Robinson plays a brilliant well-to-do physician who becomes fascinated with the criminal mind. Evidently mis-reading the dictum as "Physician, steal thyself," he starts to do some personal tests, committing actual robberies, to see how it affects his vitals. That gives him some information, but only about himself, and that hardly is enough to satisfy his curiosity. Interrupted from one attempted safe-grab at a high-society party by an actual criminal gang, led by one "Rocks" Valentine (Humphrey Bogart, who hated this movie), Clitterhouse, seeing an opportunity to increase his results, seeks an "in" with the crooks, asking to meet their "fence," reputed to be the best in the city. That contact turns out to be a woman (Claire Trevor), who is impressed with "The Professor" and invites him to join the Valentine gang.
|"Ooops!" You do NOT want to meet early Humphrey Bogart in a dark room.
|"The Professor" runs some tests—that's Ward Bond holding the lamp.
|Bogart looks deadly with a gun even lounging in a chair.
That and the cast. Robinson could play class and squalor, refined or brutish and play it genuine either way. It was the public-at-large that favored him in gangster roles, but his potential was limitless (except maybe for playing basketball players). Bogart may have hated the movie, but he manages to keep "Rocks" a threat and remain true to the story and keep it credible. And Trevor plays her role with charm and a bit of bite, with no hint of the vulnerability that she would show the next year in John Ford's Stagecoach (which would win her a Best Actress Oscar. Bogart, Robinson and Trevor would reunite ten years later with writer-now-director John Huston in Key Largo.
|Bogart and Robinson greet Eleanor Roosevelt on the set of Clitterhouse.