When gangster Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni) is released from prison, his old friend Smiley Williams (Hardie Albright) is waiting to meet him. But Smiley isn’t giving him a ride out of the kindness of his heart, he’s planning to kill Eddie and take over his crime syndicate. Eddie suddenly finds himself in Hell, where he meets Nick (Claude Rains). Nick has been hard at work in Hell trying to make nefarious deeds happen on Earth, but Judge Frederick Parker (also Paul Muni) keeps getting in his way. Nick would love nothing more than to get Judge Parker out of the picture by ruining his campaign for Governor. As luck would have it, Eddie bears a striking resemblance to the Judge and wants to get revenge on Smiley. So Nick makes a deal with Eddie that Eddie take over the Judge’s body and destroy his reputation and in return, Eddie will be allowed to avenge his own death.
Eddie does his best to tarnish the Judge’s reputation, but his efforts completely backfire. Eddie also has the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the Judge’s fiancée Barbara Foster (Anne Baxter) and quickly falls in love with her, which makes him realize the things he’d been missing out on due to his life of crime. Eddie wants to change his ways and when Nick gives him the opportunity to shoot Smiley, Nick doesn’t take it. Instead, he startles Smiley and Smiley accidentally kills himself. No longer willing to cooperate with Nick, Eddie has to go back to Hell. Nick would love to make Eddie’s stay in Hell even more miserable than he originally meant it to be, but is powerless to do so since Eddie knows how incompetent Nick was about this whole incident and could ruin his reputation.
With a cast of Paul Muni, Anne Baxter, and Claude Rains, I had fairly high expectations for Angel on my Shoulder, but it just wasn’t one of my favorites. There were some things I really liked about it, though. The scenes in Hell were awesome; very well produced. And for some reason, I couldn’t help but love the scene where Eddie/the Judge gets into a brawl. The kid saying, “He’s doing jiu-jitsu!” is just one of those little movie moments that I am now inexplicably obsessed with. As for the rest of it, though, I just couldn’t get into it, even though I really wanted to.