Monday, November 17, 2014
The only feature directed by Don McDougall, whose busy career in television spanned more than thirty years, HOT CARS was produced by Howard W. Koch and Aubrey Schenck, who churned out several effective little crime pictures for their independent Bel-Air Productions in the 1950s.
Nick Dunn (John Bromfield) is that rare breed—an honest used car dealer. So honest, in fact, that he gets fired from his job for steering a customer away from a lemon. Arthur Markel (Ralph Clanton), impressed with Dunn’s character, hires him to manage one of his lots. With better pay and better hours, it seems like a great job until Nick discovers his boss is operating a stolen car ring. Quitting is Nick’s first impulse, but with a wife and a very sick little boy at home, money is a necessity, so he hangs in.
At sixty minutes, HOT CARS packs quite a bit of story, and McDougall handles it in a clean, perfunctory manner. It benefits from shooting on location, including two actual lots in Culver City, California—Big John’s and Johnny O’Toole’s, which are no longer in business. The impressive finale has McDougall staging a brawl on the roller coaster at the Santa Monica pier that’s performed by the actors—no stuntmen.
Bromfield is a less-than-exciting leading man, but he’s capable of fulfilling the needs of Don Martin and Richard Landau’s script and is able to get the audience on Nick’s side. Dabbs Greer is very good as a nosy cop, but it’s (as usual) Joi Lansing who steals the picture with her seductive manner (who can blame Nick for getting lured in?) and stacked figure.