Vivian Holden (Jan Sterling) is having some problems. She’s dead broke, owes her landlady two weeks worth of rent and the mysterious Hyannis 3633 man she keeps trying to reach on the phone is giving her the run around. In desperation, Vivian takes advantage of innocent-bystandard Henry Shanway (Marshall Thompson), a sad man drinking away his sorrows in attempt to forget his sick wife current hospital stay. Vivian drives Henry’s yellow Ford down to Hyannis from Boston, abandoning Henry along the way. When Vivian finally confronts the Hyannis man that has been eluding her, she finds herself face-to-face with the barrel of his gun.
Six months later, Vivian Holden’s bones are found at a beach, but only we, the audience, know that those bones are hers. It’s up to Lieutenant Peter Moralas (Ricardo Montalban) solve the mystery of both the crime and to identity the victim. What results is an intriguing film noir, directed by John Sturges, that blends murder mystery with forensic science. If anyone tells you forensic science is a new phenomenon in contemporary entertainment, just direct that person to Mystery Street (1950) and they will be in for a pleasant surprise.
Even decades before DNA analysis and other technological advancements in criminal science, the forensis used in this film are still very advanced and relevant. With very little to go one, besides the partial skeleton of Vivian, the doctor is able to determine age, gender, time of death, cause of death and even the victim’s occupation from his vast knowledge of human anatomy and plant pathology. Even a jaded CSI-watching contemporary could still appreciate the intricacies and the methods used in the film’s forensic study.