“The Price of Fear” (1956)
There’s enough nervous fidgeting going on in Abner Biberman’s “The Price of Fear” to replicate seismic tremors, yet such an abundance of consternation seems unmerited in this slight but admittedly energetic crime drama in which the most forgiving police dragnet in memory surrounds good guy Dave Barrett (Lex Barker), co-owner of a dog track which is being muscled in on by local crime kingpin Frankie Edare (Warren Stevens) and his squirrely henchman Victor (Phillip Pine). It’s the kind of film which telegraphs the seriousness of the hoods by how low they wear their fedora brims or how high they arch one eyebrow in any particular scene.
Successful bank executive Jessica Warren (Merle Oberon) ends an evening of drunken celebration by striking down an elderly professor with her car. Fleeing the scene in a panic, she stops to telephone the police, and while dialing, Dave Barrett grabs her idling car in order to escape a deadly ambush by Victor. Seizing upon the opportunity to not let a passing crime wave go to waste, Jessica calmly informs the police that her car was stolen, thus providing her with a scapegoat for her accident. Meanwhile, with Vince having mislaid his quarry, Frankie sets up Dave’s former partner for a shotgun killing, setting up Dave- who had earlier threatened the man -as the convenient patsy.
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