DEATH IN SMALL DOSES is an Allied Artists film featuring Peter Graves as a federal agent on the trail of drug dealers in the trucking industry.
Graves poses as Tom, a novice trucker learning the ropes as a driver in Southern California. He witnesses the effects of "bennies" on truckers immediately, as an older man, Shug (John Dierkes), who's addicted to them dies and Tom's coworker, Mink (Chuck Connors), is a perennial wild man, guzzling the pills like candy. Then Tom's trainer Wally (Roy Engel) is killed after asking too many questions about the source of the pills which killed his friend Shug.
The drama's a bit exaggerated at times, but it's quite entertaining, though I have to say I didn't care for the unexpected resolution; I didn't see it coming until just before the climax, and it seemed a bit...convenient, as well as disappointing.
Graves is fine as the agent, and this movie provides a whole new look at Chuck Connors, that's for sure. He's an absolute crazy man in this, which is entertaining in part because it's completely different from any other performance I've seen from him. It's quite a memorable portrayal. There's a brief sample of Connors' character in this preview clip available on YouTube.
The supporting cast includes Robert Williams, Harry Lauter, Claire Carlton, Robert Shayne, Fred Sherman, and John Mitchum.
John McGreevey. McGreevey was a longtime writer for THE WALTONS, and I had the pleasure of chatting with him at a WALTONS tribute at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art a number of years ago; he was a very nice man. He passed on in 2010.
DEATH IN SMALL DOSES was directed by Joseph M. Newman (711 OCEAN DRIVE) and shot in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie. It runs 79 minutes.
I watched this via a remastered print from the Warner Archive Film Noir collection. IMDb doesn't have info on the aspect ratio; the DVD is fullscreen, and while it doesn't seem that anything is missing from the picture, at times the actors have the same oddly "squished" look that I noticed when I recently watched Sony's BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER (1954). It would be interesting to know the cause. The picture quality is a little rougher than the norm for an Archive DVD, but certainly very watchable. The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix. (Update: Please visit the comments for more on the format issue; 'tis a mystery!)
This film has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
There are additional takes on the film at The Bloodshot Eye and Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Chuck Connors seems to have made a vivid impression on everyone!
DEATH IN SMALL DOSES would make a great double bill with HELL DRIVERS (1957), a British trucking noir released the same year.