Fritz Lang directed this gritty drama of gangland murder and police corruption, which was considered quite violent in its day. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is a scrupulously honest police detective who learns that one of his fellow officers has committed suicide. Bannion is told by the officer's wife, Bertha (Jeanette Nolan), that he was severely depressed after being told he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. But the cop's mistress, a barmaid named Lucy (Dorothy Green), has another tale to tell. She claims that he left behind a suicide note detailing a complex trail of corruption in the department, leading to mob boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), and now Bertha plans to use the note to blackmail Lagana. When Lucy is found dead beside an abandoned road, with her body showing obvious signs of torture, Bannion is convinced that her story was true, and he goes after Lagana. When he threatens to expose Lagana's dealings, the gangster orders Bannion killed. But the car bomb meant to finish Bannion off instead kills his wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando). The police take Bannion off the case, but, convinced his peers are trying to cover their tracks, Bannion follows the case alone, determined to get revenge. Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame shine in key supporting roles.
by Mark Deming synopsis