Civil rights conflict is the storm in the distance, Stuart Heisler here bottles up bits of premonitory lightning. The atmosphere of ingrown menace is laid out vividly from the onset, the introductory nightmare sees the New York model (Ginger Rogers) out of the Greyhound and into a flashing Southern landscape of shadows and silhouettes, just around the corner a journalist is dragged out of jail and shot in the back. The terror comes courtesy of Klansmen, "hoodlums dressed up in sheets" one and all, the guilty mug the witness recognizes belongs to the thick laborer (Steve Cochran) married to her younger sister (Doris Day). To break the silence is to scratch the fabric of town and family, the ladyís quandary is matched by the laidback outrage of the district attorney (Ronald Reagan). "Look around and see what youíre up against!" An electric Warners style is brought to bear on the new decadeís upheavals, the muckraking noir thrust pierces the business of hatred. Half of it is a baroque evocation of arid Christmastime at a small hamlet lorded over by a crooked industrialist (Hugh Sanders) who happens to double as the local Grand Wizard, it might be Capraís Pottersville or possibly the schizophrenic community from Heislerís Among the Living. (Bus stations, diners, bowling alleys and courtrooms all churn with the deep-focus threat of violence.) The other half is a vigorous little rip-off of A Streetcar Named Desire, in which Kowalski finally drags Blanche to a Klan rally full of flagellation and little kids in little white hoods. The burning cross collapses once the lights are back on, the D.A. steps in to take stock of the madness. ("Next time he runs for anything, Iím voting for him," proclaims the Motherland.) Karlson (The Phenix City Story) and Corman (The Intruder) pick up the line of thought and turn up the heat. With Lloyd Gough, Raymond Greenleaf, and Ned Glass. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce