|Julie London and Rock Hudson|
A dentist named Bromley (Ken Niles of Out of the Past) is knocked unconscious and thrown out of an 18th story window. His secretary, Jane (Jayne Meadows), comes to the corpulent private investigator, Brad Runyan (J. Scott Smart), for help in proving that the dentist's death was murder and not an accident. Suspects include mob boss Gordon (John Russell of Hell Bound); his shady chauffeur, Anthony (Anthony George of Checkmate); a patient named Roy (Rock Hudson) who disappeared after being fitted for a dental plate; Roy's worried wife, Pat (Julie London); and Roy's ex-cell mate, Ed Deets (Emmett Kelly). The large and interesting cast also includes Jerome Cowan as a police lieutenant and Tristram Coffin as a Missing Persons Officer. The Fat Man is an entertaining, if cold-blooded movie -- hardly anyone registers dismay over the death of the poor dentist, and the Fat Man doesn't seem much bothered by the murder of his client -- but director William Castle keeps things moving at a snappy pace. In this early role for Rock Hudson, it's clear that he had the ability and presence to emerge a major movie star, as he did. Based on a long-running radio series, the character of The Fat Man was created by Dashiell Hammett. This was Brad Runyan's one and only screen appearance. Although J. Scott Smart gives a competent performance as Runyan, it's easy to see why the character never caught on with the public, as he's just not that likable. Julie London makes a positive impression as Pat, although Clinton Sundberg, playing Runyan's major domo, has been seen to better advantage elsewhere. The Fat Man is a bit similar to another fictional detective, Nero Wolfe. Playing a most unusual role considering his usual profession as a clown, Emmett Kelly proves a splendid actor and walks off with the movie. Even the bit parts in this are well-cast.
Verdict: Absorbing enough mystery. ***.