snapshot: The Crooked Road (1965)

UK, Jugoslavia [sic] / 94 minutes / bw / Argo, Triglav, Trident, Seven Arts Dir: Don Chaffey Pr: David Henley Scr: J. Garrison, Don Chaffey Story: The Big Story (1957; vt The Crooked Road) by Morris L. West Cine: Stephen Dade Cast: Robert Ryan, Stewart Granger, Nadia Gray, Marius Goring, Catherine Woodville, George Coulouris, Robert Rietty, Milan Micić, Demeter Bitenc, Slobodan Dimitrijević, Murray Kash, Vladimir Bačić, Nikša Stefanini

Robert Ryan as Richard Ashley.

What’s this? A Robert Ryan movie I don’t know anything about? And he’s playing opposite Stewart Granger? And still I haven’t been aware of it? How could this possibly be?

Sign me up at once for a viewing . . .

In some unnamed Mediterranean or Baltic country, the populist candidate Vittorio, Duke of Orgagna (Granger), seems well set to win the upcoming elections. However, Vittorio is a crook—his hands are not just dirty but bloody—and US journalist Richard Ashley (Ryan) has the evidence to prove it. All he needs are some vital photostats, and he’s made arrangements to buy these from shifty petty crook Garafano (uncredited).

Nadia Gray as Cosima, Duchess of Orgagna.

There are complicating factors. Vittorio’s wife Cosima (Gray) was the love of Richard’s life, and her marriage to the duke has done nothing to dampen the fire between them. Vittorio, meanwhile, has thrown his secretary and mistress Elena (Woodville) into the mix, hoping she’ll be able to seduce Richard into revealing what his plans are for the story that’ll blow Vittorio’s reputation to smithereens just days before the election.

Vittorio, through his fiendishly loyal factotum Carlo (Coulouris), has Continue reading

Seven Thunders (1957)

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A serial killer in German-occupied Marseilles!
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vt The Beasts of Marseilles
UK / 96 minutes / bw / Dial, Rank Dir: Hugo Fregonese Pr: Daniel M. Angel Scr: John Baines Story: Seven Thunders (1955) by Rupert Croft-Cooke Cine: John Wilkie Cooper Cast: Stephen Boyd, James Robertson Justice, Kathleen Harrison, Tony Wright, Anna Gaylor, Eugene Deckers, Rosalie Crutchley, Katherine Kath, James Kenney, Anton Diffring, Denis Shaw, George Coulouris, Marcel Pagliero, Gaylord Cavallaro, Leonard Sachs, Martin Miller, Carl Duering, June Cowell, Andreas Malandrinos, Edric Connor, Peter Augustine.

I don’t usually post on a Monday, but today is, according to Aurora and others, National Classic Movie Day (twitterpatable at #NationalClassicMovieDay). So, ever one to leap aboard a passing bandwagon, I bring you this . . .

Seven Thunders - 0 opener

In the book of Revelation, Chapter Ten, there’s reference to seven thunders that “utter their voices”; the title of this movie, then—or more accurately the title of its source novel—refers to matters apocalyptic, and sure enough there’s a small-scale apocalypse served up toward the end when the Germans move in to raze the Old Quarter/Old Port region of Marseilles.

It’s 1943 and the trawlerman Salvatore (Pagliero), a Jean Gabin type with a crusty exterior but a heart of gold, brings to the Old Port slum of Marseilles two escaped British prisoners of war, Dave (Boyd) and Jim (Wright), so they can hide out until a passage can be arranged for them to England.

Seven Thunders - 1 The fisherman Salvatore is a stalwart of the Resistance

The fisherman Salvatore (Marcel Pagliero) is a stalwart of the Resistance.

Very soon they encounter, in the apartment block where they’re hiding, Lise (Gaylor), an orphaned young woman who’s using her wits, among other things, to survive the Nazi Occupation. The first encounters aren’t promising: Dave accidentally Continue reading

Teckman Mystery, The (1954)

UK / 88 minutes / bw / Corona, British Lion Dir: Wendy Toye Pr: Josef Somlo Scr: Francis Durbridge, James Matthews Story: Francis Durbridge Cine: Jack Hildyard Cast: Margaret Leighton, John Justin, Meier Tzelniker, Michael Medwin, Roland Culver, George Coulouris, Jane Wenham, Duncan Lamont, Raymond Huntley, Harry Locke, Frances Rowe.

Successful thriller writer Philip Chance (Justin) is called from the South of France by his publisher, Maurice Miller (Huntley), who wants him to write the biography of a young test pilot, Martin Teckman (Medwin), who died during the test flight of an experimental warplane, the Walters–Armitage F109. On the plane to London Philip discovers that the passenger next to him is the dead pilot’s sister Helen (Leighton), and there’s a spark between them.

Teckman Mystery - 1 a chance meeting on the plane

It’s every author’s dream: the stunningly attractive person seated next to you on the plane happens to be reading one of your books . . .

Philip arrives home to find his flat has been ransacked. Unusually, the break-in is investigated not by a couple of beat officers but by a full-blown Scotland Yard inspector, Hilton (Lamont).

Although not much interested in writing the biography, Philip agrees at least to Continue reading

Hotel Berlin (1945)

vt Vicki Baum’s Hotel Berlin
US / 98 minutes / bw / Warner Dir: Peter Godfrey Pr: Louis F. Edelman Scr: Jo Pagano, Alvah Bessie Story: Hier Stand ein Hotel (1943; vt Hotel Berlin; vt Hotel Berlin ’43; vt Berlin Hotel; vt Here Stood a Hotel) by Vicki Baum Cine: Carl Guthrie Cast: Faye Emerson, Helmut Dantine, Raymond Massey, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Alan Hale, George Coulouris, Henry Daniell, Peter Whitney, Helene Thimig, Steven Geray, Kurt Kreuger, Frank Reicher, Richard Tyler, Paul Panzer, Wolfgang Zilzer.

In some ways a companion piece to CASABLANCA (1942), but set in a swanky hotel in Berlin during the final months of the war rather than the somewhat more bohemian environs of Rick’s Café Américain, this surprisingly neglected movie has strengths of its own, not least an electrifying performance from Peter Lorre in a subsidiary role.

The Gestapo has deduced that Dr. Martin Richter (Dantine), an escapee from Dachau, has taken refuge in the Hotel Berlin, and its officers are combing the place in search of him. Also at the hotel are various high-ranking Nazis, including General Arnim von Dahnwitz (Massey) who, although renowned as the butcher of Kharkov, has recently participated in an unsuccessful coup against Hitler; all the other conspirators have suicided or been executed, and even von Dahnwitz’s old and dear friend Baron von Stetten (Daniell) reckons the man should kill himself before the Gestapo hauls him in. Von Dahnwitz, however, believes there’s a chance for him and his mistress, celebrated actress Lisa (or Liesl, as she’s sometimes called in dialogue) Dorn (King), to escape to Sweden.

Hotel Berlin - Raymond Massey as Gen Arnim von Dahnwitz

Raymond Massey as the hapless Gen Arnim von Dahnwitz.

The fugitive Martin Richter has a network of allies among the hotel wait-staff. One of these, Fritz Renn (Reicher), is soon arrested, but not before he has equipped Martin with a waiter’s coat. Fritz believes that, if Martin can contrive to be serving in Lisa’s suite during the search, the chances are that the searchers, dazzled by her fame, will overlook him. The plan works, although Lisa becomes convinced Martin is a Gestapo spy. Another significant ally is Bellboy #6 (Tyler), a child with courage and fortitude beyond his years, the son of underground leader Walter Baumler (Zilzer).

Hotel Berlin - Richter (Dantine) and Prof Koenig

The fugitive Martin Richter (Helmut Dantine) and the world-weary turncoat Professor Koenig (Peter Lorre).

The resident of the room next to Lisa’s suite is one-time Nobel prizewinner Professor Johannes Koenig (Lorre), who Continue reading