Rope of Sand (1949)

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Burt Lancaster battles it out with Paul Henreid in a tale of diamonds and dust!
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US / 104 minutes / bw / Wallis–Hazen, Paramount Dir: William Dieterle Pr: Hal B. Wallis Scr: Walter Doniger, John Paxton Story: Walter Doniger Cine: Charles B. Lang Jr Cast: Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Corinne Calvet, Sam Jaffe, John Bromfield, Mike Mazurki, Kenny Washington, Edmond Breon, Hayden Rorke, David Thursby, Josef Marais, Miranda (i.e., Miranda Marais).

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Welcome to Diamondstadt, headquarters of the Colonial Diamond Co. Ltd:

“This part of the desert of South Africa, where only a parched camelthorn tree relieves the endless parallels of time, space and sky, surrounds like a rope of sand the richest diamond-bearing area in the world—an uneasy land where men enflamed by monotony and the heat sometimes forget the rules of civilization.”

The place is run like a fascist state in miniature—complete with torture chamber—by its sadistic police chief, Commandant Paul G. Vogel (Henreid), and his thugs. Vogel’s primary task is to ensure that no one strays into the Prohibited Area, a region of desert where sometimes clusters of diamonds can be found mere inches beneath the surface of the sand.

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Total bastard Vogel (Paul Henreid) rules his little fiefdom with an iron fist.

It’s here that Mike Davis (Lancaster) returns after an absence of two years. Almost from the moment of his arrival it’s clear he has a bitter past in Diamondstadt . . . and a bitter past with the loathsome Vogel. When Mike refuses to be intimidated at the docks by Vogel, the police chief deliberately engineers an “accident,” so that a derrick’s worth of stuff falls—not on Mike, because that could cause problems, but glancingly on the leg of a sailor, John (Washington). Mike tends John’s wounds and sends him off to see Diamondstadt’s physician, Dr. Francis Kitteridge Hunter (Jaffe), who’s more or less permanently inebriated but remains competent.

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As Mike (Burt Lancaster, right) tends the wounds of John (Kenny Washington), the two men become fast friends.

Vogel’s boss is a man called Martingale (Rains); he’s listed as Arthur Martingale in the closing credits but in fact called Fred throughout the movie. The two work together and on the surface are allies, but in fact there’s no love lost between them, as we witness when Martingale covertly blackballs Vogel from membership of the snooty Perseus Club in Cape Town. Also in Cape Town, Martingale is picked up by Suzanne Renaud (Calvet), supposedly the French niece of a Colonial Diamond Co. stockholder but in fact a scammer whose trick is to inveigle herself into the rooms of married men and then threaten to accuse them of sexual impropriety.

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Suzanne (Corinne Calvet) casts an alluring glance Martingale’s way.

Martingale, having been informed of Mike’s return to Diamondstadt, calls Suzanne’s bluff—aside from anything else, he isn’t married—but then offers her a job. The reason there’s bad blood between Mike and Vogel is that Continue reading

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Annabel (1962 TVM)

US / 48 minutes / bw / Shamley, CBS Dir: Paul Henreid Pr: Joan Harrison Scr: Robert Bloch Story: This Sweet Sickness (1961) by Patricia Highsmith Cine: John L. Russell Cast: Dean Stockwell, Susan Oliver, Kathleen Nolan, Gary Cockrell, Henry Brandt, Bert Remsen, Bryan O’Byrne, Florence MacMichael, Alfred Hitchcock.

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Some years ago chemical engineer David H. Kelsey (Stockwell) went off in search of more lucrative work so that he could marry his girlfriend Annabel (Oliver). He never quite explained to her why he suddenly went away, and besides she wasn’t nearly as serious about their relationship as he was. In his absence she met, fell in love with and married Gerald DeLaney (Brandt).

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Annabel (Susan Oliver) and husband Gerald (Henry Brandt) love each other, whatever David thinks.

To this day David continues to have difficulty accepting the status quo. Under the name of William Newmaster he’s bought himself a house in Ballard, seemingly somewhere in upstate New York, where he goes at weekends and deludes himself that Annabel is living there with him. He tells his colleagues Wes Carmichael (Cockrell)—who’s also his housemate—and Linda Brennan (Nolan) that his absences at the weekends are because of an obligation to visit his invalid father. To turn the Vicious Triangle into a Vicious Pentangle, Linda is in desperate if undeclared love with David while Wes yearns for Linda.

One day Linda’s office friend Daisy (MacMichael) Continue reading