Undercover Girl

A slight departure today, but one which I’m sure most who read and follow here will appreciate. In short, I’m honored to be able to host a guest post from Gordon Gates, a man who has contributed to many a discussion here over the years and who brings along a wealth of knowledge on genre pictures and television shows. He very kindly offered to do a guest write-up, and also floated the possibility of others in the future. I’m delighted to be able to offer Gord this space to highlight a movie of his choice, and I’ve no doubt other readers here will share those sentiments.
I would like to thank Colin for the chance to do a guest review. I am by no means an expert on film but I know what I like. Film Noir, westerns, war films, Sci-Fi and early television are at the top of the list for me. Up first, I’m going to dive into film noir. Undercover Girl  (1950) is a Universal-International B film that stars Scott Brady, Alexis Smith, Royal Dano, Gerald Mohr, Gladys George, Angela Clarke and Richard Egan. This was the second feature helmed by actor turned director, Joseph Pevney. The story was supplied by Harry Essex whose work includes, Desperate, The Killer That Stalked New York, The Fat Man, Bodyguard, I, The Jury and Kansas City Confidential.

This one starts out in Los Angeles where a Police informant is badly wounded in a vicious knife attack. Before he bites it, the informant tells his Police Detective contact, Scott Brady, there is a large shipment of drugs coming to town. The shipment is arriving from New York. He also manages to whisper there is a crooked New York cop involved.As this is going on in LA, back on the east coast, Police Detective Regis Toomey, the crooked cop, has had a change of heart. Toomey has a meeting with mobster, Gerald Mohr about the 10 large he took to look the other way. He tosses the cash back at Mohr and tells him he is taking him in. This does not go well for Toomey. A henchman of Mohr puts the kibosh on Toomey..

Now we meet Alexis Smith, Smith is a trainee with the NYPD following in her father’s footsteps. She takes Toomey’s murder hard and redoubles her efforts to make the force.

LA cop Brady is soon in New York to see if he can uncover anything about the drug shipment. Smith does not believe Brady that her father might have been a bent copper. She offers to help out Brady. Brady takes her up on the offer. He will send her in as an undercover type back in LA.

It is back to LA to fill in Smith on her new identity etc. They hook Smith up with an old time gangster’s moll, Gladys George. George is pumped by Smith for every bit of info she can get. This will help establish Smith’s criminal “bona fides” for her new identity. She is to play a buyer for a drug ring in Chicago.

Several weeks of studying are needed before Smith can be inserted into the local criminal crowd. Smith is put up in a downtown rooming house next door to Angela Clarke. Clarke is the former dolly of low level underworld type, Royal Dano. Clarke is a drunk always looking for a bottle. A few words in her ear from Smith, and a promise of some cash, soon does the trick.  Clarke agrees to put Smith in touch with Dano.
Dano shows up at Clarke’s apartment in a less than happy state. He is not amused that Clarke has set up the meeting with an out of town type. Clarke gets slapped around, then, shoved out the 3rd floor window. Dano beats the feet out the door and right into Miss Smith. She points to a back way out of the building.

Smith fills in Brady on the night’s events. Brady thinks the case is now far too dangerous to continue, but Smith still wants revenge for her father’s murder. She tracks down Dano and convinces him to introduce her to someone higher up the drug food chain. A promise of 1000 bucks quickly has Dano on side.

Miss Smith is soon shown into the office of a doctor. The man, Edom Ryan, has a sideline selling heroin. Ryan actually works for the same mobster, Mohr, who killed Toomey in New York. Keeping an eye on Doc Ryan is, “mad as a hatter” gunsel, Harry Landers. Also on Mohr’s payroll is Lynn Ainley.

Before Ryan agrees to any transaction, he needs to check out Smith’s identification etc. Smith knows all the proper answers to the right questions, and is bumped up the line. She meets the boss, Mohr. A deal is quickly arranged for a substantial amount of product for an equally substantial pile of cash.

Now of course the flies start to roost in the ointment. Miss Smith runs into her former beau from New York, Richard Egan. He blows her cover in front of Dano. Dano, an enterprising bottom feeder if ever there was one, decides to blackmail Policewoman Smith. Five large or he turns her over to Mohr. He gives a time and place to Smith for the exchange.

This lays out all the ground work for the film. Needless to say several double crosses, some flying fists, a barrage of bullets and a stack of bodies are needed to bring the tale to a proper end.

This is another of those Universal-International films that is rather difficult to lay one’s hands on. But it is well worth the time if it can be found.

Scott Brady was the younger brother of noir favorite Lawrence Tierney. Look close early and you can spot the third Tierney brother, Edward, in a small unbilled bit.

The cast is all quite good here, with the always entertaining Royal Dano in particular shining as the low-life grifter. This was director Pevney’s second foray into noir territory after the equally entertaining, Shakedown. He hits the mark all the way through. Pevney directed in several genres during the 1950′ s before making the move to television. Two of more well know TV episodes were from Star Trek. These were, Amok Time and The Trouble With Tribbles. Pevney’s film work includes: Desert Legion, Iron Man, Back to God’s Country, Yankee Pasha, Away All Boats and The Plunderers.

As for myself, I’m from Western Canada. Right now I’m based in Calgary Alberta though I have lived in British Columbia and the Yukon. Quite a few films have been make around here as we are only 60 miles from the Rocky Mountains. Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Costner’s Open Range are just a couple of the westerns made here.

Gordon Gates

24 thoughts on “Undercover Girl

  1. A terrific review, Gordon, from which l learned a lot and which makes me want to track down a copy of the movie. Sounds like there’s heaps of action and a strong cast and direction to carry it all off. Lucky you to live in Calgary, a lovely city which I have been fortunate to visit a couple of times.

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    • Thanks for the kind words. I must admit, that as David, below has pointed out, I tend to go more to a synopsis instead of an in depth review. I lay out the bare bones, then simply add whether I liked the film. or not. I’ve found that people seem to like the info on cast and crew I add. As for Calgary, been here since 1976. Great city to live in. As a child of the 1950’s I grew up watching just as many UK films as American films and television. I am a fan of both. .

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  2. Hi Gordon,
    I enjoyed your write-up very much about a film that my records tell me I have seen (probably on UK TV eons ago!). I would love to get hold of a copy along with “SHAKEDOWN” (which you mention) and one lives in hope that more of these U.I. films see the light of day sometime soon.
    We seem to have very similar tastes in both movies and early TV.
    Jerry

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  3. Jerry
    UNDERCOVER GIRL is a very good B film in my humble opinion. A bit of strange is that the other film I mention, SHAKEDOWN, stars Scott Brady’s brother, Lawrence Tierney. This write-up for UNDERCOVER GIRL ,is a bit on the clumsy side as I’ve been off line for close to 2 years. It will take me a while to get my words all into a proper row again.LOL

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  4. Perhaps worth noting, giving the standout performance you acknowledge, that this was Royal Dano’s first role in a theatrical feature, so beginning a great career in movies for this wonderful actor.

    In my single late night viewing on TV, I vividly remember Dano and the flashy ties worn by his character–in one scene (his entrance? can’t remember) he is identified only by the tie in a well-staged, darkly lit scene that showed some nice directorial imagination by Pevney.

    That one time was because it is just so hard to see. I’d like to see it again.

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  5. For all that are interested, UNDERCOVER GIRL can be found on YouTube……a bit scratchy, but view-able.
    Amazing how much the two brothers, Brady and Tierney, are alike…..especially in this film. For Scott and Tierney followers a delight.

    Like

  6. Hopefully the gremlins have sorted themselves out!

    Firstly “Calgary” has made me want to give
    Ian & Sylvia’s Great Speckled Bird album another spin…
    it’s not before time!
    That’s the esoteric bit done with as a hardcore
    I & S fanatic! 🙂
    I note our friend Laura is on a real Pevney “kick”
    at the moment with her 2019 “discoveries” over at
    Rupert Pupkin Speaks.
    Laura also highlights SHAKEDOWN.
    I enjoyed UNDERCOVER GIRL and like many other
    Universal Noirs I’d love to see it get a high quality release.
    Good to see Edmon Ryan play a seedy underworld figure
    the same year he played a stalwart federal agent in
    HIGHWAY 301 also shot by Carl Guthrie a RTHC favorite!
    There are many other key Universal Noirs that need
    a high def upgrade or indeed an initial release,
    important films from the likes of William Castle,
    George Sherman,Ted Tetzlaff and Hugo Fregonese.

    Thanks Colin for giving Gordon this very fine
    “guest” slot.

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    • John

      Ian Sylvia! That brings back memories. I saw Ian several time at diff venues here in Calgary over the years. I’ll need to dig out some more U-I titles for a look see.

      Gord

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gord, just want to say that any other unheralded or hard to locate Universal-International pictures you come up with are more than welcome as future guest feature here.
        And of course thanks for writing this one up for us.

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        • Colin
          I know I have several more U-I films hiding somewhere around here that I could write up. And many thanks to you again for the chance to post.

          Gord

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      • John
        Now that I think of it, I saw Ian &Sylvia at a concert with Emmy Lou Harris and Gordon Lightfoot a couple of decades or more ago. Some sort of reunion gig for Ian &Sylvia. Great stuff.

        Gord

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        • WOW! I & S, Emmylou and Lightfoot
          all on the same bill.
          If I’d been there I would have thought
          I’d died and wound up in Heaven.

          Drive me to the airport,
          ’cause my baby’s waiting,
          way up North in Calgary,
          the snow is breaking…
          color that jet plane going,color me gone…..

          or something like that…classic stuff.

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  7. I also note that Mill Creek Entertainment have an
    intriguing Blu Ray Noir double bill announced.
    Both William Castle pictures
    THE HOLLYWOOD STORY coupled with
    NEW ORLEANS UNCENSORED
    What’s so unusual is that Mill Creek have been able to
    include both a Universal and Columbia picture in this
    release.
    I hope this release sells well so that other
    Noir double features might get released.
    I’ve never seen either film,so this release is very
    welcome as far as I’m concerned.

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  8. John
    THE HOLLYWOOD STORY I do not believe I have ever seen. NEW ORLEANS UNCENSORED is a nicely done low renter filmed on location. I liked it enough that I did a review on IMDB.

    Gordon

    Like

  9. Talking about “Guest Spots” on RTHC
    I’d love to see Margot’s “Hardboiled Prose Style”
    of writing turned loose on a Western.
    She’s gonna kill me for this…a guy can dream can’t he 🙂

    Like

  10. A few of the other westerns film here were Alan Ladd’s SASKATCHEWAN as well as Tom Selleck’s CROSSFIRL TRAIL, and the MONTE WALSH remake. Sam Elliott has made a couple up here as well..

    Liked by 1 person

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