Cast & Crew
At the trial of Paul Moody, who is charged with killing Mayor Wendell Palmer, police investigator and fingerprint expert James Stover testifies that Paul's prints were found on the murder weapon, a telephone. During a recess, a reporter remarks to James that his testimony is certain to send Paul to the gas chamber, and questions him about the possibility of error. Although James steadfastly maintains that "fingerprints don't lie," the conversation leaves him shaken, and he returns to his lab and thinks about the way the case unfolded: Mayor Palmer, who was elected several weeks earlier after promising to clean up the city's gambling rackets, has just hidden some envelopes in the safe in his study when he is visited by Paul, an artist who recently submitted proposed designs for a new mural for city hall. Angry about Paul's engagement to his daughter Carolyn, Palmer summarily rejects Paul's proposal. The two men argue, and Paul walks out. Palmer begins to make a call when he is struck a fatal blow on the head with the base of the telephone. Moments later, police commissioner Frank Kelso arrives for an appointment and discovers the mayor's body. James is called in to investigate, and while he is photographing prints on the murder weapon, Kelso tells police Lt. Grayson that Paul is a likely suspect. Later that afternoon, Paul is working at his studio with his model, Nadine Connell, when Grayson and James come by to fingerprint him. James performs a quick examination and declares the prints a match, and Grayson arrests Paul for murder. Back in the present, James is visited at his lab by Nadine and Carolyn Palmer, who expresses her belief in Paul's innocence. Carolyn reveals that her father had said he was going to convict Kelso for taking bribes from crime boss King Sullivan. James concedes that there are other plausible suspects and agrees to consider alternative explanations for his irrefutable fingerprint evidence. Later, an intruder wearing gloves breaks into Palmer's safe and rifles through the envelopes, but flees when Carolyn enters the room. She visits Paul at the jail and asks James to join them. Carolyn shows James a cancelled check that she found in the mayor's safe-deposit box, explaining that she suspects the endorsement is Kelso's, which could be evidence that he took bribes. James presses Paul for an explanation of how his prints ended up on Palmer's phone, but Paul maintains he had never been to the mayor's study before. Paul then mentions that it appeared someone had been in his studio a week before the murder. James examines the check, which was drawn on Sullivan's account, and concludes that the signature on the back is in Kelso's handwriting. While looking at the copies of Paul's fingerprints, James suddenly realizes that someone must have forged Paul's prints on the telephone. Further tests reveal that the palm print on the phone is Kelso's, and James speculates that Kelso framed Paul for the murder. James and Carolyn go to Paul's studio and find fingerprint powder on the floor by a desk, the corner of which has recently been wiped clean. They then break into Kelso's apartment, where they find sophisticated camera equipment and a glass plate bearing a forgery of Paul's prints. James and Carolyn escape through the window when they hear Kelso approach, and when the commissioner discovers his room has been searched, he calls and arranges a meeting with Sullivan. After hastily packing a suitcase, Kelso goes to his girl friend, Connie Duval, and asks her to leave the country with him, but she caustically informs him that she has been working for Sullivan all along. When King and his henchman, Rod Barenger, arrive, Kelso announces that he will not take the rap for Palmer's murder alone. Rod strangles him, then he and Sullivan return the body to Kelso's apartment and turn on the gas before leaving. Meanwhile, James presents his new evidence to Grayson, and they go to Kelso's apartment and discover his body. James analyzes strands of a woman's hair found on Kelso's jacket, and Grayson concludes that it belongs to Sullivan's moll Connie. James also determines that liquor licenses found in Kelso's desk were forged with Sullivan's name, and surmises that Kelso took the bribe to conceal this evidence. Grayson and James go to Connie's apartment and collect a sample of her hair. The strands match, and Connie tearfully tells them about Kelso's murder. Sullivan arrives and Grayson arrests him for murder, bribery and forgery. Sullivan pulls a gun and wounds a policeman before trying to escape through a window, but James shoots him. Later, at an elegant restaurant, Paul, Carolyn, James and Nadine celebrate Paul's freedom.
The Variety review erroneously listed the film's running time as 67 minutes. Although the onscreen credits list Carl Pierson as the film's editor, the Variety and Hollywood Reporter reviews identify Harry Reynolds as the editor. At one point in the film, hopelessly inept newspaper photographer "Hypo Dorton" spots a "wanted" poster in the courthouse hall for Sid Melton, the comic actor who portrays Hypo.