Noirvember Review: Jigsaw (1949)
by Andy Wolverton over at Journeys in Darkness and Light
The title Jigsaw suggests that the audience will be called upon to gather a large number of disparate clues, including insight into characters, motives, and ultimately solving both a mystery and a crime. In the film’s opening, a man stands alone on a New York City street in the early morning hours before stores and shops open. As we pass along litter-sprinkled streets, an emaciated cat jumps onto a trash can, looking for breakfast. The man passes a sign that reads “Max Borg Printing.” We hear a shot fired, see the cat scampering away, and we cringe at a woman’s scream as it shatters the morning silence. We have our first piece of the puzzle.
Assistant District Attorney Howard Malloy (Franchot Tone) reads about the story in the newspaper: “Printer Found Dead in Shop - ‘Suicide’ Says His Wife.” Apparently Mr. Borg had been printing leaflets for a hate group called the Crusaders and Malloy suspects the business relationship had gone sour. Malloy had always thought hate groups consisted of mostly harmless nut jobs, but his friend Charlie Riggs (Myron McCormick) sets him straight. Riggs has been writing about the Crusaders in his newspaper column, calling the group dangerous racketeers. When Malloy seeks more information from Riggs (soon to be his brother-in-law), the newspaper man tells him the Crusaders are willing to tackle “any race or religion they can use as a scapegoat.” Once racketeers figure out they can make money from hate, they flock to such hate groups. “Ignorance pays off, Howard, and the profits can climb into the millions.”
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