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Film / Torture Money

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He's faking!
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Torture Money is a 1937 short film (20 minutes) directed by Harold S. Bucquet.

It is an installment of MGM's Crime Does Not Pay series, a series of short films in which dastardly criminals were brought to justice by fearless, dedicated policemen. This one deals with an insurance scam. A slimy lawyer by the name of Milton Beecher runs a racket in which his goons fake getting struck by taxis. The taxi drivers, the victims, and the "witnesses" are all in on the scheme and are paid with the proceeds from the insurance settlements that Beecher collects.

Milton's latest fake victim, "Little Davie" Barkell, is still in the hospital. A cop named Larry Martin obtains a glass from Barkell's room and confirms by fingerprints that he has a criminal record. Larry, in disguise as a heavily bandaged, comatose accident victim, gains admittance to Barkell's room and overhears Barkell and Beecher discussing their scam. Larry then dons another disguise, that of a hospital orderly, and worms his way into Beecher's organization.

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Tropes:

  • Amoral Attorney: Hoo boy. Beecher the personal injury lawyer is running an insurance scam.
  • As You Know: Beecher makes sure to tell the insurance guy that Davy Barkell was "the man who was struck" when collecting payment, so the audience knows what's going on.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Sort of. Torture Money is sort of a misnomer as they aren't actually torturing people for money, but they are deliberately injuring people to make accidents look more convincing. And their victims get injured whether they want to be or not. Among the tools that Beecher's mooks use are potatoes in a sock for causing bruises, a scary rig used to break people's arms, and a cheese grater for skin abrasions. Victims Ray, Debbie, and our hero Larry all look much the worse for wear after they're let out of the torture room.
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  • Death of a Child: Things get more serious when a little girl darts out in front of the cab that was supposed to hit Ray, and is killed.
  • Fixing the Game: The mooks in Beecher's gang supposedly roll dice to pick who has to get hit by the cab, but in fact, the victim is chosen in advance and slipped loaded dice.
  • Flopsy: An elaborate scheme in which a bunch of crooks stage fake hit-and-run accidents in order to scam money out of the insurance company.
  • Framing Device: The "MGM Crime Reporter" (an actor) introduces "Capt. Michael Karnahan" (another actor), who introduces the story of the insurance scheme.
  • The Infiltration: Larry gains admission to Beecher's gang in order to bring it down.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Beecher and his gang deliberately injure the poor saps that are getting hit by cabs, to make things look real for the insurance company.

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