Perkins > Bacall > Gielgud > Connery > Cassel > Balsam > Roberts > Bisset >
Widmark > Hiller > Quilley > York > Bergman > Finney
Richard Widmark wakes up dead on a train, after asking detective Poirot to protect him the day before. Widmark was the mastermind of a heinous kidnapping in prologue, also a huge asshole, and it turns out all of the suspects had motives, each of them affected by his crime, and conspired to kill him together.
Languorously paced, and centered around Finney’s Mike Myers-like appearance and accent, it’s a near-disaster of a movie kept sporadically afloat by a few good scenes and performances, and a touching ending. Anthony Perkins was Widmark’s assistant – nervous, of course… Bergman is a timid religious fanatic who says “little brown babies” pretty often… Vanessa Redgrave is cute and smiley, having an affair with Sean Connery… Wendy Hiller in weird makeup and weird accent plays a princess.
Lumet made a lotta movies, more than forty and this was about the midpoint. The only other of his movies I’ve written about are his very first and his very last. Obviously a weird year for the oscars – Finney was nominated, Bergman won, and the whole list looks like New Hollywood and Old Hollywood in an ugly clash, trading awards between The Godfather II and The Towering Inferno.
Second time seen, but first time with proper cinemascope ratio. Imagine this cropped:
Interesting to use cinemascope on a picture that mostly takes place on a cramped submarine, actually. Even more interesting that this was one of the first cinemascope films.
Richard Widmark, after both Night and the City and Pickup on South Street, is an experienced former submarine commander who is called back in for a secret mission: to escort a nuclear scientist (who disappeared from the public eye weeks earlier) and his scientist daughter (we don’t find that out until the end) to an island offshore of some bad country (China?) who’s developing a nuclear bomb, which they’ll drop from a plane disguised as a U.S. plane to get us into war with some other bad country (Russia?).
Sam Fuller directs in the hard, solid style he’s known for. Movie gets slowed down a couple times by preachy moments and the scientist repeats his line about “each man having their own reasons for living and their own price for dying” about two times too many, but for the most part it’s an engaging 100 minutes with some really good parts. They capture a Chinese fighter and lock him down below, then fake that their own Chinese officer is another captive… beat him up and throw him down with the first guy to get information out with a hidden mic. The evil Chinese catches on and beats the good guy to death with a pipe before the others can stop him. A harsh price to pay for information, but worth it because it leads them to discover the nuclear plot just in time. It’s a badass scene that really sticks out in my memory from the first time I watched this.
The good Chinese guy was in Steel Helmet. Widmark is alive and retired, but his co-star Bella Darvi committed suicide at 43. The cinematographer did House of Bamboo and Pickup On South Street and lots of famous late 40’s noir.
Showed to Jimmy. Hope he liked it. Tight 80-minute twisty little noir about pickpocket who accidentally steals secrets about to be traded to the russians. Cops were monitoring the switchoff to pounce on the head commie, so now cops, commies and the girl stuck in the middle are all after the pickpocket, who remains supercool in the face of danger. Richard Widmark and Jean Peters star, and Thelma Ritter plays Moe, the tie salesman / informant. Everyone in this is perfect. The girl gets shot, but she lives, and Widmark gets her in the end.