World for Ransom (Robert Aldrich / U.S., 1954):

A nervy burlesque of Hustonian exotic thrillers, with Robert Aldrich showcasing the "hoodlum’s touch" needed to whip up clueless soldiers of fortune and atomic MacGuffins in preparation for Kiss Me Deadly. The protagonist is a fatigued shamus (Dan Duryea) sneering at the remaining curlicues of classical bravery as they expire in the middle of shoestring mock-ups of Singaporean clutter. His colleague in decaying gallantry is a cut-rate Errol Flynn (Patrick Knowles) waist-deep in the kidnapping of a nuclear egghead (Arthur Shields); his beloved (Marian Carr) dons Dietrich’s top hat and tux and, soft-voiced in a diaphanous gown, is in no mood to be anyone’s idea of feminine purity. Power plays amid expatriates and colonizers, palpable heat and fog, terse notes from Across the Pacific, Casablanca and The Third Man. Old faces, modern anxieties: Officious villainy by Gene Lockhart, Reginald Denny and Nigel Bruce, the noir seeker as a seedy scarecrow facing his foes with a grenade in each fist. "There’s a joke in there, somewhere." The death of heroism and the rise of amoral free-fire zones, blithely observed by Aldrich as he steps into his own Hollywood no-man’s-land. "A witty little film shot under conditions resembling those of a home movie" (Truffaut in The Films in My Life). With Douglass Dumbrille and Keye Luke. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home