Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Crime Doesn't Pay Too Well

I recently saw The Steel Trap, a 1952 film noir starring Joseph Cotten (my auto-correct keeps changing his name to "Cotton") and Teresa Wright.  It's no classic, but something about it surprised me.

The plot (the statute of limitation on spoilers has got to be under half a century) is pretty simple.  Cotten, an assistant bank manager, sees a way to steal a million dollars cash from the vault--and this was when a million could take care of you and your family for the rest of you life.

He steals the money but has trouble completing the rest of the mission, which is to fly off to Brazil--which has no extradition treaty--with his wife.  They're always just behind time, and always getting delayed.  Considering airport security today, it's pretty amazing what he gets away with.  At one point, customs checks his luggage and sees there's a million in it, but let's him go anyway.

But that's not what surprised me.

It's the ending.  His wife finds out about his plan.  She won't stand for it and returns home.  Cotton thinks about it and decides to come home, too, putting the money back in the vault before anyone finds out.  The End.

This came out when Hollywood was still ruled by the Production Code, and the number one rule is crime doesn't pay.  Yet Cotten gets away with it. Okay, he doesn't make any money, but he definitely committed a crime.  He took the money from the vault and if his plane hadn't been delayed he'd be in Brazil right now.

Sure, his returning the money shows he's doing the right thing, but it's still a crime.  There is the affirmative defense of abandonment, but I don't think you're allowed to abandon the crime after you've completed it and then some.

At the end, I expected him to confess what he did to his boss, or the cops, whom we can assume will be lenient since he did the right thing.  But nope, he gets away scot free.  Were the censors sleeping?


Anonymous Poe said...

The censors apparently were OK avoiding meddling governmental interference with an appropriately remorseful businessman who being left to his own devices without the nanny state oversight makes appropriate 100% restitution and learns a valuable lesson in the meantime. Think of the taxpayer savings.

8:06 AM, August 02, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but the money got dirty.

8:39 AM, August 02, 2016  

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