The Andy Doyle police thrillers really aren’t a series as such. They are really more in the nature of unrelated episodes. Five stories released between 1955 and 1957. There is no real development of the character beyond a name change from Andy Flynn in “Dial Red O,” the first film of the series to Andy Doyle in the four subsequent films. He doesn’t get promoted or meet a girl or change departments. He does get a new partner, Det. Sgt. Mike Duncan played by Don Haggerty in the final three films, but that’s about it.
Doyle is a strange sort of character. For a 1950s Det. Lt. he doesn’t engage in very many car chases or punch-ups. There is some gun-play, but not as much as you might expect from “B” western star “Wild Bill” Elliott turning in his holsters and trying on a soft-brim fedora for size. His Doyle is more of a student of human nature. He observes people and situations. He plays hunches. He’s not quite as cerebral as Sherlock Holmes, but he certainly seems to put more thought into police work than Sgt. Joe “Just the facts, ma’am” Friday. (Although Doyle is equally prone to guiding gabbier witnesses back to the facts.)
Like all good “B” movies, the Andy Doyle series served as a testing-ground for future talent. “Dial Red O” was written and directed by Daniel Ullman, who would go on to direct some pretty good low-budget westerns later in the decade, but his Dialogue Coach was a young fellow named Sam Peckinpah who also appeared in a “bit” as a cook at a diner. The second film “Sudden Danger” was directed by cult auteur Hubert Cornfield in his first try at the job. Edward Bernds, soon to become a staple of the 50’s “B” genre films, wrote and directed “Calling Homicide,” the third film in the series. Paul Landres, who went on to direct some well-regarded 50’s horror films (“The Vampire,” “The Return of Dracula”) directed “Chain of Evidence,” while B-movie veteran Jean Yarbrough closed out the series with “Footsteps in the Dark,” working from a script by Albert Band who would himself go on to direct the Stephen Crane adaptation “Face of Fire” and produce and direct many more features.
Keith Larsen, whom Allied Artists seemed intent upon turning into a star, appeared in “Dial Red O” as a decorated, but troubled Marine Corps veteran suspected in the murder of his newly-divorced wife. Paul Picerni, who was a bland leading man in “House of Wax” and one of “The Untouchables” on TV, played his service-buddy and the true murderer. “Sudden Danger” offered audiences two actresses who would become “B” icons–flashy Helene Stanton as a heartless blonde model and Beverly Garland as a hard-working fashion- designer in love with the chief suspect in the case. He was played by Charles Drake, once The Boy Next Door in “Meet Me in St. Louis” and soon to be the rotten boss of the San Pablo cowboys in “Warlock,” here playing a recently-blinded illustrator. Included in the cast of “Calling Homicide” were James Best as a squad member and John Dennis, who played Montgomery Cliff’s tormentor Sgt. Galovitch in “From Here to Eternity,” this time out playing Benny Bendowski, an apparently feeble-minded handyman at a modeling school, whose initial display of grief over the death of the victim, temporarily throws Doyle off. Benny turns out to be not as innocent as he looks. For “Chain of Evidence” Timothy Carey, one of the great character-actors turns up as James (“Henry Aldrich”) Lydon’s nemesis. Making the most of his three brief scenes, Carey does his usual fine job bringing a low-life slug to life. He even taunts the heroine with the suggestion that Lydon, brutally beaten and left for dead by Carey, just ran out on her. By “Footsteps in the Dark” the series is clearly running out of gas. But it still offered Douglas Dick (the victim of “Rope” and Audie Murphy’s company commander in “The Red Badge of Courage”) as a gambling-addict suspected in the murder of a neighbor. James Flavin, who made a cottage industry out of playing tough cops clearly enjoyed his comedic role as a glad-handing businessman fond of flashing his role of big bills.
The films clearly labored under budgetary restraints. All were filmed in black-and-white, the walls seem thin and doors look distressingly flimsy on certain sets. The Sheriff’s Office that Doyle operates out of looks like a re-dressed hardware store, but when they hit the road and film on the streets–and all of them do–the five films offer great shots of a vanished L.A. (In “Footsteps in the Dark,” land was still so cheap that an entire city block could be taken up by two identical, wooden-frame cabin motor courts.) You see entire neighborhoods now developed out of existence. I wonder if even those pristine hillsides remain.
At a little more or a little less than 60 minutes apiece, the films don’t wear out their welcome. They are a little more than time-passers, but a little less than minor-classics. They will always mean more to fans of the crime genre than they will to general-interest audiences.