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Fine thriller with Glenn Ford playing a wealthy vacuum company exec whose son is kidnapped (you know the story if you’ve seen the good Mel Gibson 1996 remake). He weighs the odds of getting his boy back alive, and decides to offer the ransom money as a bounty on the thugs’ heads instead. Ford was great at playing tightly coiled, conflicted, ordinary heroes, and does a super job enacting this father’s dilemma, anguish and anger. He makes an excruciatingly tough choice, and accepts that most will accuse him of gambling his son’s life away. He addresses the criminals and public directly, using the media who are portrayed as an uncaring mob jockeying for the hottest scoop. Leslie Nielsen makes an impression in his first movie as a cynical, blackmailing reporter whose brutal honesty comes in handy.
The Last Hunt
Epic, intelligent and tense psychological western. Trigger-happy, Indian-hating Robert Taylor goes on a hunt with gunshy, guilt-ridden, buffalo-hunting legend Stewart Granger, and only one comes back alive. Great support by Lloyd Nolan as a wry, one-legged alcoholic trapper, Russ Tamblyn as a half-breed who passes as white, and Debra Paget as an Indian girl and one more things over which Taylor and Granger clash. Taylor gives an excellent performance as the increasingly unhinged killer. Desperately needy, hotheaded and entitled, he’s increasingly paranoid and vengeful as he hunts the elusive white buffalo. Grim ending with an unforgettable image borrowed by Kubrick for The Shining.
Rory Calhoun is a gunfighter who barely makes it out of a deadly scrape and promises to go good. He tries to reform by acting as deputy to sheriff Dean Jagger, but faces doubts about his character and gets sucked into a range war. This smart, great-looking Jack Arnold western looks at the different types of men who live by the gun, and whether they can ever change while still using one. Lots of unpredictable plot twists, unexpected, rewarding directions and fascinating characters, like doomed gunman James Millican, and charismatic psycho gun-for-hire Grant Williams (who starred in Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man), whose arrival forces a showdown that tests Calhoun’s commitment to his new life and values.
X: The Unknown
Dean Jagger again, this time playing a heroic atomic scientist investigating an unstoppable, dark, buzzing, gooey mound of pure energy that’s crawled out from deep underground. Jagger happens to be working on an atomic neutralizer that might stop the killer tapioca, if he can scale the gadget up to the monster’s massive size. Lots of of creative efforts to stop the thing, escalating gore and suspense, and cool effects that show us a scary blob with the power to knock out communication, fry people in their cars and vaporize soldiers, leaving only empty uniforms in its wake. This Hammer movie was meant to be a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment (1955); rights issues prevented any direct or overt connection, but it has some of that series’ serious and disturbing scifi spirit.
The Man Who Never Was
A huge military operation and the course of WW2 hinges on one plan, one man, several strokes of luck and good timing. Royal Navy Commander Clifton Webb convinces a man to donate his dead son’s body for a top secret mission. They dress the corpse in uniform, put fake documents on him and dump him where the Nazis will find and hopefully fall for the false invasion. To humanize “Willie” they include a phony love letter written by an office assistant and her roommate (Gloria Grahame). The Germans find the stuff but have doubts, and send over spy Stephen Boyd to pretend he can stand the English long enough to confirm the dead man’s identity. Director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure) makes this a nail biting and ultimately touching thriller about patience: bait the trap, anticipate every potential problem, wait out the enemy, and hope it doesn't all fall apart when the spy meets the woman who doesn’t even realize she’s the fake girlfriend. Fun bonus: that’s Peter Sellers playing Winston Churchill (in voice only, when he approves this mission).