Streamlined and brisk, Richard Quine's nocturnal 'b' thriller 'Pushover' remains
one of noirs lesser-appreciated 'dirty-cop' entries - despite it's boasting strong
writing, directing, and two fine lead performances from respectively ; Fred
MacMurray, in a nice companion piece to his lustful dupe role in 'Double Indemnity'
; and fledgling screen siren Kim Novak, who brings a sleek modernity to the noir
Having fallen for the breathtaking young girlfriend of the vicious bank robber he's
assigned to nab, broke middle-aged cop Paul Sheridan (MacMurray) agrees to put
kept dame Leona's (Novak) suggested plan into motion - and murder the thug
when he sneaks back to collect her, before making his way with her and the thug's
ill-gotten gains to the exit from his quiet desperation.
In the cleverly-constructed script (by 'Fugitive' creator Roy Huggins), Sheridan is
the one over-seeing the stakeout of Leona's apartment - in anticipation of her
man's return from being on the lam - but as the secret lovers near their goal they
must navigate dangerous waters - populated with Paul's fellow officers, their
hard-nosed captain (an irritating E.G. Marshall), and the object of Paul's partner's
affection (Dorothy Malone).
A refreshing and decidedly more romantic variation on the murderous love-triangle
blueprint - 'Pushover's Paul and Leona appear to genuinely care for one another.
Not simply a tale of illicit lovers double-crossing each other - 'Pushover's plot
concerns a star-crossed pair's attempt to put one over on life itself - leaving
their respective stale existences behind for a life of warm love and cold cash - and
all to the strains of Arthur Morton's maddeningly catchy score.
Never a scenery-chewer, MacMurray quietly shines in his role - giving a restrained
and authentic performance. Addled with bills and complexes, his weary flatfoot
aches to break free - and with Leona's insistence that .."Money isn't dirty, just
people..", mulls it over, goes against his better judgment, and concludes that the
iron's just hot enough. Complementing MacMurray in her debut lead role, Novak
delivers the goods - equal parts beauty and raw talent. Sort of a 'fatale-in-training',
her Leona is less guilty of treachery than of youthful inexperience - in her scheme
to 'rob Peter to pay Paul'.
Showing a real knack for noir, Quine (who's only other genre credit is the passable
'Drive A Crooked Road') keeps his compositions tight, confining - and his streets
rain-slicked. His flat 50's cinematography is perfect for showcasing the story's
late-night dives, back alleys, and shadow-laced apartments.
Released the same year as 'Shield For Murder', 'Rogue Cop', and 'Private Hell 36',
'Pushover' may prove to be less memorable than those more melodramatic 'cop-
gone-bad' entries, but Quine's engrossing and poignant nail-biter does not suffer