Leslie Nielsen Double Bill ….. Hot Summer Night (1957) and Night Train to Paris (1964)
“It’s a story. It’s Big. I have to go after it.”
Leslie Nielsen finds himself out of work, on a honeymoon and an interview within his grasp that could put him back in the pages of syndicated newspapers across the country. All he has to do is secure the interview with a very John Dillinger like gangster on the lamb in the Ozarks.
Almost sounds like Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole.
Taking in the countryside with his new wife Colleen Miller, Leslie hears that the famous outlaw gang led by Robert J. Wilke hang out in the area. He’s a Robin Hood of sorts and the locals refuse to give out any information as to his whereabouts. Our intrepid reporter isn’t about to be put off so easy.
How’s this for a co-starring cast flashing across the television screen?
It’s James Best that is going to first beat the hell out of Leslie before taking him to the gang’s hideaway. Once arriving, Leslie is going to find out Wilke sees himself as a respectable hood who plays by a certain set of ethics. The problem is he has a major hothead in the group played by Paul Richards. Richards would like nothing better than to be the top hood. He sees Leslie as a threat to their hideaway and would much rather use him to extort money in a kidnapping operation.
As long as Wilke is running the gang with Best his loyal soldier, that isn’t about to happen. Did I mention as long as…..
Leslie is in for a whole lot of danger when Richards takes over and aging Jay C. Flippen as the elderly hood could care less who is running the show. He just wants his share of the profits. That is if the money for Nielsen is forthcoming from the newspaper he once worked for. If not he’s a dead man. As far as Leslie is concerned, he’s dead anyway as Richards isn’t too be trusted.
Also in the cast is Edward Andrews as the local town sheriff who is trying to help Miller find her hubby and hopefully bring the Wilke gang to justice. Good old Claude Akins turns up briefly as a truck driver near the end of the film which is too bad as Claude at this point in his career would have made for a much more brutish gang member than a couple that we get saddled with.
If you know the John Dillinger story, then it’s easy to associate Wilke with the famed gangster of the thirties. Wilke even mentions crashing out of a prison with a gun carved from a cake of soap. Just like the real life Dillinger.
Leslie seems well suited to the role of a newspaper hound though the film isn’t exactly an “A” budget production from MGM. If anything, this black and white feature gave him the chance to star with a really solid group of character players from Wilke on down. James Best plays to his strengths as usual giving us the hillbilly hick shtick he was so good at conveying and Flippen the aging character that seemed to be his forte.
Moving on to the 1964 feature Night Train From Paris, we find our Canadian hero tangling with secret tapes, flirtatious women and a hefty sized villain portrayed by Eric Pohlmann.
This espionage yarn casts Leslie as a travel agent in England who was involved in the spy world during the war. It’s New Year’s Eve and alluring Alizia Gur wants him to secure two tickets on the midnight train to Paris. Not likely until he hears that his former partner in the service is involved and needs to get some top secret tapes to Paris.
“Just like the gold old days.” Maybe so but when his old pal turns up murdered at Leslie’s flat, he’s going to find himself thrust into the espionage world once again where no one is to be trusted. Where the women are fast and quite often deadly.
Evading local police and Pohlmann with the secret tapes, Leslie latches on to curvy Gur and boards the train to what he hopes is safety and a way of clearing his name after Pohlmann calls in his own evil deed putting the spotlight squarely on Leslie.
Now if your like me and love the comedy Trading Places from 1983, it’s impossible not to recall it should you catch this low budget mystery from producer Robert Lippert. Like Trading Places, there is a New Year’s Party going on all night aboard this train and while we may not get James Belushi in a monkey suit, Leslie does get a helping hand from a guy in a bear suit.
On top of that while trying to evade Pohlmann he takes to teenage like disguises while the passengers party and chase members of the opposite sex. Leslie doesn’t have to look far in that department as the sexy agent he is accompanying is more than open to the fast moves Leslie is coming up with. Who knew that years after this production, Leslie wearing the Groucho Marx glasses and mustache would seem so appropriate for the straight leading man at the time of this production.
There really isn’t too much to recommend here in this very short 65 minute flick that seems caught between being some kind of an episode for an Alfred Hitchcock anthology series or a movie with thirty minutes of unusable footage on the cutting room floor. The score is jazzy yet it seems to break for sure fire television cues at inopportune times.
The best way to enjoy this below par effort is to recall the fun of Trading Places and the similarities between the two as Nielsen does his best to evade both the police and the violence of Pohlmann that’s headed his way.
“And where in the hell is Beeks?”