This Universal International film seems to be taken from a left over RKO script and casts Tony Curtis into a role that usually seems reserved for Robert Mitchum. Then they cast Joanne Dru into the Jane Russell role. Perhaps it was meant as an alternative script to the Mitchum-Russell pairing in the 1952 film Macao as that’s where this adventure with Tony front and center takes place.
With a little Noir style narration from Tony the film starts off with our leading man arriving by ship in Macao with the intention of locating Dru and returning her to America where is she wanted by a local mobster. Tony is the perfect pigeon as he and Dru are former lovers who still carry a torch for each other.
“Your a pretty fair street fighter.” says Lyle Bettger to which Tony responds, “I’ve been in training ever since I learned how to walk.” This after Tony steps in and rescues Bettger from a couple of assassins out front of the Lisbon Club. The club is actually owned and operated by Bettger who quickly invites Tony into his inner circle. Wouldn’t you just know it. Bettger and Dru are an item and engaged to be married.
The old flame hasn’t burned itself out and Dru quickly falls under the Curtis spell leaving Bettger’s jealous nightclub owner with gangland ties seething for revenge. Between misunderstandings and murder can Tony save himself from knife wielding enemies and get himself and Joanne out of a rather unfriendly setup? If you check this title out on youtube you’ll find your answer.
Forbidden is directed by Rudolph Mate and is another assignment for Curtis from his contract days where universal was putting him to work in pretty much every genre other than the sci-fi horror outputs the studio was famous for. Westerns, comedies, racing movies and sword and sandal epics were all released by the studio with Tony in the featured role as his star was on the rise.
Joanne Dru works well here in the Noir genre matching well with Tony on screen. Lyle Bettger’s character quickly falls in line with practically every role he has ever played. It shouldn’t take you long to figure he’ll be odds with Tony before the fade out.
Playing a role very much like Dooley Wilson’s Sam at Rick’s Cafe is Victor Sen Yung who befriends Tony and becomes his conscience while freely handing out advice to the young actor on how to go about escaping the long arm of Bettger. It was actually refreshing to see Yung get fifth billing as quite often he was relegated to being an unbilled presence in films outside of the Charlie Chan mysteries.
A nice touch here is the song You Belong to Me playing over the credits and then by nightclub singer Mamie Van Doren at Bettger’s establishment. I would imagine she was dubbed but that didn’t stop me humming along with the song at various points through out the film.
I have noticed a few of Tony’s early contract films on youtube and have a couple more to catch up with now that I have seen this one and The Rawhide Years. If only I could locate a copy of a film he did with Ernest Borgnine called The Square Jungle I’d be a whole lot happier. If anyone has come across it please let me know.