Pickup on South Street Summary

Pickup on South Street Summary

A subway in New York City. A striking young woman is bumped up against a cast of otherwise mostly nondescript characters. Except for the guy with the weasely face and twitchy eyes who seems to be taking special interest in Candy. Two other notable exceptions keeping a particularly close eye on Candy worthy of special interest themselves are Zara and Enyart. These two are agents in the employ of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are not interested in the weasely guy named Skip who unwittingly throws a monkey wrench into a top secret, high level investigation into communist subversion in America when he expertly unclasps Candy’s purse and retrieves her wallet with Candy none the wiser when he departs.

Once Candy becomes aware of the theft, she immediately and somewhat overly anxiously—considering ow little money it is likely she was carrying in her wallet—telephones her boyfriend, Joey. Enyart tails her to Joey’s apartment where Candy must submit to Joey’s harangue about being careless enough to allow her purse to be picked. Why all the fuss over a few bucks inside a cheap wallet? Because what was actually inside the wallet that was any value was some microfilm containing highly sensitive secret government information intended to be passed along to the Soviets.

Candy is under the impression that Joey was involved in mere industrial espionage in the form of selling chemical formulas to another company. For this reason, she cannot understand why Joey is acting almost crazy about the loss of the film. Joey agreed to Candy’s request to break up with him on condition that she deliver one last drop for him. Now he threatens with harm if she doesn’t use her streetwise connections to track down this low-life pickpocket.

FBI Agent Zara is forced to ask for the cooperation of NYPD Captain Dan Tiger in pursuit of the microfilm now that Candy has been accosted. He explains that the investigation has been going on for half a year. Tiger suggests he pump Moe, an older woman who peddles neckties on the street and sell confidential knowledge to the police to make a few bucks. When Zara describes the weasely mannerisms of the pickpocket, she narrows the list of possibilities down to eight names from which Capt. Tiger fingers Skip McCoy as their number one suspect. Skip is a three time loser recently release from his latest sojourn in the pen. Moe informs Tiger that Skip has taken occupancy of a ramshackle room literally on the waterfront. Because Tiger has a personal dislike for Skip’s flippant attitude toward law and order, he immediate sends his officer out to arrest.

In the meantime, Skip has discovered the fascinating contents of Candy’s wallet and makes sure to hide before the police come calling. At the police station, Skip continues his insolent attitude to law and order even when Zara lets him know that he is now a witness to a much bigger crime than his own and should do the right thing not only to lessen his own punishment, but out of patriotism. Skip just pours forth even more scorn and the first chance he gets after being released, he heads to the library to use the microfilm reader to find out what is so important. Skip is no scientific genius, but he sees enough to figure out that the content is valuable because it contains some sort of chemical formula.

Upon returning back to his hovel, Skips walks in on Candy rifling through his stuff. He knocks her out cold and steals her cash before bringing her back to the land of the conscious. A sexual attraction quickly builds between them in spite of—or because of—his dominant personality and her submissive one. Skip tells he knows what he’s got and he is willing to trade it for a price. Candy heads for Joey and Tiger heads for Skip equipped with an offer to completely wipe away his extant criminal record in return for the microfilm. Skip’s response is order Tiger out. Meanwhile, Joey hands over $500 to Candy with which to bribe Skip. Unfortunately for Joey, by this time Candy’s submissive nature is such that she’s actually fallen for the guy who first picked her pocket and then knocked her unconscious. When they meet again, Skip explains that one more conviction will for a three-time felon means life. Rather than take the $500 he tells Candy that he wants $25,000 from her commie friends. Candy remains confused by this turn of events, but meets with Joey.

Only then does the fact that Joey bleeds Soviet red become clear. Joey’s boss provides him with a gun and orders to have the microfilm in his possession by tomorrow night. Candy moves to protect Skip by feeding Joey a phony address. Later she confesses to Moe she had no idea what Joey was into. Moe makes a promise to Candy not to inform on Skip to Joey and then goes to find Skip and warn him herself. Skip ignores her admonition to keep his distance from the commies and then tells him that Candy is in love with him. When Moe returns home later that night, Joey is waiting, but she stays true to her word not to say anything and pays the ultimate price for her loyalty.

The cop move in on Skip to arrest him for the murder of Moe, but Enyart has been tailing him and knows he couldn’t have been the murderer. Skip claims Moe’s body to keep her from being buried in a mass grave and when he goes back to his little, Candy is waiting, terrified. Skip coldly demands his $25,000 and is rewarded with turnabout for a fair play when Candy knocks him out and steals the microfilm which she transports to Tiger and Zara. She lies by insisting that Skip ordered her to hand the microfilm over to them.

Zara is skeptical, but proceeds to ask Candy to close the deal on the commies by handing it over to Joey. Once he’s got the film, he will lead them directly to the ringleader of the communist circle. Joe winds up at Candy’s apartment and upon examining the film, he realizes that a frame is missing. Angered at her betrayal, he beats Candy before shooting her. Having discovered Skip’s real address inside Candy’s purse, he promptly proceeds to lose his police tail.

Skip comes to see Candy in the hospital and learns that she betrayed him because she loves him and wants him alive. Only then does Skip admit to loving Candy. They kiss and he heads back to his shack to await the inevitable appearance of Joey. Joey arrives with a thug named Fenton and they quickly search the shack for the missing frame. When Joey leaves, Skip is now his tail, following him to the airport and witnessing the transfer of the microfilm to leader of the spy cell. Skip punches the ringleader of the commies and then gives to chase to Joey from the airport to the subway. Upon catching him, Skip delivers to Joey everything that Joey ever delivered to Candy and then some more for good measure.

In Det. Tiger’s office at back at the police station, Skip is released with grudging reluctance by the captain. Tiger’s parting shot at his nemesis is that he will be see him again within a month when he gets arrested for committing some other crime. Skip and Candy just laugh and continue on their way.

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