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Hot Cars (1956)

A salt-of-earth family man needs money for his sick son, and decides to keep a job at a used car lot despite realizing it is selling stolen cars.


Don McDougall


Don Martin (screenplay), Richard H. Landau (screenplay) (as Richard Landau) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
John Bromfield ... Nick Dunn
Joi Lansing ... Karen Winter
Mark Dana Mark Dana ... Smiley Ward
Carol Shannon Carol Shannon ... Jane Dunn
Ralph Clanton Ralph Clanton ... Arthur Markel
Robert Osterloh ... George Hayman
Dabbs Greer ... Det. Davenport
Charles Keane Charles Keane ... Lt. Jefferson


Nick Dunn doesn't want to be mixed up in a stolen car ring operating out of a chain of car dealerships in Culver City, CA, but Nick Dunn's son needs an operation, and an operation costs money. When detective Davenport comes snooping around about some hot cars, and later turns up dead, Nick's fortunes take a turn for the worse. Written by Barry Shein

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Stop-at-Nothing Blonde ... A Buck-Hungry Guy ... A Red-Hot Racket ... Slam the Screen Head-On! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

2 November 1956 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


It turns out that, while Marilee Earle's scene was mostly cut from the movie (a newlywed couple being sold a car), there is a wide (establishing) shot of her and her husband: Only a true fan can make out it's her, but she is in the movie for about two seconds, from far away. See more »


Lt. Jefferson: Did he say who she was, what she looked like?
Jane Dunn: "Like a hardtop convertible," he said.
Lt. Jefferson: That's her!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The following acknowledgment appears on screen at the end of the film: "The producers of 'Hot Cars' wish to thank Big John's used car lot and Johnny O'Toole's used car lot in Culver City, California, for their help in making this picture possible". See more »


Referenced in Young, Hot 'n Nasty Teenage Cruisers (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

Should Be Revered as a Great yet Basic Film Noir
5 September 2018 | by cultfilmfreaksdotcomSee all my reviews

A hybrid of lounge lizard and game show jazz plays during the opening where a quiet Los Angeles main street's lined with outlet stores across from a used car lot, and John Bromfield's Nick Dunn is so honest, he ironically passed the acid test for crooks...

That is, the main (though polite and unassuming) heavy, rolling stolen vehicles through his own larger lot, sees that Nick is the man to trust: Not trusted to be dishonest but to remain faithful and, like any Film Noir outing, it takes something desperate and personal for a good man to cross the line...

In this case, his child needing surgery causes Nick do what Joi Lansing and her incredible body couldn't initially persuade. And by the time our husband/dad's up to his neck in HOT CARS, delivered to the illegal, seemingly untouchable operation where Nick is stuck as middleman, he's the sole target of a determined police investigator, with no way out... Or is there? And does freedom have a price? And who's gonna pay?

The best scenes occur before he gets hounded and right after he's on board the seemingly perfect, well-paying gig as the fitfully cool, underrated movie and TV actor John Bromfield, with all the ingredients of a casual b-actor, nails the put-upon working man persona, with class to boot: A nice fit for caustic, melodramatic lines like: "That's the problem with dopes like us," to his incredibly-trusting wife, without sounding corny, or cliché: "Too much month at the end of our money."

In cult movie retrospect, Bromfield played the flirtatious scuba diver (targeting pretty Lori Nelson who prefers humble John Agar) in REVENGE OF THE CREATURE. Though he wasn't able to "reign in heaven" as a leading man in mainstream features, he's a sublime b-leading man and does a particularly fine job here, looking handsome and boxy-muscular under well-suited work clothes...

Set in the cut-and-dry mid-1950's, the vacant, bare-boned, industrial locations, shot in fitfully sparse B&W, lends to the overall purgatory aesthetic as our sexy, full-breasted, manipulative "femme fatale" in Joi Lansing lights up every room. Meanwhile, her boss, Ralph Clayton as Mr. Markel... with Mark Dana's tall, square-jawed and very lethal Smiley Ward at his beckon call... make for a solid if subtle, professionally villainous trio...

Within the Film Noir template, instead of being an otherwise kindhearted anti-hero, Nick's a solid clean slate, working for the wrong side while that extremely pestering cop (Dabbs Greer) is the main "antagonist" albeit in protagonist's clothes: most of the second act suspense occurs between these two proverbial "good guys," one masked with an effective, royal flush poker face...

And after a slight twist, there's an intense HOUSE OF BAMBOO style action climax with Nick and an armed Smiley battling-it-out on a fast-moving, rickety rollercoaster (in Ocean Park Pier, Santa Monica). Meanwhile, an 11th hour stampede of cops move in on "poor little me" Joi Lansing and her gentleman boss, who can't flirt or pay their way out of how these kind of movies all wind down and end up: Learning that harsh, inevitable lesson that crime doesn't pay... at least, not for very long.

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