Utilizing Athens and Spain as a backdrop, this Terence Young directed action adventure is pretty to look at and if that weren’t enough, it also stars the blonde haired beauty, Martine Carol, to accentuate the gorgeous scenery.
As the film’s trailer points out, “from the tip of her toes to the top of her head, she’s dynamite.” As for the film’s leading man, Van Johnson? The trailer then goes on to tell us that he’ll “discover dynamite is dangerous.”
Damn I love those old time trailers.
“O.K. What’s your pitch?” Van asks Miss Carol when she approaches him about paying her passage into Communist controlled Albania smuggled aboard his sailing vessel. “No dice.” Van claims but circumstances will take a twist leaving him little choice but to sail into dangerous waters and a coastline closely guarded by the likes of screen heavy, Anthony Dawson. Is it just me or does this guy look like a brother to Royal Dano?
While on route to the coastline, Van, sets anchor allowing our Marilyn Monroe look-a-like a swim. Watching for the first time I was wondering if the production was going to make an attempt to one up Sophia Loren’s star making entrance in another 1957 release, Boy On a Dolphin, rising from the water in a very clingy outfit designed to cause the male population the world over to sit up and take notice. And that it did cementing Sophia as a star attraction. Well, considering the career trajectory of Miss Carol, I guess the answer is no however, I did not expect her to climb aboard topless with Van awaiting to hand her a towel.
Yes I did say topless! Maybe not all that big a deal to today’s movie goers but we’re talking 1957 here! A quick bit of research and it would appear as if the version of the film released on blu ray via the Warner Archive label is the European print. Under no circumstances would this have been passed for release under the “code” being enforced in North America at this time. The same scene is included in the trailer but our blonde beauty is wearing a one piece swimsuit for the U.S. marketing campaign.
We all know that the verbal sparring between tough guy Van and lovely Carol will lead to romance but when it comes to “the dirty man who needs a shave,” Carol has little use for him while on board Van’s boat. You see Van’s frisky second mate is a young actor who will soon become a cinema icon in just five years under Terence Young’s guidance filming what might be the most influential spy film of them all, Dr. No. I am of course referring to a 27 year old Sean Connery.
The plot goes into overdrive when Van is left with little choice but to personally take Carol inland where she hopes to find her brother and bring him safely out of the Communist held country. Played by Gustavo Rocco, he’s been blinded after running afoul of the authorities. Van is going to find himself playing savior leading Carol, her brother and a half dozen children entrusted to him so that they may escape the tyranny of Communism and find a better life elsewhere.
Time to run into the third billed Herbert Lom. He’s cast as a colorful yet unsavory guerilla fighter commanding a force that will save Van and company from their captors. The problem is he’s entranced by Miss Carol and decides it’s best she remain behind to be “his woman.” Needless to say that’s not likely to happen. At least not on Van’s watch.
Still to come is a dramatic battle that will see Van scale a mountain face in order to draw fire so that Lom can lead his freedom fighters against the soldiers stationed along the Greek border. And just like that ….. there’s another plot twist that takes some of the starch out of our big screen adventure. Still, I did enjoy this outing that had Van playing a role very much akin to those that we would have seen played by the likes of Alan Ladd around this time. With lines like, “Don’t waltz with me, sweetheart.” it’s not too hard to picture Ladd playing the central role though it is nice to see Van taking on tough guy duties now that his MGM days as a romantic leading man opposite leading ladies like Esther Williams had come to an end.
According to the bio on Van written by Ronald L. Davis, MGM’s Golden Boy, he had moved his family to England as so many actors did during this era to take advantage of some tax breaks while filming abroad.
While Van’s career as a box office draw was winding down, Terence Young’s was on the rise as a director. He’d already proved he was more than capable of handling action films and had even worked with Alan Ladd on 1954’s Paratrooper and was in the midst of three films with Victor Mature, Zarak, Safari and Tank Force. Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball would leave him forever identified with the Connery/007 series. He’d remain busy directing the thrilling Wait Until Dark and even helm a trio of early 70’s Charles Bronson films, Cold Sweat, Red Sun and The Valachi Papers.
Useless trivia for the film buff? Young’s debut film as a director was 1948’s Corridor of Mirrors. It’s also the film debut of the legendary, Christopher Lee.
Herbert Lom was by this point a credit to any film he turned up in. Still, his most memorable role would come in 1964’s A Shot in The Dark as Chief Inspector Dreyfuss opposite Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau and the many sequels. French actress, Martine Carol, never did attain the accolades or popularity of Sophia Loren and apart from a leading role opposite Jack Palance and Jeff Chandler in Robert Aldrich’s Ten Seconds to Hell released in 1959, I’m not familiar with her. Sadly she’d pass away at the age of 46 in 1967.
I’d been meaning to watch this film for a while having come across both the blu ray and an original novelization meant to tie in with the film’s release. Having recently scored an original release one sheet sealed the deal to set aside 93 minutes for Young’s action adventure with both a good cast and a pleasant backdrop.