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My Brother's Keeper (1948)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Two convicts, veteran criminal George Martin and gauche young Willie Stannard, escape from prison, still handcuffed together. The news quickly reaches Bill Wainwright, the editor of the Tribune, who realises that his reporter Ronnie Waring is in the area. He disregards Waring's protestations that he's on his honeymoon with his fiancée Meg.

The local police force are given descriptions and background details. They have Martin's wife under observation, but are trying to find Nora Roberts, the other woman in his life.

Stannard tells Martin that he was convicted of an attack on a young woman at a dance hall, but pleads innocence. He says his lawyer assured him he would be acquitted. Martin says his biggest mistake was getting caught, and offers to be a father figure to him. They break into an army depot, and Martin steals a uniform. At the railway station, Martin pretends to be transporting a deserter and successfully secures a separate compartment. The train leaves just before the stationmaster is told about the fugitives.

Acting on a tip-off from Sergeant Foreman (whose wife Winnie they encountered earlier), Waring and Meg drive to the next station, but are delayed on the way. They arrive to discover that the convicts jumped off the train just before it pulled in. Another journalist is already there, and Waring pumps him for information. He rings Wainwright, who tells him that the man was the Tribune's local correspondent, who has already briefed him.

Martin and Stannard track down Nora, who runs a petrol station and was expecting their arrival. She produces a hacksaw, and Martin sets about cutting the handcuff chain, muffling the noise with the radio.

In conversation with a sympathetic taxi driver, Mrs Martin describes her husband's life: his father was killed when he was very young, and his mother couldn't cope, resulting in a personality split between gentleness and paranoid cruelty.

While Stannard sleeps, Martin tries to persuade Nora to leave the country with him, and steals a pound note from her purse when her back is turned. Nora gives him directions to a cottage in the woods that they can use as a hideout. There, Martin finishes cutting the chain. Stannard tells him where to find his motorbike. They are interrupted by a dog, whose owner, Edward Hodges, is hunting outside. Nora brings them food and tells them that Hodges also saw her. After Nora leaves, Hodges comes to investigate, and Martin hits him over the head. Now separated, he coldly abandons Stannard, who cuts his hand while attempting to remove the cuffs. Stannard hears the dog howling, returns to the cottage, and is horrified by what he finds.

Martin catches a bus into town and visits the barber, all the while overhearing conversations about himself. He rings his wife, and asks her to bring money and clothes. The taxi driver offers to drive her.

Meg asks Waring how long their honeymoon is going to be postponed. She has an argument with her husband, and rival reporters Brewster and Harding, about the ethics of their trade.

Martin finds Stannard's motorbike and successfully appropriates it after a struggle. He ducks into a church, where he's spotted by Winnie Foreman. While Stannard is turning himself in, Winnie talks Martin into walking her home, while her friend Beryl goes to the police. All goes well until Martin spots police trophies on her mantelpiece, and runs off, stealing a policeman's bicycle on the way.

Stannard is interrogated, and is charged with the murder of Edward Hodges. He breaks down in tears. The news makes the next day's paper, and Nora tells Martin, who has gone back to the petrol station. She appeals to his conscience, pointing out that an innocent man might be convicted of murder, but Martin doesn't care. His wife's taxi pulls up for petrol - when Martin sees who's in it, he flees.

Martin is chased by a police car, and falls off the bicycle. With thirty-five policemen converging on him, he appears cornered - but then clambers through some barbed wire and runs into a minefield, where he blows himself up. Nora tells the police that she witnessed Hodges' murder and that Stannard is innocent.