Moody’s accused of croaking Wendell Palmer (Ferris Taylor), who’s just been elected mayor on one of those “reform” tickets so popular in motion pictures back in the day. Paul’s supposed motivation is that he was holding a grudge against Hizzoner because Palmer eliminated him from being considered for a proposed mural to be erected at City Hall. Moody’s fingerprints were found on the telephone used to tenderize the Mayor’s skull…and as Stover is fond of saying in this film, “fingerprints don’t lie.”
Or do they? Well, both the mayor’s daughter Carolyn (Sheila Ryan)—Paul’s fiancée—and a model (Margia Dean) who works for Moody are convinced that Paul is innocent…after all, Moody has been consistently protesting his innocence throughout the trial. It’s Carolyn who stumbles onto evidence that just might free her future husband…evidence that points to police commissioner Frank Kelso (Michael Whelan) as a “person of interest.”
(Fingerprints was scripted by Orville H. Hampton—from Rupert Hughes’ story—who went on to better things like Saturday morning cartoons and co-writing 1964’s One Potato, Two Potato.) I’ve argued here and elsewhere that there really was no such animal as a “B” movie at M-G-M; nevertheless, Killer is a very entertaining thriller—you can’t go wrong with Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt.
But in the case of Fingerprints Don’t Lie, we’re talking Lippert Pictures here. We’re also talking about one of the cheapest looking movies it has ever been my misfortune to watch (well, it is identified as “A Spartan Production” in the opening credits—apparently budget noirs don’t lie, either)—which is a crying shame, because I thought Fingerprints had a lot of potential. Its saving grace is that its running time totals 57 minutes (at one time in the 1950s, this bad boy was edited down to a half-hour for television) so it’s not as if you’re going to craft a major time investment, later regretting the bad choice you made in life. The clue that Fingerprints has bought a one-way ticket to Cheap City is also revealed in the opening titles, when the viewer learns that the director of this low-priced little noir is Sam(uel) Newfield…and the producer Sigmund Neufeld—blood brothers despite the difference in the spelling (and pronunciation) of their names.
Sam and Sig had no pretensions about making art: they were in the motion picture business to make money, and they did that very well. Of course, when you’re making movies that cost less than a $1.75 somebody’s bound to make a profit.
As I mentioned in TDOY’s inaugural Forgotten Noir Fridays installment, VCI released Fingerprints Don’t Lie as a double feature with I’ll Get You (1952) to DVD in 2007 but apparently that disc is now out of print. (Someone’s asking $100.96 for a new copy at Amazon. Honestly, cartooners—it’s not worth it.)