New York gambling house operator Johnny O'Clock is junior partner in a posh casino with Guido Marchettis and Chuck Blayden, a crooked cop. But Blayden is trying to cut into the casino's profits and warns Johnny not to interfere with his intention of becoming Marchettis' full partner. Blayden ends his relationship with coat check girl Harriet Hobson, then disappears. Later, Harriet is found dead in her apartment, apparently from suicide. Police Inspector Koch begins an investigation.He questions Johnny, Harriet's sister Nancy, who is infatuated with Johnny, and Johnny's associate, Charlie. When Blayden's body turns up in a nearby river, and when it is learned that Harriet death wasn't suicide but murder by poison, Johnny and Marchettis become prime suspects in both cases.To make matters worse, Pete Marchettis discovers that his wife Nelle is having an affair with Johnny. Out of jealousy, he sends hired gunmen to kill Johnny in a drive-by shooting while Johnny is driving Nancy to the ...Written by
One gets the impression from watching JOHNNY O'CLOCK that the whole idea of the film is to give DICK POWELL a tough screen presence--the kind that suited Alan Ladd in his early films. He's a cool man surrounded by a bunch of surly characters out to get him. He's good with a punch and a punch line, but all the while he leaves you feeling this story is too slow-paced and a bit rambling to become a tight thriller such as MURDER, MY SWEET.
Everyone in the cast does their job nimbly, with LEE J. COBB chewing away at this cigar to make sure he steals every other scene, and ELLEN DREW and EVELYN KEYES doing well in contrasting femme leads. The sets have a noir look with excellent B&W photography, but the trouble is the script which is not compelling enough to draw a viewer into the story about a murdered hatcheck girl (NINA FOCH) and the search for her killer.
All the elements of film noir are there but Robert Rossen's direction cannot tie them together with a tight enough grip. Nevertheless, worth a watch if you're a fan of this genre.
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