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The Fat Man

USA 1951
produced by
Aubrey Schenck for Universal
directed by William Castle
starring J. Scott Smart, Julie London, Rock Hudson, Clinton Sundberg, Jayne Meadows, John Russell, Jerome Cowan, Emmett Kelly, Lucille Barkley, Robert Osterloh, Harry Lewis, Teddy Hart, Shimen Ruskin, Robert Roark, Marvin Kaplan, Tom Keene, Donald Kerr, Parley Baer, Bobby Jordan, Peter Brocco, Ken Niles
screenplay by Harry Essex, Leonard Lee, based on a radio series by Dashiell Hammett, music by Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A dentist (Ken Niles) is murdered and a set of dental records is stolen. The police labels the murder a suicide though and doesn't investigate any further, so the dentist's assistant (Jayne Meadows) turns to private investigator Brad Runyon (J.Scott Smart) aka the fat man for help. The assistant soon turns up dead as well, but not without giving the privat eye a decisive clue - that the dental records were of a certain Roy Clark (Rock Hudson), a man who has apparently come to a fortune pretty quickly.

Runyon is unable to find Clark, but finds a track leading to local rich man Gene Gordon (John Russell), who has come into unexpected wealth quite some years ago, and to Clark's fiancée Pat (Julie London), who tells him Clark has spent some time in prison, apparently for robbing the payroll at a racetrack. He was the only one arrested for the crime, all his accomplices got away - might Gene Gordon be one of them?

Runyon meets Deets (real life clown Emmett Kelly), Clark's former cellmate and now a professional clown. He paints the nicest picture of Clark.

Later, a burnt out truck is found with an unidentifiable corpse in it. His description however might fit that of Clark, and Runyon figures it must be him, because his dental records, the only thing to identify him by, were stolen. Somehow he manages to trace the truck back to Deets, but now Deets is gone. Eventually, Clark finds Deets, who now owns his own circus. Cornered, he confesses everything: He knew Clark and Gene Gordon have been accomplices in the racetrack robbery, and went to Gordon to offer to kill Clark, for a fraction of Clark's share - Gordon agreed of course. (Not sure though why he later needed to steal the dental records and kill the dentist and his assistant though.)

It all ends with a chase through Deets's circus, at the end of which Deets falls to his death.


Dashiell Hammett was a master of convoluted, labyrinthine and highly immoral crime stories. This film though, based on his radio series, is a straight by-the-numbers murder mystery - and not even a well-written one: The motive for the first murder is more than questionable, the way Runyon comes up with clues is not always based in logic, and the final solution seems to be a bit too simplistic. All this is carried by a rather bland directorial effort, which doesn't help much either.

All of this makes The Fat Man not a trainwreck, merely a forgettable movie.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD