None Shall Escape
Already the war crimes trials are in view, and it is the middle of the war (to that end, a startling resemblance to Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg is to be observed).
“A trick way of drawing an indictment against Nazi brutality,” said Bosley Crowther of the New York Times.
“Script, direction and acting all remain impressive” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).
Cinematography by Lee Garmes, music by Ernst Toch.
The supreme masterpiece of De Toth in this period.
Torpedoed fleeing the Japs, orphaned, hospitalized, a wreck, she stays with her aunt and uncle, mysteriously removed from New York to a Louisiana sugar plantation with a domineering guest.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times couldn’t guess at the meaning of this wartime drama, “the content is really more consistent with low-budget fare.”
Variety simply had it the wrong way around, “obviously, the film set out to be a study in characterizations.”
Tom Milne pronounces it “dross” in Time Out Film Guide.
Halliwell’s Film Guide takes note of the Hitchcockisms.
A general resemblance to Arliss’ The Night Has Eyes will also be noted.
A particularly nasty Western on a curious theme that has puzzled critics ever since. A.W. of the New York Times couldn’t see it at all but described a rather different film in his review, something of his own devising. Variety did a little better, professionally speaking, and pronounced it “a good western” but no more than that. Tom Milne actually saw it for himself and Time Out Film Guide, where it is “this striking ‘psychological’ Western,” but Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) collapsed into jargon, “bizarre Freudian western”.
Cattle and sheep to start with, establishing a moral position compromised as later in Lumet’s The Hill, probably the best analysis.
Cinematography by Russell Harlan, music by Adolph Deutsch.
The title indicates a positive position, here in essentially negative circumstances.
Really a dynamic depiction of Rodin’s Penseur in his original situation, staring down into the Gate of Hell.
A U.S. Navy flier denied proper recognition for a valorous act drifts into private employment after the war.
He and his girl drifted apart in San Diego, they meet again in Miami where he works for a “millionaire candy maker” who has a partner in the drug trade.
The girl is married to a Navy pal of his, the candy maker’s personal secretary is on the stuff and nominally our hero’s flame.
The Navy pal flies observation planes for the Weather Service into the eye of a hurricane.
The situation erupts out of the doldrums as described and is given a code name just before it strikes Miami, the title of the film.
The unusual structure defeated the efforts of T.M.P. (New York Times) to comprehend it as the film about hurricanes he was vainly hoping for.
House of Wax
There are two versions of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, the better of which is undoubtedly in 3-D. House of Wax has only one, because it appears to have been designed from first to last in 3-D with no mitigation. The only way to appreciate it in other circumstances is by closing one eye and letting your imagination do the rest, like the director.
The story is of a wax sculptor (Vincent Price) whose museum is burned down by his business partner (Roy Roberts) for the insurance benefits. In the conflagration, the sculptor is horribly disfigured, but he recoups by murdering models for his new museum and covering them with wax. His old partner is the first victim. Roger Corman’s Bucket of Blood sees the transcendent possibilities of this, likely a major contribution to Coppola’s Dementia 13, the prison of æstheticism. Professor Jarrod apologizes when shaking hands, he has wax on them from the workshop...
In its full realization as a 3-D film, it will certainly be found that House of Wax is one of the great masterpieces of horror, and because of its continuous hallucinatory quality, owing to the correctly realized artifice of Natural Vision 3-D, it produces more than a frisson, it is a frisson, as Dreyer’s Vampyr is.
In De Toth’s hands, 3-D sets off at the height of its powers, lending an oddly semblable reality to the figures in the wax museum, symbolic apparitions they seem to be. It then discovers the added dimension of wall mirrors, the strange distension of shadows light and feathery or dark and significant. A million interrelationships are activated with the addition of depth that bring into account so much more of meaning. All this is brought into play, and the simple magic of stereoscopy is harnessed to represent the marvelous.
The meaning of De Toth’s famous paddle-ball interlude, and the dancing girls, is that this is a 3-D film with its own amusements.
The Stranger Wore a Gun
In the opening scene, Quantrill’s Raiders advance upon Lawrence, Kansas. The mayhem that ensues is vivified in 3-D when a torch is thrust out of the picture frame into the theater, i.e., right at you, and also a pistol.
The script carefully accentuates Quantrill’s position outside of Union or Confederate forces (it’s said twice, for effect). Randolph Scott plays a spy for Quantrill so shocked by the carnage he quits there and then and heads to Arizona.
Next he’s in Prescott, where the territorial capital used to be until they moved it to Tucson because Prescott is so bad that decent folks can hardly stand living there. A stage & freight outfit is hanging on as the town’s last link to the outside world, despite depredations. “This town is a disgrace to everyone in it,” says the daughter of the proprietor.
George Macready is another ex-Quantrill man who runs Prescott with his outlaw gang, at odds with Alfonso Bedoya’s gang. Foreshadowing both Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars Scott pretends to join each gang in turn, hoping to set them against each other. A fiery confrontation in the saloon settles the matter.
De Toth gets impressionistic effects from wagon wheels turning up dust, and in the shootout amongst the pine trees a real poetry of landscape in 3-D. Polanski’s Tess has something of the flavor in its opening shot.
Sterling qualities are evoked in a room with a mirror on the back wall and a bed extending from the right. A row of chairs curving from background to foreground in another shot gives a floating sense of formlessness and freedom. Elsewhere and throughout, 3-D is used to achieve the realism eschewed in House of Wax for other complex formal experiments.
As producer, Scott dominates the film very effectively. De Toth allows himself only one shot in his very personal style (riding back to town at sunup amid deep shadows). Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine play thugs of the lowest sort, derived from The Big Sleep (Borgnine with a manic look aims his pistol right into the audience and fires). There’s a certain anticipation of One-Eyed Jacks. Later, Borgnine responds to a kindly offer, “I do need an eye-opener at that,” which Macready answers with “you’ve been needing an eye-opener all your life,” disgustedly. Scott’s on his way to the saloon where Claire Trevor is announcing his arrival “like just before a storm, or death,” to a very worried Macready, who offers Borgnine as a fall guy à la The Maltese Falcon.
Of all the actors, Borgnine is most alive to the potentialities of acting in 3-D, or is filmed that way by De Toth. It’s like watching a stage performance close at hand.
For whatever reason, two chase sequences are filmed in 2-D rear projection with rocks and trees placed in front of the camera. In another scene, Trevor sees Scott talking to the proprietor’s daughter, and as her face pales, the left-eye projection turns black and white briefly, possibly because of a flaw in this print or an irresistible joke.
A major reconstruction of the war along a painstaking line suggested by Huston’s The African Queen, combining elements of that film and many others to achieve its strange picture, notable finally for the exhaustion of the effort.
H.H.T. of the New York Times hadn’t a clue really, “standard safari exercise”.
The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “far-fetched adventure”.
Leonard Maltin, “OK adventure”.
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “not at all bad.”
the Indian Fighter
Not “a revisionist western” as Fred Camper of the Chicago Reader would have it, but a Ben Hecht-Frank Davis Western set on the Oregon Trail in Sioux country. The Civil War looms large in a long pan-left with a ballad of the fighting, from Mathew Brady’s assistant to infants and graybeards and the peeling of an apple, it is over and mirrored in this, a fight about whiskey and gold.
A tempting proposition for the title character, but the true wealth of the land is, as Red Cloud observes, not in such things, and he has a daughter.
The CinemaScope gives a fine, beautiful picture of the fort in Catlin landscapes.
A.W. of the New York Times was not very averse but freely confessed he could not follow it, Variety was of the same mind, also Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Guide).
“Simple-minded”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “with touches of philosophy and not much drive.”
Monkey on My Back
The Story of Barney Ross
The structural interest lies in the similarities and differences of the two halves, boxing career/Marine Corps and public relations career/désintoxication, the comings and goings of Mrs. Ross are of crucial significance on this point.
The Guadalcanal sequence is among the most hellish and nightmarish on film.
On a simpler level, the story of a man heroic three times over.
Still simpler, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times complained that he had seen Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, any controversial film was treated by Crowther as unworthy of interest, fuss and feathers, it was his way. Thus Halliwell’s Film Guide, “dreary case history sold as exploitation.”
The Two-Headed Spy
The fictional exploits of a British Intelligence officer who joined the German officer corps in 1914 and surrendered to the British in 1945, having risen to the rank of general and served as Deputy Chief of Supply on Hitler’s General Staff.
His duties do not include sabotage, on the contrary, he is an exemplary supply officer who transmits useful information to the Allies at every opportunity.
There is a great deal of rigmarole about this imaginary personage, who is identified with A.P. Scotland, his contacts in Germany, his collection of clocks and so forth, but he never existed as far as one knows, though the film too is exemplary and perfect in its technique, a fact not observed by Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review, only his disappointment at not seeing the monster of the title.
Day of the Outlaw
By dint of the serenity of its outlook on the harsh countryside, and the ferocious confrontation it presents, full of consequences for Firecreek and The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid, for example.
Man on a String
The Soviet plan to buy into a Hollywood studio. The studio head wants to get his father out of internal exile, the KGB dangle missing brothers, there’s a rich American and his wife, both Communists, to handle the deal.
“What’s a banker know about running a studio?”
U.S. counterintelligence stops the purchase and turns the studio head, who travels to Moscow for “cultural exchange” and is shown the KGB training school, where a new generation of spies are learning how to be good Americans, among other things.
“A small miracle of Hollywood alchemy,” said Howard Thompson of the New York Times, and “a crackling good thriller.”
De Toth’s masterpiece on the condition of war, a precarious and limited “criminal enterprise”.
Critics have taken this too literally as an imitation of Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, that is not it at all, the analysis however covers any debt.
The films from which De Toth mainly draws are more or less easily identifiable, J. Lee Thompson’s Ice Cold in Alex and Guy Green’s Sea of Sand with a sprinkling throughout of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia are the general idea, with special studies of Ronald Neame’s Escape from Zahrain, Ken Annakin’s Battle of the Bulge, Lewis Milestone’s They Who Dare and so on to convey a British raid behind Rommel’s lines to destroy his dwindling fuel supply.
Variety faulted Michael Caine as the BP man in charge, not so forceful as Nigel Davenport’s murderous former sea captain.
Time Out Film Guide finds it “workmanlike”, Halliwell’s Film Guide “well made entertainment”.