Cast & Crew
In Los Angeles, police lieutenant Ted Allen visits his former squad at the sheriff's department and tells his previous boss, Lt. Andy Doyle, that he is investigating a racket. Ted's friend, Sgt. Mike Duncan, is shocked when, moments later, Ted gets into his car and it explodes, killing Ted. Andy and Mike are unable to find any information about Ted's corruption case, because it was new and the paperwork was destroyed in the fire. Their only lead is the name Francine Norman, found on a piece of paper in Ted's wastebasket. When Mike telephones the Norman home, disgruntled housekeeper Ida Dunstetter tells him that Norman is out of town. One night during a rainstorm, two linemen discover the unidentifiable body of a woman lying at the bottom of a cliff on a Hollywood Hills road. Andy and Mike are called to the scene, and a coroner later confirms that the woman died of strangulation before her face was mutilated, making her unrecognizable. While the sheriffs are discussing the case in their office, television salesman Valensi comes in to file a complaint against Norman because she reneged on a payment. Recognizing the name from their investigation of Ted's death, the detectives take Valensi to Norman's house, where they meet Ida. Ida reluctantly reveals that she loathed her employer, who ran a modeling agency on Sunset Blvd. A fingerprint specialist confirms that the murdered woman is Norman, which prompts Andy and Mike to investigate the modeling school. There they meet Darlene Adams, who runs the school, manager Alan Gilmore and former actor Tony Fuller, who is the school's salesman. All of these employees admit that they despised Norman because of her vicious temperament. Andy observes that handyman "Benny" Bendowski, a mentally disabled veteran, is the only person who is upset by news of Norman's death. Andy suspects that the modeling business is a cover for a less legitimate concern, but when he asks to see the bookkeeping, Gilmore flees. After ordering his detectives to investigate Norman's employees, Andy visits his friend, film director Ray Engel, on the set of his current movie, because Ray is featured in a ten-year-old photograph with Norman. Ray identifies the two other men in the photo as screenwriter Peter Van Elda and stuntman Jim Haddix. Ray's script clerk, Flo Burton, recalls that the mercenary Norman was previously involved in a love triangle with the two men, favoring Jim over Peter, and that Jim is now a construction contractor. Andy locates Jim's company and discovers that Jim is now engaged to Donna Graham, a student at Norman's school. Although Jim claims not to have heard from Norman in a long time, the public announcement of his engagement matches the date that Norman wrote down his phone number on her calendar. A visit to Peter's apartment reveals yet another person who hated Norman, but Andy dismisses the surly screenwriter as an unlikely suspect. Peter nevertheless gives Andy a lead when he suggests that Norman was involved in blackmail. Andy now believes that there is a connection between the murders of Ted and Norman. Evidence mounts against Jim because construction equipment belonging to his company was found near Norman's body, and because he has access to explosives. When an unidentified assailant distracts two guards at the school and burns the file cabinets, Andy believes he has lost further potential leads. However, Norman's safe, which was unharmed, contains a list of names of prominent local citizens. One evening, Mike calls Andy to a downtown bar where Fuller is getting drunk and claiming he knows who killed Norman. When Andy arrives, Fuller refuses to talk until he has another drink, but is shot by an unseen gunman before he names the murderer. Mortally wounded, Fuller is only able to say that the man who shot him was a friend and the same person who murdered Norman. Darlene later confirms what Andy has learned from paperwork at Fuller's apartment: Norman was running a black market adoption racket. Darlene explains that Norman had contacts at illegal maternity homes, and took care of the pregnant women of illegitimate babies, then bypassed legal adoption agencies to sell the babies. In time, Norman also blackmailed the women who turned over their babies after they had better careers or marriages. Darlene admits she works at the modeling agency to help her sister, who was one of Norman's victims. Darlene then rejects the suggestion that Jim is a murderer, especially because he was Fuller's friend. Despite her protests, Andy issues arrest warrants; one for Jim as a murderer, and one for Gilmore because of his involvement in the black market. Fearing that Jim wants to kill him, Gilmore calls Andy. The police arrive in time to prevent a furious Jim, whom Gilmore tried to blackmail, from pushing Gilmore out of a window. Both men are arrested, although Gilmore disavows any knowledge of murder. Jim declares he is innocent as well, and when Donna is questioned, she reveals that Norman had threatened them after learning about their engagement. As it now appears that Jim is indeed innocent, Andy's suspicions turn toward Benny. An investigation into Benny's past reveals that he was a sharpshooter for the Army, has experience with explosives and a quick temper. Andy's suspicions are confirmed when a search uncovers dynamite and ammunition in the furnace room at the school. When Mike and Andy confront Benny at his apartment, they find photos of Norman, whom he adored, and letters stolen from her house. Mike and Andy are forced to shoot Benny in self-defense when he resists arrest and pulls his gun from a desk. Benny confesses to setting the explosives in Ted's car, but dies before he can be questioned about Norman's murder. Jim is later released after Andy clears his name. Andy then gathers some toys and he and Mike leave the station to visit Ted's widow and children.
Thomas B. Henry
Edward Morey Jr.
Allen K. Wood
The working title of the film was House on Lookout Mountain. Edward Bernds's onscreen credit is written as follows: "Written and Directed by Edward Bernds." The plot synopsis in copyright records indicates that the character "Benny Bendowski" confesses to the murders of "Francine Norman," "Ted Allen" and "Tony Fuller" before he dies. However, in the viewed print, Bendowski dies before admitting to having killed Norman or Fuller. For more information about the "Lt. Andy Doyle" series, please consult the Series Index and the entry below for Dial Red O.