It’s films like these that I’ll occasionally come across that remind me of the fact that there are so many enjoyable movies from the past to discover and put forth for other people to seek out. Snowbound starring Dennis Price, Herbert Lom and Robert Newton is just such a flick.
Taken from a Hammond Innes novel and directed by David MacDonald, our story involves former intelligence officers gathering shortly after the end of WW2 in isolated chateau in Italy. No one is who they seem to be and it’s Herbert Lom’s mysterious character who points out, “What is there after all in a name?”
It’s Dennis Price who is the innocent bystander sent by film director and his former military pal Robert Newton to the snowbound retreat to work on a screenplay. Or at least appear to be doing just that while watching those around him including Lom, Stanley Holloway, Mila Parely, Guy Middleton and Mario Dalio. It’s an odd gathering of secretive characters who all seem to know each other from the war years under different identities. As each one arrives, the tension increases, more so when the deadly serious Lom makes his entrance.
Lom is quick to notice that Price is overly interested in the people who have gathered together and subtly warns him to quit digging into facts that don’t concern him. Mr. Lom is a hard character to make out just yet. Is his warning one of compassion? Time and a hell of a final reel will tell all. When Price confides his thoughts in the wrong man within the chateau guest list, an attempt will be made upon his life in a well done skiing bit that appears to be filmed on a mountain location with close ups of Price and others done via a back screen projection. Either way, the location footage adds to the isolation effect.
When Newton turns up at the chateau as a kind of Sherlock Holmes character, the identities of those in the chateau will become known and the reasons for their gathering at the snowbound location. I won’t say just what it is but will say it’s a reunion of old war enemies seeking a prize. The British agents are there to seek justice while those affiliated with the Nazi war machine seek to bring about the rise of the Fourth Reich. Sprinkled with some flashbacks to the war years, the eventual outcome is a rousing finale to a mystery that steadily lured me in as the characters and pieces of their past were unveiled throughout the film’s 85 minute running time.
Because my earliest memories of Dennis Price are as an aging thespian slumming in low budget horror flicks, I’ve never been a big fan but as time has moved on and I’ve seen some of his earlier work, I’ve grown to like him perhaps a little bit though some of those horrors still linger. Herbert Lom can really do no wrong thanks to my love of his Chief Inspector Dreyfuss in the Pink Panther series. He is wonderfully cast here in this mystery thriller and brings his A game to the proceedings.
Not only did I enjoy the film but I love the subject material and the reasons for the gathering of the characters in the chateau. A film like this one could be easily remade and in the right hands, I’m sure it would be just as entertaining all over again with the right group of actors verbally sparring with each other.
This well paced Noir with a WW2 backdrop is a fine addition to the shelf here at home and fits in fine with the other Noir titles put together in the Kino Lorber set of British Noir flicks including, The October Man, They Met in The Dark and The Assassin.