Jigsaw (1949)

“Often it is not wise to remember.”

The film noir Jigsaw from director Fletcher Markle starts off promisingly but the plot is confused and ultimately is a muddled disappointment. The film begins with a mysterious gunman who shots a publisher. When the police discover the gun in the publisher’s hand, his death is ruled a suicide. Journalist Charles Riggs (Myron McCormick) recently questioned the publisher concerning his involvement with the mysterious underground extremist group, The Crusaders. Riggs is investigating the racist activities of the Crusaders and considers the death of the publisher as proof he’s onto a hot story.

Assistant District Attorney Howard Malloy (Franchot Tone) discusses the Crusaders with Riggs and begins an investigation of his own. After Malloy meets Crusader Angelo Agostini (Marc Lawrence), he’s on the fast track to success when he’s magically promoted. He’s soon inducted into New York society through the auspices of Mrs. Grace Hartley, the widow of a prominent judge. At one of her parties, he meets nightclub singer Barbara Whitfield (Jean Wallace–married to Franchot Tone at the time) and soon finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue and corruption.

Jigsaw has all too many threads that are never explored. While the plot goes through the motions, these threads are just left dangling. The result is an implausible, frustrating story, and that’s really too bad. The film’s moody tone is a perfect setting for Jean Wallace’s excellent performance as prickly enigmatic femme fatale Barbara Whitfield. Noir fans (like me) will probably want to catch “Jigsaw” just because they can’t help themselves, but it really leaves a lot to be desired. 

My Alpha DVD print leaves a lot to be desired–white vertical lines thread through some scenes, the film skips in places, and there’s a background cackle which becomes more noticeable upon occasion.

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