Death of a Scoundrel (1956)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 5, 1956 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 119 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

No one is ever going to confuse Death of a Scoundrel with what could actually be called a good movie, but that doesn't mean that it can't be a great deal of fun to watch. Make no mistake about it: Death is a potboiler from the word go, a lurid tale that's told baldly and predictably and which employs a number of coincidences and contrivances that stretch credulity past the breaking point. In Death's world, people aside from the leading character pretty much exist only to be easily duped by said leading character, even when the duping is as plain as the nose on George Sanders' suavely untrustworthy face. This is a world of extremes, which in the right hands could have served as either a satirical or serious commentary on the gullibility of mankind but which here is too silly to be treated as anything other than a trifle. But that trifle is blessed with the always pleasing lensing of James Wong Howe and the committed, if not terribly insightful, direction of Charles Martin, as well as the excellent, leitmotif-laden Max Steiner score. It also features a cast that relishes the absurd story in which they have been cast, as it gives them a chance to do a great deal of showing off. Sanders, Yvonne De Carlo and the rest aren't giving us great acting, but they are totally in sync with the screenplay and direction and give us terrifically entertaining turns. It's ultimately all trash, but it's trash that's easy to enjoy.