Psychotic killer CHESTER MORRIS escapes from prison and holes up in the lakeside home of psychiatrist RALPH BELLAMY.
If the plot sounds familiar,BLIND ALLEY was remade only 7 years later as THE DARK PAST with WILLIAM HOLDEN and LEE J. COBB.
In the Bellamy house is his wife,ROSE HOBART and their son,SCOTTY BECKETT,plus friends MELVILLE COOPER, his wife,JOAN PERRY and JOHN ELDRIDGE ( with whom Joan is having an affair.)
Chester’s gang include his long time girlfriend ,ANN DVORAK, MARC LAWRENCE and MILBURN STONE.
The audience knows from the start that Chester is a killer as he cold bloodedly shoots the prison governor he took hostage. (Ann doesn’t even blink as the shots run out.)
As in THE DESPERATE HOURS, the gang take over the house as they await a boat for their escape over the lake.
Having seen Ralph at the start giving a lecture to his students, you just know he is going to analyse Chester who storms around the house,frightening everyone, he’s on edge the whole time.
When Chester says to Ralph, “You ain’t got the jitters like everyone else.”, Ralph replies ,”I can’t help thinking of you as a case.”
Later, having watched Chester murder one of his students who turns up at the house, Ralph says to his wife,
“I’m going to stop him. I can see that he can’t kill anyone else.I’m going to destroy him – take his brain apart and show him the pieces. It’s the only weapon I have.”
So, in the midst of this extremely tense situation, Ralph gets Chester to start talking about himself. It’s all rather pat as Ralph unearths problems from the gangster’s childhood.
Chester has been having the same nightmare every night and we see his dream in reverse negative – very effective.
There is another stylised flashback (reminiscent of SPELLBOUND) as Chester recalls the traumatic incident in his childhood that started him on the downward spiral.
Ralph figures out what the dream is about and does prevent further deaths.
The film’s title comes from another Bellamy comment to Chester:
“You’re like a man running down a blind alley in the dark.”
Looking at it now, it’s a stretch to accept that Ralph could ‘cure’ Chester in one session. But I enjoyed BLIND ALLEY and the cast.
A showy part for Cheater Morris and he was convincing. Ralph Bellamy is always reliable.
Ann Dvorak looked lovely and stepped in whenever required to show her devotion to the Morris character.
A nice surprise to see Melville Cooper getting completely away from his usual comic persona as a businessman who proves to his young wife played by Joan Perry that she is wasting her time with John Eldridge. Melville stands up to Marc Lawrence ( and anyone who does that has plenty of back bone!)
Uncredited in the cast are GRADY SUTTON, JOHN HAMILTON and JAMES CRAIG.
In the original 1935 play, GEORGE COULOURIS played the psychiatrist, but I haven’t been able to find out who played the gangster.
I listened to two radio broadcasts of Blind Alley, both of which starred EDWARD G.ROBINSON as the phsychiatrist. BRODERICK CRAWFORD and JOSEPH CALLEIA played the killer. Fitting the plot into half an hour changes it too much but it made me think Edward G. would have been so good in the movie. I think he would have been more effective than Ralph Bellamy.
Surely one of Chester Morris’s best roles.