I love film noir, a genre that only became a genre after the fact. Before French critics coined the term, noir was simply “crime” pictures, usually the lower-budget second feature on a double-bill (or the “B-movie”). So, while I may prefer to watch a movie of this type before randomly choosing one from most other genres, I am well aware not all of them will be winners.
…which leads me to Abandoned. This is a not a good movie, in any genre or by any standards.
I’ll cut to the chase: the criminal element of Abandoned is the black market baby trade. It would be one thing if these kinds were being sold into child labor (or worse—which I’m sure a movie from the 40s wouldn’t dare consider), but the only example the movie provides of a buyer is a woman who, by all appearances, is moneyed and decent. No explanation is provided for why this buyer didn’t go through standard adoption procedures so, without providing a just cause for the protagonists, there isn’t really a motivating factor to drive the plot. It’s just black market bad, standard adoption good.
This movie has issues right off the bat. Gale Storm (how dare she deprive future meteorologists of a great stage name) is reporting her sister’s disappearance at the police station missing person’s desk. Up walks Dennis O’Keefe, playing a newspaper reporter scrounging for news, who sidles up to the desk and starts making a pass at her. Now, even if he didn’t know why she was there, it is in extraordinarily bad taste to put the moves on somebody visiting the missing persons desk. Maybe he just left a funeral parlor where he was hitting on some fresh widows.
Leaving the police station, Storm and O’Keefe are stalked by Raymond Burr, who is remembered by anybody who remembers his as TV’s attorney Perry Mason. I immediately assumed he is Mason here as well and that, having hit a dry spell on getting clients, decides to go commit his own crimes to prosecute. People had a lot of initiative back then. But no, really, he plays a shady character named Kerric, though I thought everybody in the moving was calling him “Keurig”. Still, I wonder if his street alias is K-cup.
O’Keefe shows further signs of progressive treatment of women when he dodges Burr by manhandling her into a subway entrance. Doesn’t bother whispering to her that they’re being followed, or give her any warning they’re about to duck down a flight of stairs. This is pretty much how he’ll treat her for the rest of the movie. I hate spoilers, but it’s no surprise she will end up engaged to O’Keefe by the end, despite him never doing anything to win her over.
Since I try to find something I like in every movie I see, I can say I enjoyed a moment where O’Keefe pays a group of rowdy boys to capture and tie-up Burr, who has been surveilling them. But this moment alone isn’t notable enough for me to recommend the movie.
This is far from the worst movie I have seen. It is far from being even the worst noir I have seen. But without a strong dramatic engine to drive the plot, or even a likable male lead, I advise anybody to give this a hard pass.
Dir: Joseph M. Newman
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Gale Storm, Raymond Burr
Watched as part of Kino Lorber’s blu-ray set Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III