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Film: Jail Bait
Jail Bait (1954) is a Film Noir directed by Ed Wood, his only entry in this genre. It was only his second feature film, following Glen or Glenda?. The title refers not to underage love interests but to the practice of carrying unlicensed weapons, which gets one of the main characters in trouble with the police.

The film opens at nighttime in a police precinct, where Marilyn Gregor (Dolores Fuller) pays $1000 in bail for her brother Don (Clancy Malone). He is a troubled young man of wealthy background, who was arrested for carrying an unlicensed weapon. After a brief argument between the siblings, Don rushes out to meet his partner Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell). Vic is an experienced gangster who has been tutoring Don in the ways of crime.

A few hours later, Vic and Don break into the headquarters of a theater chain. Their plan is to open the safe present there and get access to over $20,000 in cash. They ambush elderly night watchman Paul McKenna and force him to co-operate. But their plan depends on nobody else being in the building. When a late-working secretary catches them in the act, all hell breaks loose. Don kills the night-watchman, and Vic wounds the girl.

The police take special interest in this case, because McKenna was a recently-retired veteran of the force. They are on the hunt for a "cop killer". Don is guilt-ridden and thinks of turning himself in, while Vic is trying to find a way to get away with murder. He soon figures that his best chance is to have a plastic surgeon create a new face and identity for him. Dr. Boris Gregor, father to Don and Marilyn, is a famous plastic surgeon. Now Vic has to find a way to make the old man wok with him.


Tropes associated with this work:

  • Always Night: With the possible exception of Miss Willis' testimony, which takes place at a closed room with the time of day left unpecified, all scenes take place late at night. Often featuring abandoned streets and back alleys, or people in nightclothes. When a scene indicates that dawn is approaching, the next scene features the following night.
  • Blackface: Prior to the theater robbery, a scene features a performance of said theater. Through the magic of archive footage, viewers are treated to a genuine performance by Cotton Watts, one of the last major figures in the history of the Minstrel Show genre. He was a mainstay performer in Florida nightclubs from 1947 to 1959.
  • Book Safe: Don Gregor uses a hollowed-out book to hide his weapon(s).
  • Dark Mistress: Vic Brady is a cold-blooded killer, but is passionate about his girlfriend Loretta (Theodora Thurman). He is the one who lifted her from poverty and provided her with a decent house. He warns her to never walk out on him, or it will be the last thing she does. Loretta genuinely loves him, serves as his only confidante, and is quite ready to defend him: with a gun in her hand.
  • Intrepid Reporter: A couple of scenes feature an unnamed "Newspaper Woman" (Regina Claire), who seems to be in a hurry to get full coverage of McKenna's murder in time for the morning edition. Late at night, she and her photographer get access to the corpse before its removal from the crime scene. She presses police lieutenant Bob Lawrence (Steve Reeves) for further information, by threatening the police with negative publicity if they cover-up the details. When that tactic fails, she starts openly flirting with him. He rejects her advances, smilingly telling her that he is on duty. Leaving it open if they will meet again when off-duty.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Vic blackmails Dr. Boris Gregor into giving him a new face, threatening to kill Don if the old man fails him. Don is already dead at this point, and Boris has seen the corpse. But Don is wanted for murder, not Vic. Boris makes him look identical to a much younger man: Don. He makes sure that Vic is going to be executed for Don's original crime.
  • Missing Mom: Boris briefly mentions his dead wife. He seems to have raised his children on his own.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Miss Willis is shot from behind while trying to escape Vic, and left for dead. The bullet passes through her body. A police doctor examines her wound, declares it "only a flesh wound" and determines she should be fine by morning. The night after being shot, with her arm in a sling, she is healthy enough to give a testimony. Two weeks later she has fully recovered.
Glen or Glenda?Creator/Ed WoodBride of the Monster
The Glenn Miller StoryFilms of the 1950sOn the Waterfront

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