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WARREN DOUGLAS IN THE GANGSTER NOIR 'BELOW THE DEADLINE'

Warren Douglas and Ramsay Ames in Below the Deadline 1946
Little known or discussed Gangster Film Noir where our main man "Jumpin' Joe" Hilton is just that... And in the role, Warren Douglas is perfect. He seems ready for anything and yet is cool as that proverbial cucumber... in an ice box: Just returned from World War II, having inherited his slain, more proper and distinguished (and pretentious) older brother's gambling outfit, he's got just about everything, literally...

Including a beautiful young dame in Ramsay Ames's Lynn, going from a roulette wheel worker to the girl who chips at his icy heart... Which is what makes Joe a worthy Noir persona, initially moving forward like a shark: But as cold-blooded as he may be, his recent-past... which had lasted five grueling years... provides a light at the end of the tunnel...

Warren Douglas as Joe
Joe keeps repeating the fact that, when he was in the Pacific, knee deep in a trench, other men were getting "fat" back here, back home — and now it's his chance. Which is what 99% of BELOW THE DEADLINE is... Joe's turn at bat with a game pretty much rigged in his favor, with a few important exceptions...

Score: ***1/2
With a title that sounds cool enough, it hardly fits the storyline here. There's no real DEADLINE or urgency weighing Joe down. Plus the whole "crime doesn't pay" Noir Commandment is out the door from the start since the money's inherited ten minutes in... It's more a "Crime's Already Paid, So Now What?" kind of thing (and he's not a "disillusioned" returning soldier... he wants the dream i.e. tons of moneyt but not legally!)...

But before he arrives, the prologue feels like a short film that has a nifty beginning, middle and end as Joe's classy, thin-mustached brother throws caution to the wind, entering the villain's territory while taking over particular locations from his cozy office (like, decades later, James Caan running things badly while his more patient and logical war hero younger brother waits unknowing in the wings)... It's during these ten minutes we meet the company's faithful fat cat lawyer/advisor and an even more faithful accountant, and our second woman on board — the bad of the token Noir angel and devil dame twosome. Later on, Jan Wiley's gold digging Vivian becomes Joe's port once the nice girl can't handle the inevitable storm, and the fact her man keeps dismissing advice from a former war buddy, who, wanting Joe in on a straight business venture involving airplanes, has his heart in the right place but is actually quite lofty and downright annoying...

Ramsay Ames & Warren Douglas in Below the Deadline
A double triangle – Joe and the two girls, and Joe and the good girl and his buddy doesn't amount to much, but it fills the time nicely enough, teetering in-between...

Warner Archives DVD Artwork
Meanwhile, the boss keeps moving ahead, busting heads, proving he's in charge; and then in a more professional, non-violent manner, he tries to square things with his former rival since an antagonistic (to the mob, making him, technically, an overall protagonist) mayor could be elected...

His number one campaign promise is to delete Joe's particular trade as DEADLINE is a lean, mean yet still mellow and slowburn vehicle without red-herring distractions, convenient detours, perpetual twists and turns, too many complications or annoying self-doubts: And while Warren Douglas's character is far from being a movie-household name, in any genre, perhaps he should be. Then again that'd run what he's all about: too quick for anyone to hang a sign on, and too comfortable to give a damn about it. 
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