouble. Having lost his soul somewhere on the Philippines' battlefields, he's returned with a redwood-sized chip on his shoulder and an itch for violence. One of those vets who hates civilians, Joe has no empathy for anybody's death outside a war zone.
|"So your hat's still on, eh? Well,|
Joe's Jewish bookkeeper Pinky looks on approvingly, telling the others, "That's m' boy!", a catchphrase repeated throughout the movie. (Character actor John Harmon plays Pinky with an a naturalness that turns up in old B-movies from time to time. He's so good, so real that it's almost discombobulating -- how the hell did he get in this picture?)
|Apparently her high school|
Nor can Joe be reformed by his former CO, Sam Austin, who tries convincing him into going in on a private air transportation business. But something good finally takes hold, when Joe donates some serious scratch to an anti-gambling
|Lynn is impressed at Joe's ability to|
get shot in the stomach and still not bleed.
Joe's rival Oney takes this personally, leading to a climatic shootout at Sam's office. (Guys, can't you take this outside? I'm trying to run an airline here!) Oney goes to the slammer, while Joe leaves the craps tables behind, taking a job with Sam and reuniting with Lynn. How he managed to avoid prison time for his illegal activities is left unexplained.
|William Beaudine, in a rare|
moment not yelling, "Cut! Print!"
I'm no fan of remakes, but Below the Deadline is just waiting for an update: An Iraq war vet comes home to take over his brother's drug ring and wipe out his rival once and for all. His on-the-level girlfriend wants him to go straight. His army buddy tries to get him to join him in a software business. Climactic shootout in the giant offices of the software company. Comedy relief from the Jewish bookkeeper.
There, Hollywood, I've given it to you. Just change the title.