The 1948 film noir, Parole, Inc., begins with a lengthy opening crawl, informing the viewer that this film — though fictional — deals with a real-world problem.
Apparently, too many people are getting out of prison!
That’s right! The opening crawl informs us that half of all crimes are committed by people who have already served time in prison. Apparently, there would be less crime if we just never released people from prison but, unfortunately, state parole boards are way too quick to let some criminals out early. Is it because the members of the board truly believe that these offenders have been rehabilitated in prison? Or is it because they’ve been bribed?
That’s what FBI Agent Richard Hendricks (Michael O’Shea) is going to find out!
Now, we already kind of know what he’s going to discover and what’s going to happen to him as a result because, for some reason, the film opens with Hendricks in a hospital bed, dictating the events of his latest case. The rest of the film is largely an extended flashback, occasionally interrupted by a shot of Hendricks recovering from his injuries. I’m not sure why the filmmakers decided that this would be a good format to go with. It basically robs the story of any suspense. Whenever a gangster says that he’s going to kill Hendricks, the declaration doesn’t carry any weight because we know that Hendricks is alive and that he managed to solve the case.
Anyway, in the flashback, Richard is working directly for the governor of California. The governor is worried that the state parole board is accepting bribes so Richard goes undercover as an ex-con who wants to buy a parole for a friend of his who is still in jail. As a part of his assignment, Richard befriends a recently paroled criminal named Harry Palmer (Charles Bradstreet). It turns out that, for a criminal, Harry isn’t that bad of a guy. He may still have underworld connections but, for the most part, Harry seems like he could easily go straight. Of course, that doesn’t make much difference to the nefarious crows that Harry runs around with and Harry ends up getting gunned down about halfway through the film. Richard seems to be more annoyed over the inconvenience of Harry dying than anything else. Now, he’s going to have to do all sorts of extra work!
Though Michael O’Shea has just enough screen presence to be an acceptable hero, the main reason to see the film is for Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers. Bey plays the crooked attorney who is in charge of the parole buying ring. Evelyn Ankers play the wonderfully named JoJo Dumont, who owns the bar out of which the gangsters operate. These two actors both throw themselves into their roles, bringing just the right amount of B-movie grit to their characters. Horror fans may recognize Evelyn Ankers from her performance as Lon Chaney Jr.’s girlfriend in The Wolf Man. Ankers appeared in several classic Universal horror films and was menaced by everyone from Dracula to Frankenstein’s Monster to the Invisible Man. Turhan Bey also appeared in his share of horror films, even co-starring with Evelyn Ankers in The Mad Ghoul.
Parole, Inc is a largely forgettable movie but worth seeing if you’re a fan of Universal horror and you’re interested in seeing Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers in a change-of-pace film.