The Assassin (1952)
aka Venetian Bird
Richard Todd finds himself in hot water during his escapades in Venice while looking for a man long thought dead. Todd arrives by ferry and from the outset seems to be a man of mystery. He checks in at the curio shop of Eric Pohlman for any mail awaiting him. It seems as if he had an advertisement posted in the classifieds to seek out information pertaining to the man he seeks. In no time at all a couple of thugs are tailing him.
A clandestine meeting with another man turns sour shortly thereafter leading the police to finding the man floating in one of the many waterways around the city captured in what I assume to be second unit work for authenticity. The closing credits point out that the film was made at the local Pinewood studios in England.
Once Todd meets police inspector George Coulouris, we learn he’s a private eye. The man he seeks was apparently killed during WW2 but Todd believes he is alive under an assumed identity. The trail now leads to Eva Bartok who is employed at an art gallery.
“Evil, suspicion, fear. That’s my profession.”
Is Eva to be our femme fatale? She’s short with her answers and seems to be mixed up with the wrong sort of people. Powerful men behind the scenes of political intrigue pulling the strings. It should also come as no surprise that Todd is quite taken with the dark haired siren.
Almost like a James Bond film, we continue to be teased with our mysterious man that Todd seeks out. Filmed from behind and lending himself to a Machiavellian presence, we hear only a stern voice barking orders. Todd is about to realize he has stumbled into an assassination and coup d’état plot. All that’s missing is a patsy to take the fall.
While I may not have found this script from Victor Canning all that enthralling I did enjoy the final reel as the whole mystery culminates in an exciting rooftop chase sequence where the patsy in question must prove his innocence by exposing the espionage ring and unveiling the dead man as alive and well. Mr. Canning actually adapted his own novel for the screen.
Along for the ride are the well known faces of Miles Malleson, Ferdy Mayne and the future star of the Carry On series, Sidney James. Which brings out the trivia point that this film’s editor is Gerald Thomas. Thomas would direct the entire Carry On series with James. Thomas worked once again here with his brother Ralph, the director of this shadowy flick. The same set up as they had on the previous year’s Appointment With Venus.
It should be noted that this film was credited to producer Betty E. Box. Interesting in that we don’t see many female names listed as producers at any point in cinema history. Betty was also listed as producer on the Venus film with the Thomas brothers.
If you do take the time to watch this thriller clocking in at 95 minutes, I’m curious if you thought of Lee Harvey Oswald as I did for reasons that will become obvious as you near the conclusion. Could Oliver Stone have used this black and white flick as a template to build upon?
Not likely, but that’s the fun in connecting the dots of cinema history.