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Homicide

Homicide(1949)

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In the desert resort town of Glorietta Springs, near Los Angeles, farm laborer Brad Clifton arrives at the Webb Ranch, looking for work. Mrs. Webb, the farmer's wife, directs Clifton to the lemon groves, but there, he encounters Nick Foster and Pete Kimmel with Webb's body. They order him to claim that he saw a drunken Webb fall off the tractor. When Clifton tries to get away, they shove money at him and threaten to tell the police that he murdered the man. Clifton does as he is told, and a coroner's jury determines that Webb died as the result of an accident. As a nervous Clifton leaves the ranch, Mrs. Webb accuses him of lying. Andy, an associate of Nick and Pete, then picks up the hitchhiking Clifton. Later, in Los Angeles, police detective Lt. Michael "Mickey" Landers receives a report of a suicide at a hotel. When he examines the scene, circumstances cause Mickey to suspect that the death by hanging was not a suicide. He also notices that the knot in the noose is badly tied, and when he discovers a tattoo identifying the dead man as a former Navy man, he is sure the man was murdered. While his partner, Boylan, traces the serial number on the tattoo, Mickey checks the next room, whose occupant checked in at the same time as the dead man. The room is empty, but Mickey finds a matchbook from a Glorietta Springs Hotel and a small tablet. A lab analysis reveals the tablet to be saccharine, and the dead man is identified as Clifton. When Mickey fails to convince his superior that Clifton was murdered, he asks for a leave of absence and travels to Glorietta Springs to investigate on his own. Posing as an insurance investigator, he questions Andy, the bartender at the hotel, about Clifton. He also questions Jo Ann Rice, who runs the cigarette stand. After Mickey leaves the bar, Andy tells Nick and Pete about his interest in Clifton. When Mickey's search for information about Clifton proves fruitless, Jo suggests that he might have been a farm laborer. Mickey then checks with the farm labor bureau and learns that Clifton was sent to the Webb farm. On investigating, he discovers that Mrs. Webb is in a sanitarium and the farm is now for sale. From the real estate agent, Mickey hears about Clifton's involvement in Webb's death and then asks the sheriff for details of the case. While looking at a photo of the accident, Mickey notices that the tractor was not moving when Webb died, so he could not have been killed by a fall. Back at the Webb farm, Mickey finds a piece of electrical cable and shows it to Andy, who was formerly a soldier in the signal corps. His questions tip Andy off that Mickey is not an insurance investigator. Later, Mickey returns to the farm and locates the rest of the cable, but just after he realizes that it leads to the hotel, Pete shoots him and leaves him for dead. Much later, Mickey stumbles back to the hotel, where Jo, who is falling in love with him, calls a doctor. When the doctor insists on reporting the wound, Mickey reveals that he is a police detective. Continuing his investigation, Mickey discovers that Nick and Pete have disappeared. Later he learns that Andy does not work on Monday nights and so could have killed Clifton. Andy is also a diabetic and uses saccharine. Boylan sends Mickey a telegram stating that Nick and Pete are involved with an illegal gambling syndicate. Mickey then surmises that Andy used his signal corps experience to send the gamblers information using the cable that he discovered near the Webb farm. When Andy returns, Mickey arrests him, but on the way to the police station, Andy knocks him out and drives to the desert, where he plans to kill Mickey. Through a ruse, Mickey gets control of Andy, who reveals that Nick and Pete are now in Arizona. They killed Webb because he found the cable and refused to keep quiet. After the gang is rounded up, Mickey invites Jo to visit him in Los Angeles.