He’s A Brutal One: “Shield For Murder”

Detective Barney Nolan is oddly quiet as precinct bookings and other activity go on around him in 1954’s Shield for Murder, and no wonder.  Nolan himself has just committed a capital offense:  he murdered a bookie’s runner.  Enacted with scary power by Edmond O’Brien, who co-directed this pic with Howard W. Koch, the wayward cop will do anything to enrich and protect himself.  There’s a lot of ugly truth his brunette girlfriend (Maria English) has yet to find out about him, but she’s on her way.  And he ain’t the guy flirty Carolyn Jones should have tried to pick up in a bar.

Two directors have turned out a well-made potboiler, an exciting one.  Violent and disturbing too.  There is an estimable shootout scene at an indoor swimming pool, and an almost Bonnie and Clyde-like shooting of a criminal.  What’s more, there is something rather grand about Shield, but what is it?  Maybe it’s that Barney is so diligent in the crummy things he does while we know perfectly well he is destined to be wholly defeated.

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