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Murder Is My Beat (DVD Review)

11 Feb, 2013 By: Mike Clark

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
$18.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Paul Langton, Barbara Payton, Robert Shayne.

Having previously immortalized bad-boy actor Tom Neal on screen in the skuzziest ‘B’-movie ever to have (deservedly) been added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry — 1945’s Detour — it was certainly not un-poetic that cult director Edgar G. Ulmer’s legacy can also claim the final movie to feature bad-girl Barbara Payton, whose volatile real-life romance with Neal didn’t even constitute the final-word tabloid chapters that eventually saw a) Neal imprisoned for the murder of his wife; and b) Payton descending into prostitution in a severely downward life trajectory.

Beat’s male lead is Paul Langton — later of TV’s “Peyton Place” but seen here just one year after starring in The Snow Creature, a cheapie directed by W. Lee Wilder (Billy’s boat-missing brother of little talent) and a movie often designated by my father as the worst he had ever seen. And speaking of cheap, the early scenes of this fast-fader do have the kind of lurid-paperback feel that only a lack of production money can buy — a case of Ulmer stealing location footage of likely remembered-by-some onetime L.A. street spots (a trait Murder shares up to a minor point with the same year’s Kiss Me Deadly, which, of course, did have a budget of sorts).

Cop Langton is in pursuit of chanteuse Payton (though we never hear her sing) for a rather grisly homicide — until her demeanor (or more likely, platinum blonde hair) so convinces him she might be innocent that the lawman jeopardizes his career by going on the run with her. There’s an initial meet-up scene both amazing and amusing where Langton walks three or four miles through a mountain blizzard sans any kind of luggage to spend an innocent night with Payton in a cabin, stretching himself out on the couch sans toothbrush with coat and tie in place (feeling rather gamey, Paul?) while she and her retires to the room that doesn’t have the fireplace. Payton, not that terrible an actress despite once having the title role in Bride of the Gorilla, really does exude “end of the line” here, though this quickie’s tawdry real-deal has to be actress Tracy Roberts as her trashier roommate. Roberts, who looks good in a saloon dive, never really made it in the movies — the kind of actress who got roles like “The Redhead” in Frank Tashlin’s Hollywood or Bust. But she did become a respected acting teacher, though how many pointers she picked up from this one is a matter of conjecture.

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