The Corman Brothers, Gene and Roger, were behind this enjoyable throwback to a 1940’s style adventure that may have seen Bogie, Garfield or Ladd taking center stage as an American living abroad in Monte Carlo tangled up with a ring of counterfeit thieves looking to acquire a set of money making plates stolen from England’s Mint.
Subbing for our 1940’s hero is a well cast Vic Morrow dodging both a crime king played by Victor Buono (subbing in for Sydney Greenstreet?) and a police chief in Monaco played by the smooth Cesar Romero (perhaps the Claude Rains assignment?).
Like any Bogie character, Vic, has a past record and when the film opens is just being released from a prison cell and receiving a stern warning from Romero to stay clean or he’ll be throwing away the cell key the next time Vic is brought in. Unlike Bogie captaining a boat in To Have and Have Not, Vic flies a small plane and is hired by Charlotte Rampling to fly her father, Stanley Holloway, to Istanbul. It’s at this point that Vic is going to find himself in deep water as the plot begins to twist it’s way around him.
While Vic handles customs, Holloway, catches a cab to make a business meeting with a briefcase in tow. The briefcase goes missing and Holloway is assassinated in an ingenious hit. The meeting he was to attend was with the shifty Buono to turn over the plates. Now that they’ve gone missing, Buono, suspects that Vic knows their location.
Enter Michael Ansara as Buono’s main thug in suit and tie. His first meeting with Vic doesn’t go well which will lead to the two of them becoming adversaries for the majority of the film. While Ansara isn’t a welcome acquaintance, Vic, will find the feminine charms of Suzanne Pleshette much more agreeable.
The problem is she’s on the hunt for the missing plates as well and is a competitor to Buono’s fatman in a Sydney Greenstreet light colored suit.
“I don’t like violence but the suspense is killing me.”
Great line from Vic who is tired of being followed by a pair of goons on Buono’s payroll. Time to meet face to face. Subtle warnings are tossed about and Vic meets the bald headed behemoth, Milton Reid, Buono’s personal instrument of violence.
The shadowing will continue when Vic flies back to Monte Carlo. It’s here that he’ll learn he’s been duped into a phony flight by none other than Holloway’s own daughter Rampling who wants far more money then her father was willing to sell them for. But with murder in the air, she’s in too deep herself and is now looking towards the rugged American to pull her from the fire.
Not to be outdone, Miss Pleshette, also hits the casinos in Monte Carlo and will pick up her romance with Vic where she left off in Istanbul. But the violence has carried over to Monte Carlo and Vic is going to find himself on the hook for a murder in the eyes of Romero if he doesn’t prove his own innocence. Yes one of our leading characters is going to be murdered in Vic’s own apartment.
Who ordered the hit is what’s bothering Vic. He doesn’t know who to trust any more and the plot does keep the twists coming to keep us guessing as well. And like Bogie, Vic’s going to have the final say at handing out his own brand of justice.
Like most Corman productions, this one can’t help itself when it comes to indulging itself for the exploitation market. And that’s a shame because it isn’t needed and mars the film as a whole. What I’m referring to are a pair of scenes inserted with body doubles and nudity. Vic’s character has a romp with a topless blonde though no one’s going to convince me that the actor filmed from behind as he pleasures the lady is Combat Vic. Then there’s a violent murder using a body double that is clearly not the same actress who is supposed to meet her untimely fate at the hands the extra large sized Reid. Hell, even Reid scores a body double filmed in Bela Lugosi fashion with the camera focused squarely on his eyes so as not to give away the size difference between the double and Reid.
The location shoot is welcomed for a Corman production though I’m not quite sure why Roger Corman is credited under the false name, Henry Neill, in the print I’ve picked up on blu ray from Kino Lorber. As a matter of fact, unless my research skills have failed me, Roger, doesn’t mention the film in his autobiography, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime. Rather then this little known title he devotes most of the pages from this era of his career to the biker and drug laced films that he scored hits with like The Trip and The Wild Angels before settling in to his making of Von Richthofen and Brown. Not even under the film’s ridiculous alternate title…
Forgettable? Perhaps but I loved the throwback feel to the era that came before it. Not to mention I love the cast that were assembled here for the Corman brothers latest venture. This was Vic Morrow’s first film role following his successful run as Sgt. Saunders on Combat! that ran from 1962 through to 1967 on television.
Cesar Romero by this point needed no introduction to adults or children as he’d been making movies since the 1930’s and just wrapped up his run as The Joker on the 60’s cult favorite Batman TV series. Victor Buono? Let’s just say that one of this film’s highlights is to see him running alongside Vic as they evade a group of assassins. Truthfully he’s quite colorful in the film. Much like Greenstreet in his day.
Miss Rampling who continues to impress to this day was just getting started with a few roles under her belt by this point. Ansara was a known commodity in both film and television as was Miss Pleshette who would move on to the Bob Newhart Show in the 1970’s.
New to me and while it may be lesser fare, the fact that it offered Vic Morrow a role beyond the gruff heavy he is mostly identified with makes it an enjoyable outing and leaves me wishing he had been used like this more often.
Back to Roger’s bio, I even checked the pages of an unauthorized one from writer Beverly Gray and she makes no mention of the film either. Hmmmm……