‘Tight Spot’ or — Someone To Watch Over Me?

(No spoilers)

Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) is serving four years in prison for a crime she unwittingly committed. U.S. attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson) offers Sherry early release if she’ll testify against mob boss Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene). She’ll have nothing to worry about. Hallett will set her up in a fancy hotel complete with room service and police protection, specifically in the form of Lt. Vince Striker (Brian Keith), a detective as manly as his name. Costain won’t be able to touch her.

Yet Costain, like all good gangsters, has his contacts and soon Sherry’s location is no longer a mystery to him. The only question is how to get at her before she can take the stand? Costain obviously has a surprise or two up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Sherry and Striker are becoming rather intimate being holed up together like this and it’s quickly apparent that Sherry should be worried about more than bullets or a blade penetrating her body.

‘Tight Spot’ (1955) has a story as worn as the carpeting in a cheap hotel as a detective assigned to guard a witness ends up falling for them. This isn’t helped by the fact that the narrative to ‘Tight Spot’ is imbalanced with the villains dropping out for a huge chunk of the movie so it can focus, overly so, on Sherry and Vince hanging out in her hotel room. It’s a shame as Lorne Greene makes for a great bad guy but his Costain is off screen for so long that by the time he pops up again at the end I’d completely forgotten he was even in this movie.

As a result the middle section of ‘Tight Spot’ doesn’t live up to its title but, instead, drags and sags somewhat. It’s not that Rogers and Keith don’t give their best but there’s only so much they can do with two people stuck in a hotel suite where the room service might be slightly better than their dialogue (the script’s decent but could’ve done with a few memorable zingers).

But it’s not all bad by any means with Rogers doing a great job in a surprisingly unglamourous role; she’s even game enough to let her sexuality to be completely dismissed on one occasion, and even though the script isn’t a masterpiece it gives Sherry enough choice lines to get by. Plus, some of the scenes between her and Striker are kinda cute. Brian Keith is tough yet decent as Striker and even though Edward G. Robinson doesn’t get too much to do he delivers a calmly patrician performance that’s fun to watch.

Cinematography is variable often flipping from a little flat to quite impressive, especially during the scenes between Keith and Robinson. The music by George Duning is good, often taking up some of the heavy lifting to keep things moving, and there’s some nice sound design towards the end.

‘Tight Spot’ is not a classic Noir and might not even be a Noir at all, playing out more as a melodramatic comedy that’s more of a chamber piece (it was based on a play) than a pulse-racing thriller. The film does pick up, pretty significantly, by the end with a cool twist which could have been explored in more detail and there’s also a well acted scene between Sherry and her sister that hints at what could have been if there’d been more scenes like it throughout. Although the film also has an odd attitude to baldness, apparently being bald viewed as a terrible fate, possibly one worse than death, back in 1955.

So yeah, ‘Tight Spot’s not bad but not great, either. Worth watching for Ginger Rogers alone and the refreshing fact of seeing a movie where the central lead isn’t a young, overly glamourous woman but someone who’s allowed to be a bit more older, lived in and real.

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.