As long as Paramount can find plots requiring the services of a hard-boiled; quick spoken character actor, Edward G. Robinson should be walking on air. Gangster, gambler, or, in this case, managing editor of a tabloid, Robinson plays his roles with a rough and ready simplicity that makes the audience forget the screen and follow merely the actions and dialogue of the protagonists. In "Five Star Final" he brings new highs in circulation figures to his tabloid by featuring a scandal of the past which forces the survivors to commit suicide rather than have their shame ruin a daughter's marriage.
Like many other stage plays converted to the screen, this production has a vigorous, staccato dialogue to atone for its lack of pictorial beauty. The smaller parts are on the whole excellently played. We like particularly Oscar Apfel as Editor Hinchcliffe. He regarded the words "scandal", "sex", and "sensational" with squeamishness; preferred saying "human interest."
Nice touches include the contest editor's plan for a taxi race . . . "Just another way to kill a hundred people." One also likes the way the managing editor says, "How many dead?"
The whole film revolves around this man Robinson, and he revels in the limelight. He tosses off whiskey in little paper cups, says "I'll tell you why we killed your mother. We did it for circulation", shakes a pudgy, accusing finger at his boss, throws the telephone through the glass window of the door with equal enthusiasm. Even if you have already seen one of these movies with newspaper settings, you will enjoy "Five Star Final."