A young mentally-ill killer, Gunther Wyckoff, escapes from a mental institution, murders a bus driver and, then, takes six hostages in a bar. The gun in Wyckoff's hand kills without emotion or pity, wielded by a man bare of emotion. It begins as a moral question whether an insane killer should or should not be sent to the electric chair, but goes elsewhere before it ends.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
The newspaper editor's secretary, who makes only a brief appearance and has two or three short, expertly delivered lines, is Barbara Billingsley, later to become a television icon as the mother of Beaver Cleaver. See more »
On the directory of the Criminal Courts Building, the last two entries of "Quinman, R.A." and "Quimore, C." are out of alphabetical order with the rest. See more »
You know the audience is in for a bumpy ride when the all-night bus arrives in a place called Terminal City. Actually it's the luckless driver who ends up terminated, with a slug in the belly from ungrateful, wacko passenger Gunther Wykoff (Thompson) who has not yet learned how to blink or turn his head. So, now the crazy guy is loose in the city, headed for a late night bar sporting that new-fangled invention called television. (I suspect this 1950 production was one of the first to integrate TV into the storyline.) There, he holds hostage a motley crew of barflies who, needless to say, don't help his condition at all. He'd like to whack 'em all, but first he has to meet with his head-doctor (Levene) who's obviously done a pretty rotten job so far. Meanwhile, the cops, a TV crew, and a few hundred on-lookers have taken a real interest in Gunther's where-abouts and are waiting outside to greet him if he ever comes out. So, the stage is set, but how will it play out.
This may be big-budget MGM's cheapest production on record (basically one set and a $20 lighting bill), but they do get their money's worth. This suspenseful little crime drama is well acted and packs a pretty good punch. Baby-faced Thompson plays against type and is excellent in the pivotal role of the stare-happy wacko. William Conrad is a stand-out too, as the no-nonsense barkeep, but I guess it's only logical that he would have to exit early— too bad. On the other hand, make-out artist Earl (Ames) and the classy what's-she-doing-in- this-dump Helen (King) are none too believable, and I kept hoping Gunther would spare us the bad seduction dialog and put a fist in Earl's syrupy mouth. Apparently, young father Skip (Brasselle) was added so there would be at least one sympathetic person among the collection of compromised characters. Anyway, it's a good, tight little B-film, with the novel idea (for its time) that movies and TV might get along, after all.
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