The first in what was to be a series of films, The Fat Man ended up being the only one, largely due to the death of titular star J. Scott Smart (aka Jack Smart). It's a shame that no other entries followed, for if Fat Man is no classic, it's a modest and lightly entertaining little detective film. While it was definitely made on a budget, its cheapness gives it a little unassuming charm. Some will find the film too talky, especially in the first two-thirds, and it's true that it betrays its origins as a radio show; film is about showing and doing, radio is about telling and describing, and a tad too much of the latter infuses Fat Man. Still, it does take advantage of the medium to show things related to the lead character's girth that couldn't have been done on radio. And the climax is very visual, and quite well done. Smart is an amiable presence and clearly fits the part like an old shoe, and he's surrounded by an interesting supporting cast that includes the always-lovely Julie London, a young Rock Hudson, and an especially good Emmett Kelly. If Fat Man never gives the kind of thrills associated with a Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep, it still is a nicely satisfying little mystery flick.
by Craig Butler review