Miami cop Bart Scott tracks down, in Cuba, a fugitive witness who can shed light in a double homicide and about the activities of a Miami mob lawyer who uses murder and blackmail in order to force the legalization of gambling in Florida.
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Fernando Di Leo
Lee J. Cobb,
Miami police lieutenant Bart Scott (Lee J. Cobb)follows sultry Lila Hedges (Patricia Medina)to Havana, Cuba to obtain information about a double murder in Miami, learns that vice-operator Raymond Sheridan (Alan Napier)and lobbyist Oliver Tubbs (Edward Arnold) are scheming to introduce legalized gambling to Florida. In Miami again, Scott thwarts the efforts of Sheridan's hired killers to silence Lila.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When driving around Havana in the 1956 Buick, the color stays the same but the model changes. The more expensive model has four of Buick's signature fake exhaust ports, while the cheaper model has three. These are used alternately. See more »
Grade-B crime thriller pumped up with topical padding and location shooting
"Miami Exposé" was one of a whole wave of crime dramas about American cities in the "exposé" or "confidential" mode turned out by Hollywood in the wake of the Kefauver Senate hearings into organized crime's influence in politics, government and private industry. There were films on New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Detroit, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami, and even Portland (PORTLAND EXPOSÉ, 1957). Most of these films were grade-B gangster melodramas padded out with "documentary" segments, a few location sequences, and filmed introductions by actual elected officials insuring the "accuracy" of what we're about to see and warning of the dangers of letting criminal organizations run untrammeled over our public institutions.
"Miami Exposé" (1956) opens with an address to the camera by Randy Christmas, the then-Mayor of Miami, who basically introduces the film and describes a generic plot that has little to do with what the film is actually about. The plot that unfolds is a hackneyed tale of a wealthy criminal lawyer whose aim is to take over the gambling racket in Florida by pushing through a bill to make gambling legal and then controlling the state apparatus himself. The character is named Ray Sheridan and he's played by Alan Napier, a tall, elegant English actor best known for playing Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, on the TV series, "Batman." ("Holy Miscasting, Batman, Alfred's a Florida crime boss!") Sheridan enlists the state's top lobbyist, Oliver Tubbs, to drum up support for the bill among the business and civic leaders of Florida. Tubbs is played by Edward Arnold, in his final film role, the actor who'd once portrayed high-powered tycoons and power brokers in Frank Capra's MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and MEET JOHN DOE, but is reduced here to visiting honest civic leaders in their homes and trying to blackmail them into supporting the bill, only to get kicked out.
The big problem here, aside from the complete and unlikely absence of the Mafia in any step of this operation, is that Sheridan uses two-bit thugs out of Central Casting to kill people who get in his way, including a veteran homicide detective, thereby arousing the ire of the police and getting them mad enough to pull out all the stops to nip this whole thing in the bud. When your criminal mastermind is such a bonehead as this one, then there's not a whole lot of suspense generated.
Lee J. Cobb plays the righteous Lt. Barton Scott, who travels to Havana to bring back a reluctant key witness, Lila Hodges (Patricia Medina), the widow of a murdered gangster. Only two years earlier, Cobb had played corrupt union boss Johnny Friendly in ON THE WATERFRONT and one can't help but feel that the criminals in this film would have been better served with Cobb on their side and not against them.
The sad thing is that, despite the script's howlers, the film is very well shot and directed, with many scenes filmed on location in Florida, including an action scene in the Everglades, and a few in pre-Castro Havana. At a snappy 73 minutes, it moves very well and includes some colorful supporting players who aim for a touch of authenticity, including Michael Granger as a wily Havana-based gangster who's actually on the side of the police (so THAT's where the Mafia is), and Harry Lauter as a brave detective assigned to protect the witness in a cabin in the Everglades that comes under attack from Sheridan's thugs. Patricia Medina plays Lila with a well-blended mix of sauciness, bitterness, cynicism, fear and near-hysteria in one scene. Her character doesn't really soften until the very end when she's pushed to her limit and finds long-dormant reserves of courage. It's actually quite touching, an interesting moment of believable human behavior amidst a welter of contrivances.
Ultimately, though, when the best a movie about Miami crime can offer in the way of villains is the butler's butler, Alan Napier, and a waning Edward Arnold (who was already dead when this movie was released), then it's time to dig out Brian De Palma's SCARFACE (1983) or the "Miami Vice" TV series, just for a little reality check.
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