The Devil's Sleep
Starring: Lita Grey Chaplin, John Mitchum, William Thomason
DIR: W. Merle Connell
Blurb: There is a terrible scourge running through the community in the form of pills being pushed to the youth through a local women's health club. A female judge, with the aid of a police detective, looks to crusade against this problem in the community and eliminate it. Unfortunately, the drug ring has some compromising photos of the judge's daughter they hope to use as an advantage against her.
My Blurb: So, the first thing I notice about this 50 Movie Pack choice is the wonderful presentation by Mill fking Creek, AGAIN. This is another one where absolutely no attempt at cleaning up the print was made. God only knows where they pulled this from... off the bottom somebody's shoe, possibly. I'll start by taking some aspirin; no effect on scoring, of course, but if you're thinking of checking this one out from the collection -- be prepared in advanced. SPOILERS are present in this review, of course. I can take no blame if any screen caps are filled with lines running through 'em.
Oh, also, this features the debut of George Eiferman, 'Mr. America of 1948' ... so there must be some gorgeous to come [He was very handsome, but I'm not personally attracted to the hugely buffed].
Scene 01: We open after a protracted credit sequence with a screen so dark, you can scarcely see anything. There is a policeman with whistle and flashlight, and at least two men who are fleeing him (this is filmed in real night, rather than Hollywood night and obviously the camera isn't built for it).
The policeman hauls out his gun and freely fires after one of the unarmed chasees, stopping long enough to awkwardly order the audience to stop. Our youth is caught.
Scene 02: A newspaper informs us that he was robbing a warehouse. Diana Prince is featured, where she's given up her Navy yeoman position to become a judge.
Scene 03: We join the judge, where she's speaking with an inspector. The inspector is complaining that the world's youth seemed to have lost their minds suddenly, as he's never seen so many juvenile deliquents getting into serious trouble at once (Hah! Wait 'til he gets to the 60's & 70's with all that marijihuanah).
Commentary: My very first impression is that Lita Chaplin is going to be extremely awkward to watch. Her line-reading is far too self-conscious. Oh, dear. Anyway, going in I'm not expecting much since the IMDB score is sitting at 3 stars out of 10.
The judge is more sympathetic to the youth, as she explains that they've grown up in a time where the media is screaming all manner of violence and where everyone is rushing from nowhere to get to nowhere. She complains how fast life has gotten for everyone, affecting the upbringing of today's children.
(Holy man, "the more things change, the more....")
The inspector concedes her point about the rush of modern life, when they're interrupted by the arrival of Detective-Sargeant Corrigan whom the inspector had sent for. After the niceties, things get to business. The Inspector explains that there is a current epidemic in their city of high school kids hopped up on drugs and committing a series of crimes, with barely any recognition of what they've done, they're so high.
The judge adds that there is somebody out there who is getting these kids addicted to pills and then using their addiction for more as a way to get them to burglar for him. She and the Inspector wants our Detective Sargeant to find out who is actually behind their current problems.
Commentary: And, I must ask why the judge is involved in all of this in her office. My first thought was that she and Inspector were speaking here because they suspected an inside connection in the police department. Otherwise, it seems like this should be a matter of routine police work and we should be at police HQ and without the judge sticking her nose in it until the trial date.
But -- this appears not to be the case. I guess the judge is just chummy with Inspector and has pull with him to direct his attention to whatever she deems to be sufficiently important (she's not even a DA, who would have this sort of relationship with the police department ... I guess it's possible that she used to be and formed a close friendship with Inspector at that time, but it is totally unexplained).
Detective-Sargeant is being specifically brought into this case because his fiance's brother used to be friends with the lad who was just arrested which gives him a place to start digging. Inspector apologizes for bringing his personal life into his job.
After he leaves, judge states that this whole thing has an uncomfortable whiff of a case that she once deliberated. They discuss the bad guy that she had sent away. I miss much of this, unfortunately, due to skips in the film print. I can make out that she thinks that Umberto Scalli's fingerprints are all over their current difficulties.
Scene 04: Whatever we missed due to print damage, it led Inspector to point out that somebody (Scalli himself, maybe?) currently hung around at the Diana Health System clinic. Which is also where we're going.
We follow some women exercising with their gym instructor, as nearby two guys watch with amusement. These would be Tony and Mr. Scalli.
Our two smooth criminals discuss that the women working off their lard are getting a helpful boost with the pills that Umberto offers, which of course, we also know is getting teen wacked out. Tony jokes that maybe he should start taking a few to combat his spare tire tummy, but Mr. Scalli warns him off, explaining that if he has a bum ticker, the stimulants will do him in.
Scene 05: Elsewhere, Detective-Sargeant Kerrigan is questioning our little criminal, who turns out to be Frankie. Frankie gives up the name of his accomplice, Fred Smith [which is really weird, since that's the name of the actor playing Tony!] and that he'd only met Fred recently where he struck up a conversation with Frankie over pool.
They discuss the night that Frankie was arrested and it turned out that Frankie had popped a 'bennie' before his crazed behavior. He received this from Fred, who didn't tell him where he'd manage to score them from. Despite Dave pushing though, Frankie continues to deny that he knows who behind the drug trafficking.
Commentary: And obvs the Benzedrine pills are doing a number on Frankie, because he looks about twice as old as his "teenager" actual age. In addition, that scene was really annoying, thanks to the actor's whine.
After Frankie is escorted back to his cell, Inspector drops by to see Dave and is told that the Detective believes that Frankie is holding something back. Inspector jokes that it looks like Detective-Sargeant is going to have to pound the pavement.
Scene 05: Back in Umberto's office, he gets an update on Frankie from Hal Holmes, being told that he hasn't been released from custody yet. Hal believes they should back off a bit until the heat is distracted by some other crime, but Umberto shuts him up. He wants to push more product and he doesn't care about his henchman's business opinions.
Commentary: And not only was that scene pretty pointless, but it seems like this would have been a good time to meet the already mentioned Freddy. Fred should be the one to be suggesting that things have gotten too hot selling to Frankie and his friends, since he nearly got himself knicked by the cops as well. Then Umberto can have his tantrum and tell Fred that he needs to get out of town, just in case the Frankie kid talks before they get silence him for good... the way the scene plays out, it doesn't look like anyone except Hal is all that concerned with Frankie ratting out what little he knows and there is no suggestion that Frankie is headed for a killing, so the entire point of the scene is lost on me. (Edited to add that this is actually explained, we did meet Fred, as the name is an alias.)
Scene 06: Across town, Dave is meeting with his fiance and they have a bit of cutesy-banter that no one else should ever have to witness. She questions what he's doing home so early and he explains his transfer from burglary to narcotics. The office gave him the rest of the day off.
Commentary: Needless to say, we never saw any discussion of his taking the day ... especially since the last we heard, he was supposed to be out pounding the pavement for information... hmmm....
Scene 07: Back in Umberto's office, Hal is still going on about forgetting Frankie and re-focusing on a new pigeon. Hal states that he's even been working a new distributor contact (and now it sounds like Frankie was dealing, not just buying).
Scene 08: We next meet Bob Winter, the new prospective recruit that Hal mentioned to his boss. It just happens that Bob is also the boy that knows Frankie that Dave wants to talk to. He's come home to his sister's place, Dave's fiance (whose name I've yet to catch).
Dave goes through the explanations of his transfer. He tries to get some information about the rest of Frankie's associates, but Bob claims that he hasn't hung around with Frankie or his gang in a few months and doesn't know what help he could be.
Scene 09: Back in Umberto's office, we're STILL talking about Frankie's current predicament. Scalli wants to be sure that Frankie doesn't know anything about himself, which Hal is able to confirm for him. In the meantime, Umberto is glancing at the headlines of that day's newspaper and complains about Judge Ballentine snooping into things that are none of her business. Scalli is still pissed at the last time he was sent to jail when he faced the judge for contributing to a minor's deliquency. He doesn't want her to get any trace of information about what he's been up to and forcefully makes this clear to Hal.
But Hal is in thought at the last name of the judge, a name that sounds familiar. He suddenly realizes that Margie Ballentine is the judge's daughter, and she is also the girlfriend of Bob Winters. Scalli isn't pleased to hear this at first, but Hal points out the benefit of having the judge's own daughter right where Scalli wants her.
Scene 10: Back at the Winter/Wilson home, Margie has come calling for Bob. Jerri Wilson introduces her to Dave. Bob pokes his head out of his room to joke around with his girlfriend and let her know he'll be right out and ready for their late afternoon together swimming.
Jerri and Dave discuss his meeting with Margie's mother that morning about the juvenile/drug investigation he's heading.
Bob comes out of his room and there is some banter before he and Margie make their exit.
After they're gone, Dave enquires where the kids swim these days and Jerri tells him about Hal's rich uncle with the swimming pool. Dave asks a few more questions about Hal and Jerri admits to not really liking him much, though she can't give any reasons as to why she feels that way.
Commentary: We get no explanation for why Jerri's last name is Wilson, while her brother Bob is still a Winter.
Scene 11: At Hal's uncle's home (where he is conveniently out of town a lot, leaving the house available for partying by his nephew), the kids are enjoying their time playing around the pool.
Bob and Margie arrive with another teen couple (well, supposedly teen) and Hal specifically points out Margie to one of Scalli's henchman there. He then goes and plays the generous host. After the girls go off to change, Bob brings up the arrest of Frankie. Hal pretends he's not sure he's ever heard the name, but then "remembers" he's the kid in the paper under arrest for burglary.
Bob goes on worriedly about Dave and Margie's mother asking Bob about Frankie's freinds. He's also worried about the crackdown on the teenagers in town since he has been taking some of those bennies at parties like the one he's at now with Hal. Hal assures him there is nothing worry about as they only take a few to have fun, and besides his uncle's place has all the privacy in the world.
Bob goes to change, feeling better after talking to Hal, who is also happy to have more information about the detective investigating things.
Meanwhile, there is more swimming and playing around on the diving board.
Scene 12: Hal makes a beeline straight for the phone. He reports in to Scalli, who is just as unhappy as ever with the scrutiny going on around his pill business, though that isn't going to stop him from recruitment efforts among the teens to turn them into distributors.
Scene 13: Back at the Diana Health clinic, a sign points out that Mr. America, George Eiferman has been added to the staff. Inside, the women who work at the exercise clinics question the exercise leader if the announcement about Mr. America is true, which she confirms. They're all a-titter over hunky-dude coming aboard.
Talk turns to an acknowledgement that they're all in on the scam of using the exercise center to push drugs on the chubby housewives that is their clientele.
Ruby makes sure to emphasize that the girls are not to mention any of their pill-pushing around Mr. America, as the guy has no clue that they have a side line going on. He's to be kept as the strictly legit face of Diana Health.
Scene 14: We rejoin Mr. Scalli in his office, and his apparent number one Tony Donardi. Tony has an odd habit of putting his feet up on Umberto's desk, which he's doing now. We've already seen Scalli shove his feet off in a pique before. This time he uses his cigar on Tony's exposed leg as a reminder about how much he dislikes Tony's feet up on his desk.
Umberto asks after his nephew, Hal -- so apparently the "uncle" that owns the home Hal hangs out at is either Umberto himself, or another brother to Hal's unseen dad.
Commentary: Oh, my god -- everyone is related to somebody in this flick! Enough of the pointless relation-ties.
Anyway, Hal is there but he's told to hold on a minute as another of Scalli's henchmen gets updated on the arrival of Mr. America for his new job. Tony is concerned with the security risk, since Umberto plans to leave Mr. America completely in the dark on the whole drug racket part of the business, but Umberto isn't worried. And, he wants the chunky business for the Diana Health clinic and ergo potential pill customers that he can bring in with his title win.
Henchman, Pug, is the jealous sort and says that he could break Mr. America in half if he causes trouble. This isn't the kind of talk that Scalli wants to hear, as their celebrity is supposed to be drawing only positive attention. With Pug released to do whatever he does when he's not being the muscle, Umberto and Tony turn their attention to Hal.
He's having a party that evening, and he's there to ask for more "goofies" to sell to the kids for a good time. Umberto wants him to act cautiously and not move too fast that might blow the whole works-in-progress, but asks whether the Winters could will be there. Hal confirms this, and also says that Ballentine's kid will be there, too, which Umberto is a bit less sanguine about.
Tony, on hearing that a judge's kid will be at the party too, starts laughing obnoxiously. He's amused at the thought of what the judge would say if she knew that Margie was playing in Umberto's back yard... so to say. Umberto joins in the laugh, but then takes it a step further. He decides that the judge should be told where Margie is spending her time... by getting photographs of Margie taking the illicit pills. That should shut the judge down on pursuing the matter any further in order to avoid the damage to her reputation and job.
Scene 15: Back at the women's gym, Pug is giving attitude toward Mr. America when he shows up to start his new position. Pug greets him by trying to crush his hand with a hard shake, but Pug's muscles are only good in relation to hoodlums. George is easily able to counter-strong-grip him into submission.
Pug is next humiliated a bit by barely being able to lift George's bags of equipment. Wah-wah-whaatever.
Scene 16: In the sauna room, Ruby is busy giving a massage when one of our other random exercise girls comes in to partake in the sweat box. She gives us daring side boob and a bit of side butt as she's getting settled in the sweat box for her relaxation treatment.
Commentary: Yeah. That was the one and only point of that scene. There wasn't even any dialog. A flash of nudity to wake up the male audience of this rather sedate crime picture was probably a good choice.
Scene 17: We now rejoin Detective-Sargeant as he's dropped by on a kid working as a delivery man named Rocky. Dave questions him about Frankie and whatever Frankie has gotten himself involved in. Dave goes through a list of names that have come up as people associated with Frankie. Rocky states he's never heard of Fred, he's glowing in praise for Bob, and he says he never hung around Hal - but does so in a way that makes Dave think that there may be a very good reason for him to hear about what Rocky thinks of Hal that would cause his sudden stutter.
At the end of this questioning, Dave claims that Rocky has helped out a lot, but he's basically repeated things that his fiance Jerri already told him. Rocky also told him that he'd never heard of Scalli, either so no linkage there.
Commentary: Which makes this scene about as pointless as can be. Couldn't they have the kid report a rumor about Hal or a mention that Hal mentioned the name Scalli at the pool hall once, but he wasn't close enough to hear the conversation or something that would have made this scene not so empty?
Scene 18: Back at the gym, Ruby is reporting to Umberto that one of the women she works with is looking really haggard and she's worried about her health. She's also being assisted by George, and Ruby fears the body builder will get wise to the drugs that they've been dealing to her client. To Umberto's suggestion that they tell her to take a week's break from the gym, Ruby says she already suggested that but the woman won't stay away until she's reached her idea weight. She's worried the woman is going to fall out in the gym.
Umberto decides to swap one pill for another, suggesting giving her a bennie instead to give her a lift until she stops looking like death warmed over.
Scene 19: When Ruby comes out of his office, she finds a larger woman waiting in the lobby to sign up for a reducing class and proceeds to sign her in.
This is an excuse to pull an Abbott & Costello-light routine involving her name being Tessie Tesse. And some fat humor. And some self-deprecating fat humor, which at least the actress is charming with her dialog.
Commentary: Time wasted.
Scene 20: Later that evening, Dave has just finished dinner with Jerri. They banter about his being a big eater. They banter about dishes. She gets him to the sink to help her.
Commentary: Time wasted.
Scene 21: We join Bob and Margie who has also just finished dinner at Judge Ballentine's place. Bob and Margie go out for the evening.
Commentary: Time wasted.
Scene 22: We join Hal at his uncle's having that birthday party he mentioned to his boss/uncle. The birthday girl is grateful and excited about Hal throwing such a bash for her in such a nice house. He's all gracious host. Hal mentions that his uncle left him the key to the cellar, so there will be plenty of party fun happening (presumably even before breaking out the illicit pills that this whole plot is supposed to be circling around when it isn't meandering).
Commentary: And the girl who plays the birthday girl is horrible in her reading. They really needed a reshoot. She stumbles over her lines, and overacts.
Scene 23: We skip over to henchman-who-isn't-Tony reporting in to Tony that he has the camera ready to catch Margie in a compromising position.
Commentary: Time wasted.
Scene 24: In the party, Bob asks Hal to nix passing out the bennies while Margie is around, which he assures not a problem. Hal passes out drinks, but he slips a bennie into Margie's glass.
Scene 25: Over at Judge Rosaline's, she's been joined by Dave and Jerri so that Dave can update the judge on his investigation thus far. Dave goes through the list and concludes that Fred is a fake name, that Umberto is staying clear of showing his involvement if this is his operation, and that the reactions of the kids he spoke to to Hal Holmes were unexpected and there may be more there than meets the eye.
Hal had drawn suspicion because Dave can't get over that his rich uncle has left Hal the run of his estate, and yet Hal is both working a job at a cheap cafeteria and is living in a cramped apartment in the not-very-safe section of town. It's nothing solid, but it is raising some flags and the judge asks Dave to report into HQ about it.
Scene 26: At the party, Tony has joined the kids, which just seems skeezy.
The party girl has dressed in a costume and is blindfolded to play a game of blind man's bluff. She unwisely does this in heels around the pool.
Commentary: Time wasted.
Scene 27: Back at Rosalind's, the judge is suddenly in a tizzy about something which she won't share but assures Jerri and Dave that she thinks she has stumbled across something while sitting and having coffee, apparently. Whatever, they race for downtown where she is going to share everything in the car.
Scene 28: At the party, random guy is now the "it" and immediately grabs clumsy (and presumably high) Margie. She's blindfolded next. Hal pushes her in the pool in her dress at one point, causing much screeching.
She laughs as she goes into a dressing room to hot shower, as apparently the pool water is cold, leaving the boys to laugh after her. She's a better sport than expected about being drenched in her party gown.
Scene 29: While in the shower, one of the other girls give her a swallow of her drink: a half & half with a booster. They share that the drink has been doctored with a bennie and will do her good.
Commentary: Which, kind of makes Hal's dosing her earlier pointless since Margie isn't goody-two-shoes or anything. She doesn't seem particularly bothered by the bennie-in-drink, so that sneaking doesn't appear to have been necessary. Also, she isn't acting like it did anything from earlier so I'm not sure what the point was of showing Hal clearly slipping the drug into her drink. Finally, we've seen no sign of camera-douche snapping photos, and even if Margie did drink her bennie-spiked alcohol, she isn't doing anything outrageous and scandalous, and there are no opportunities of flashing a picture of her actually popping pills -- so this whole thing seems like a plot point that has gone exactly nowhere.
Scene 30: In the judge's chambers, Rosalind pulls out a recording of an interview with the teen that had held up a shop while on a bennie that she used to convict Umberto previously. She's sure that she remembers something they can use from that interview.
The recording reveals that Fred Smith is supposedly some guy whose uncle has a house on Magnolia Avenue... exactly as Hal Holmes has an uncle living on the same avenue. It turns out that Fred was also the driver for the kid who got caught and made his escape.
Clearly, Hal has been in this drug game with Scalli longer than previously thought and he's the mysterious "Fred Smith" when needed. The judge now reveals that "Simmons" ... the mysterious uncle referred to in the recording was actually an alias for Umberto Scalli.
Obviously, there isn't an "uncle who travels a lot" ... the uncle was Scalli all along and he set up Hal in a respectable location to help entice the local teens into becoming pill popping, thieving, drug pushing members of a syndicate headed by Umberto.
Dave calls for a squad car to head over to Hal's.
Scene 31: Meanwhile, the pool party is still going on. Hal is "it", and again he sends a girl (this must be Margie) into the pool when he 'tags' her.
She's left naked in the pool, and the gang won't get her another towel. Hal laughingly tells her he'll get the pool lights off and she can come out then.
After this occurs, Umberto's henchmen set up to take photos of the naked Margie for blackmailing, but Bob tries to intervene by telling the goons that the joke has gone too far. Tony obligingly gives Bob the film from the camera, offering that he only snapped the bulb to trick her into thinking she was photographed to embarrass her as a prank, but that he didn't actually take the photo.
What Bob didn't see though, is Tony passing off his actual camera to another henchman behind the bushes in exchange for a second one.
Hal, meanwhile, assures Bob that Tony is a good guy and never would do something sleezy like taking photos of naked Judge's daughters in a wild party for blackmailing purposes.
Just after this gets settled, and actual camera is making its escape back to Scalli's office, Dave shows up to place Hal under arrest on suspicion of corrupting the morals of minors. Hal insists he's way off base, but Dave reveals that "Mr. Stevens/Mr. Simmons" that is his uncle is actually Mr. Scalli.
Hal tries to run, but has nowhere to go and is quickly wrestled into submission and into custody. Bob is left flabbergasted to take Margie home.
Scene 32: In one of the bedrooms at the same time, Margie is crying her eyes out over the flash photography of her public nudity. One of her friends looks at the box of bennie's she has with her. As Margie's attention is on her crying eyes, her bitch of a false-friend slips the box of drugs into her purse.
When Bob comes to take her home, giving her his jacket to wear since her dress is soaked, she grabs the purse and the drugs.
Scene 33: Henchman-who-isn't-Tony calls into the boss in regards to Hal's arrest, but Scalli isn't worried as he's confident the police got nuthin' on him.
The Hench must've mentioned the judge on the other end of the line, because Scalli smirks and says not to worry as he has a surprise for her....
Scene 34: This leads to a pair of hands with a small dish of chemicals where the photograph of Margie in the pool is being developed. The hands belong to Tony, and he's all smiles at how hot the photo is.
Scene 35: The next morning, Inspector is updating judge on the investigation. He's sure that Hal Holmes is the elusive Fred Smith but the trick is to find a way to prove it. He's equally as sure that Scalli is the phony uncle Stevens, but again -- they can't prove that either though might if they can find a way to link Hal into the web of drug trafficking.
The judge wonders about Frankie identifying Hal as Fred, but Inspector states that right now Frankie is too afraid to talk. He has a feeling that if they could arrest Scalli and Holmes and bring them to trial, that they could get Frankie to testify as he's basically a decent kid who got caught up in something that he wasn't expecting and is looking for a safe way out of his predicament.
At this point, Umberto Scalli himself comes into the judge's office for a visit. As we know, movieverse people have no peripheral vision, so the other two don't notice until he actually speaks up. Judge Ballentine tells him he has a lot of nerve to show up in her offices. Inspector makes some threatening moves, but Scalli tells the Judge he's there to see her on business and she allows it. Inspector leaves for the outer office, but assures her he'll be close by if she needs him.
They begin with Umberto congratulating Rosalind on her judgeship in the 5 years since they last tangled. He then brings up the arrest of his friend, Hal who the judge points out is his nephew, as far as she's learned. Umberto states though that Hal isn't actually his nephew. He cops to owning the party house as well, but denies that he's ever heard the name "Stevens". He brings up the judge's daughter being at the party the night before, which gets her back up. But, he's not intimidated. He hands Rosalind the photo of her daughter naked at poolside [with her arms and legs conveniently placed to cover any details].
He informs the judge that this should help her and him understand each other, before he smugly leaves.
Scene 36: Inspector comes back in to rant at Scalli's nerve, while Ballentine considers the position that her daughter has placed her in. She interrupts Inspector's rant to ask him to send Dave over to her office as soon as possible.