|Alan Ladd confronts Carolyn Jones|
John Hamilton (Alan Ladd) is an aspiring painter who's brought his wife, Linda, to the country to work on his art -- and keep dipsomaniac Linda (Carolyn Jones) away from the liquor. Unfortunately, the bored and resentful Linda can't stay away from men, either. When John returns from a business trip to New York, he discovers that Linda is missing. Everything goes awry in the second half of this very poor mystery due to suspect developments and a bad screenplay. Half the town converges on Hamilton's home, denouncing him as a wife-murderer, when the townspeople barely know him and there's no reason for them to act like villagers out to get that evil Baron Frankenstein. Worse, John is befriended by a little girl, Emily (Barbara Beaird), who enlists a whole bunch of her little friends into helping John investigate the mystery. The entire second half of the film is taken up with these children, who are cute and not bad actors, but they make the picture resemble a distinctly forgettable Disney movie. Ladd [The Carpetbaggers], his face puffy and years older due to heavy drinking, barely gives a performance, while Jones [Eaten Alive] pretty much steals the show in her vivid portrayal of the screwed-up Linda. Charles McGraw [Roadblock] is typically vital as the town sheriff, and Diane Brewster and John Lupton are effective as family friend Vicki and her handsome husband, Brad (you might call Lupton a "prettier" version of Marshall Thompson). As Brad's father, John Alexander is so terrible you'd have to assume he was given the part as a favor to someone were it not for the fact that he amassed many theater and movie credits; this is not a highlight of his, or anyone else's, resume. Curtiz is defeated by the material.
Verdict: Even one of the lesser episodes of Perry Mason (not that there were many) is better-scripted and more entertaining than this. *1/2 out of 4.