• Shield For Murder

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: June 21st, 2016.
    Director: Edmond O'Brien, Howard W. Koch
    Cast: Edmond O'Brien, Marla English, John Agar, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins
    Year: 1954
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    The Movie:

    Co-directed by Edmond O'Brien and Howard W. Koch, 1954’s Shield For Murder is pretty tough, gritty stuff for its time and this story of a ‘dame hungry killer cop’ running berserk still packs a pretty strong punch.

    In the film, O’Brien plays Detective Barney Nolan, a burnt out and washed up cop who can’t seem to really better the life he shares with his girlfriend Patty Winters (Marla English), a night club worker. In order to make it, Nolan has no qualms whatsoever about bending the rules and doing things a cop shouldn’t be doing. He’s a little dirty, a little crooked, and after we see him kill a bookmaker for a cool twenty-five grand in cash, we realize that he might be a little psychotic too. He tells the higher-ups that it was an accident, that he fired a warning shot but that it went south.

    Nobody’s buying it. However, Captain Gunnarson (Emile Meyer) and Detective. Mark Brewster (John Agar) are at least willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, Nolan sets out to buy a nice little place that he and Patty can call home and stashing the loot in the wall. What Nolan doesn’t realize is that the guy he killed was connected enough that some of his associates have paid to have two rough and tumble tough guys trail him. They try to intimidate him but it’s clear that Nolan is starting to fray around the edges a bit. Things go from bad to worse when it turns out there was a witness to the crime – a deaf/mute man named Ernst Sternmueller (David Hughes) who Nolan would much rather see disappear altogether.

    This is Edmond O’Brien at his greasiest, sweatiest, pistol-whipping best! Nolan is a pretty deranged character, a dangerous man not above beating the snot out of a couple of troublemakers in a fancy restaurant while entertaining a lovely lady (in this case, none other than Carolyn Jones in a fun supporting role). He carries the film and it’s really his performance that stands out here. Jones is neat to see and Marla English fun to look at as Nolan’s foxy lady pal even if this her work here is less than great. Emile Meyer and John Agar are also solid here, and look for a supporting role from Claude Akins that helps to round out the cast nicely.

    The plot is pretty straight forward and the look of the film reflects that – this isn’t so much a criticism as it is a legitimate observation. The movie goes pretty much exactly where you figure it will and it gets there fast, avoiding much in the way of twists and turns. The cinematography is likewise pretty standard, so we don’t get as many of those nice, shadowy, atmospheric shots as we might want. But the movie hits hard – the violence here, particularly in the scene where Nolan issues his beat down – is pretty strong and seeing O’Brien go full tilt like he does here makes for good entertainment. He really goes over the top here, venturing into full on rabid-dog mode more than once. The editing is blunt, but the dialogue is beautifully acerbic at times. It’s all very imperfect and even a little by-the-numbers, but hot damn is it a blast to watch.


    A Shield For Murder is presented in a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc. Contrast looks very solid here and black levels stay strong, thought there are some minor fluctuations here and there. The whites never bloom or look too hot while detail and texture show a pretty solid level of detail throughout. There is some very minor print damage noticeable throughout the film, but it’s not really a huge deal, really just small specks and the like rather than massive scratches. There are no signs of edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacts to complain about. All in all the picture quality on this release is pretty decent.

    The only audio option for the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided. Dialogue is clean and clear and the levels are properly balanced. There aren't any distortion issues, though the occasional pop and some minor hiss can be heard if you’re listening for it. Not a reference quality track, but it works and the gun shots sure pack a nice wallop!

    Extras are slim, limited to a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Kino film noir titles (Hidden Fear, 99 River Street and He Ran All The Way), static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Shield For Murder is pretty hard hitting stuff. It’s fast paced, slick and really well acted. The actual plot is pretty lean and could have been a bit more in-depth but the movie does what it does really well and never fails to entertain. Kino’s Blu-ray is light on extras but it looks and sounds pretty decent. Noir fans should enjoy this one, particularly those that the intensity that Edmond O'Brien can bring to a role like this!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      You've sold me. Sounds fun