The Threat

Released Dec. 1, 1949: THE THREAT, starring Michael O’Shea, Virginia Grey, and Charles McGraw. Directed by Felix E. Feist (The Devil Thumbs a Ride, The Man Who Cheated Himself, This Woman Is Dangerous). A convicted felon (Charles McGraw) escapes from Folsom Prison intent on making good his promise to exact revenge on the detective (Michael O’Shea) and DA (Frank Conroy) who put him behind bars. TheThreatHe and two accomplices (Anthony Caruso and Frank Richards) kidnap both targets and also grab Virginia Grey in the process, whom McGraw believes squealed on him. McGraw cleverly eludes a massive police manhunt and transports his hostages to a shack in the middle of nowhere, while he waits for his partner to arrive by plane from Mexico. McGraw, with his rugged looks and distinctively gruff voice, completely owns this film as the ruthlessly cruel fugitive. Perhaps it’s unfortunate the production code of the era put limits on the amount of violence that could be depicted, because McGraw is constrained to dishing out only an occasional backhand slap, when we all know a sociopath of his caliber would resort to far more brutal measures. It’s the one thing that slightly undermines the believability of his character, but it’s certainly not McGraw’s fault.  He still manages to turn in an extremely intimidating performance in spite of this restriction.  Don McGuire also gives a notable performance in the small role of the unfortunate moving van driver who tragically gets caught up in McGraw’s violent scheme. O’Shea seems slightly miscast as the detective. His chipper nice-guy demeanor is better suited to romantic comedy roles than that of heroic crime fighter, although he did play such parts in several other films. The problem here is he doesn’t present a strong enough counter to McGraw’s frighteningly convincing heavy. Perhaps that’s why O’Shea spends most of the film tied up and gagged. Feist keeps the story moving, visually engaging, and atmospheric. The stifling heat that’s present at the shack where everyone waits for the plane to arrive, is convincingly thick and oppressive. While the story keeps your interest, it does unfold rather predictably, which diminishes some of its impact. Compared to other escaped convict hostage stories, like The Desperate Hours, for example, The Threat doesn’t deliver the same level of tension or suspense. However, it is still a solid and respectable crime thriller with a decidedly menacing central character. We give The Threat 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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