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The Payoff

USA 1942
produced by
Jack Schwarz for PRC
directed by Arthur Dreifuss
starring Lee Tracy, Tom Brown, Tina Thayer, Evelyn Brent, Jack La Rue, Ian Keith, Robert Middlemass, John Maxwell, John Shehan, Harry C.Bradley, Forrest Taylor, Pat Costello, Roy Butler, Merrill McCormick, Snub Pollard, Herb Vigran
story by Arthur Hoerl, screenplay by Edward Dein, music by Charles Dant

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When the town's special prosecutor gets murdered, straight- and fast-talking reporter Brad McKay (Lee Tracy) somehow gets dragged into the proceedings, because he is the alibi of a suspect in the murder, Moroni (John Maxwell) - who sure enough turns out to be the culprit though. But when McKay starts investigating, Moroni gets murdered (and in McKay's appartment, too), McKay gets an envelope containing $100,000 from the dead prosecutor's assistant's (Forrest Taylor) daughter Phyllis (Tina Thayer) for safekeeping, and a certain mobster, John Angus (Jack La Rue), is growing increasingly suspicious of him, so much so that he wants to actually get rid of him - and McKay finds it increasingly difficult to stay alive ...

But McKay is also picked up by a dame, Alma (Tina Thayer), who sure enough turns out to be in John Angus' employ, but she falls in love with McKay all the same.

In the end, when McKay is about to solve the whole case, he gets a call from the owner of his newspaper, Norris (Robert Middlemass), who invites him over to see if McKay's story is waterproof - but actually Norris is the mastermind behind the whole thing who now wants to get rid of a reporter as annoying as McKay personally ... too late though, because Norris' own (innocent) son (Tom Brown), who's also McKay's assistant, has already become so involved in the case that his life is in acute danger - and rushing in to save his son, Norris is actually shot by those in his employ who never knew the identity of their big boss. All the other baddies in the meantime get their just desserts, Norris' innocent son gets Phyllis, and even McKay gets a girl, Alma - even though she tried to kill him earlier on.


Not really a perfectly written film, this one is a bit too convoluted for its own good and still features plenty of plotholes - but this is all only of secondary interest because Lee Tracy, though definitely past his prime and given nothing more than his standard role, beautifully carries the film and takes the audience over many of the script's rough spots with ease and doesn't let the low production values keep him from delivering a fine performance, carefully balancing out drama and comedy and dragging the plot along like a steam engine - making The Payoff a fun film to watch.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD