I love a speedy, efficient programmer. Sometimes it’s nice to just spend an hour and change with some fascinating characters and a decent story. Productions like the modestly-budgeted, but engrossing Monogram film I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (1948), newly released on Blu-ray, fit the bill perfectly.
With a script written by Steve Fisher (I Wake Up Screaming) and based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, this appealing little drama has a strong film noir pedigree. It’s the story of a married dance team Tom and Ann (Elyse Knox and Don Castle) on the skids. Their careers have stalled and they see no path out of their strained existence.
The set-up for what follows stretches plausibility and is the film’s weakest point. One night Tom throws what he thinks is an old pair of shoes at a cat howling outside the window. Ann quickly points out that they were actually his only tap shoes. After a fruitless search to retrieve them, the shoes mysteriously turn up outside their apartment door the next morning.
That same night, a man in the building was murdered for his money. Footprints found at the scene match Tom’s briefly missing tap shoes. Police make the connection when he finds a wallet full of cash and his and Ann’s sudden spending spree attracts their attention. It’s a bizarre series of coincidences, but also a perfect noir set-up.
Tom goes to jail, Ann struggles to find evidence to free him, and Police Inspector Clint Judd (Regis Toomey) eagerly steps in to help. What follows is a series of dead ends and twists and turns that are amusing, though the identity of the killer is easy to determine early on. The tender relationship between Tom and Ann, and the way Ann becomes vulnerable, but remains strong in the sleazy world outside their marital bubble are the main draw here.
I was struck by the gentleness of the prisoners Tom encounters on Death Row. They spend their time listening to Chopin records, tending to each other’s emotional wounds, and generally demonstrating more compassion than they received in the outside world. In these scenes I was especially touched by the quietly charismatic performance of Bill Walker, one of those busy studio-era actors that has inevitably shown up in several favorites of the typical classic film fan.
This isn’t a life-changing film, but it is enjoyable. I’d love to see more of these so-called Poverty Row productions on Blu-ray, because it’s a treat to see them respectfully presented in good prints.
Special features on the disc include the short The Symphony Murder Mystery and the cartoon Holiday for Shoestrings.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review.
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