This could have been a good suspenseful movie but it gets bogged down by too much syrup and corn. The bright spot is Stephen McNally who makes a good villain. The movie is based on a novel by the husband and wife team The Gordons.
Crystal Benson (Dorothy McGuire) owns a a newspaper in the small town of Candlewood, New Mexico. She thinks someone is keeping an eye on her. Someone is but she’s not sure. She asks the sheriff, Lafe (Edgar Buchanan), for a gun and he gladly gives her one. She gives her daughter Randy’s (Mary Murphy) boyfriend Hack (Ron Hagerthy) an envelope with four thousand dollars cash to give to Randy if something happens to her. Then she visits her fiancee, archeologist Josh Blake (John Howard). He working on some Indian ruins in the desert. He gives her the grand tour including showing her a bottomless pit.
Randy and Hack show up. She says she met a strange man earlier who was following her. Chris has her suspicions and dictates her story into a tape recorder. Her real name is Zena. Nineteen years ago she was married to a mobster named Steve (Stephen McNally). He killed a cop and got away with it. Chris tells her girlfriend Mary Rose (Carolyn Jones) that she’s pregnant and has to leave town. She takes off for California.
She reads in the paper that Steve is charged with murdering a woman. She was a hooker he brought home who stumbled into a closet where he kept a couple hand grenades. They went off. No one believes him and they think it’s his wife. She thinks he’ll get out of it like he has with everything else. She asks Mary Rose to testify that she’s still alive. The tactic doesn’t work but instead of the death penalty he gets twenty years.
Chris’ new life is shattered as Steve walks into the office just as she finished dictating into the recorder.Steve gets into Chris and Randy’s lives posing as Chris’ brother. Randy really likes him and agrees to spend her summer vacation with him in Chicago. Chris asks Josh to charter a plane and fly she and Randy out of there. Josh has his suspicions and asks Lafe to run Steve’s fingerprints. Then something happens that changes everything.
The ending is kind of suspenseful but too obvious to be a grabber. The relationship troubles between Randy and Hack and Chris and Josh are gone into too often and that drags the whole thing down and you just wish they would get on with it. No such luck. Miss it and you won’t miss much.
Ron Hagerthy did a lot of movie and TV work but is probably best known as Clipper King in the 1952 season of “Sky King.”