Definitive '40's Ladd/Lake noir, based on Dashiell Hammett book of the same name. Fairly formulaic detective/political drama for the times, said to be the inspiration behind not only Kurosawa's 'Yojimbo' (1961) but also for the Cohen Brothers' 'Miller's Crossing' (1990). Local politician Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) built his little empire by turning a blind eye and granting favors to low class criminals like Nick Varna (Joseph Calleia), but decides to back the anti-mob reform candidate, Ralph Henry, in the governor's race after he gets a look at Henry's daughter Janet (Lake). Things turn ugly when Madvig tries to stop his baby sister (Bonita Granville) from dating Janet's brother Taylor (Richard Denning), a young man with no future and a ton of gambling debts. When Taylor is found murdered, it's up to Madvig's hired muscle Ed Beaumont (Ladd) to prove Madvig's innocence before Varna and his newspaper friends railroad Madvig into the big house as payback for all the trouble he's causing them. Ladd and Lake, incidentally, end up together, if it needs saying!