Flight to Tangier
Under the credits there is a map of the world centered on Africa, and at their close the camera zooms in to the point at issue and reveals in 3-D it’s a relief map. A very lovely interchange of effects at the Tangier Aerodrome leads to the beautiful dolly-out from the empty cockpit slowly down the darkened plane where one or two swinging ropes can be glimpsed as the camera pans left to the open cargo door on blue sky over a cloudbank.
Jack Palance and Joan Fontaine inspect the subsequent wreckage as Robert Douglas, Corinne Calvet and Marcel Dalio look on through a chain-link fence like Polanski in Chinatown.
Tangier is Casablanca after the war, governed as an International Zone much like Vienna in The Third Man.
Fontaine and Calvet are attar of rose and lemon zest, respectively. Dalio and his gangsters are a development from Luther Adler et al. in D.O.A. A Czech merchant (Murray Matheson) fleeing the Iron Curtain with his assets converted into a letter of credit worth three million dollars is en route to Tangier from Prague via Teheran. Douglas wants to buy surplus war matériel with the money, sell it to the Iron Curtain as an American, and expose the U.S. as a warmongering nation.
Dalio, a simple gangster, has only contempt for this agent. The Astral Importing & Exporting Co. was sufficient cover for local operations until this espionage caused the death of a police officer and set off a wild pursuit. Palance and the girls head for the beach, where Warren really gets this film going in a gentle ricochet of forms. At a colleague’s home, Palance packs a suitcase, and Fontaine’s picture is framed on the desk. These two objects occupy the middle space in the three-dimensional image full of meaning (past and future, at least).
The police set up a roadblock, and Palance gets out of the car as Warren pans over the hood left then back right on him walking into a side street full of activity, then back to the car, all very fast-moving and sculptural.
As in Casablanca, the way out of Tangier is by plane to Lisbon then America. Palance can’t go home again, until he redeems himself.
Charles Marquis Warren is the author of Only the Valiant. Attend to the revelation of Calvet’s character, a great sculptural modulation.
It’s all a question of PBYs on dusty runways amid crates of “farm implements,” the farmlands around Tazlai, the Hotel del Bordj next to the Credit Bank (ŕ l’Étranger), and flying the TWA Constellation (“Star of the Tiber”) back to the States.
A gang has stolen a ceremonial cannon from the Mexican Army. One of their number is known as Gunner (James Sikking), formerly of the Confederate Army. He’s quite fond of dynamite, which he lights with a fuse and fires out the cannon. Another is Jess Wade (Elvis Presley), who wants to go straight but is marked as a scapegoat by the gang.
Wade prevails in the town, and serves as sheriff for the nonce. The gang bombards a Mexican Army unit crossing a river in pursuit, and then shells the town to force a prisoner’s release.
A characteristic repeated gag is generated by the quiet stillness Warren propagates as a tone suddenly punctured by shattering violence. The cannon launches a bundle of dynamite at the federales in the river on a sunny day and blows them to bits. The townspeople are discussing matters in the main street with the gang’s leader (Victor French) when the first cannon blast splinters the church steeple. The street they’re standing in is hit, then a house and a shop. Hysteria turns against Wade, but he calmly bears it and then seeks out the gun emplacement.
A most classic Western, which is as much as to say, a Western in color by Robert N. Bradbury. Warren’s color rhythms are precise, and his clear, subtle touch is evident in each setup.
A minute work; all the visual splendors are keyed to Ina Balin and the shiny cannon with red fancy wheels and a curious relationship to The Pride and the Passion, it may be. Presley’s rendition of the title song repays a debt to Frankie Laine.