Thursday, March 3, 2016
HELL'S HALF ACRE
Donna Williams (Evelyn Keyes) has always thought that her husband of a short time died during the war. But then she sees a story about a man named Chet Chester (Wendell Corey) who has been arrested for murder in Hawaii and who greatly resembles the dead man. Chester is a deserter, black marketeer, and shady criminal, and when Donna confronts him he insists that he is not her husband. Can Donna get the man she apparently still loves to tell the truth? Meanwhile her poking her nose into Chet's business is bringing her to the attention of assorted nefarious elements. "Hell's Half Acre" refers to a dangerous, crime-infested section of Honolulu where much of the action takes place. While the movie has an intriguing premise, Hell's Half Acre isn't very good. Knowing what she knows about "Chet," it seems incredible that she wouldn't just walk away from the creep, especially when she finds out he was a deserter. The scenes between Donna and Chet don't work because the two actors just walk through their roles, perhaps because even they weren't convinced by the script. Philip Ahn plays a gangster who slaps around Marie Windsor, and Elsa Lanchester [Les Miserables] is a spirited lady cab driver. Keye Luke is the police chief, and Jesse White, annoying and unimpressive as ever, plays another hood who comes to a bad end. Windsor [Swamp Women] probably comes off the best with her typically vital portrayal. John H. Auer also directed The Crime of Dr. Crespi and quite a few melodramas and musicals.
Verdict: Not half as interesting as it sounds. **.