Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I've been very much enjoying the little-known and rarely seen B-films from Columbia that TCM has been showing recently, but this one tried my patience. Perhaps because it had such a promising beginning, atmosphere to burn, and an interesting central plot device, its eventual downturn into tedious contrivance and too much talkiness bothered me more than it should have. It does begin quite well, with Nina Foch walking on what looks like a San Francisco bridge at midnight in billowing fog. She looks disoriented and a cop who approaches her suspects that she's thinking of jumping, but she assures him she's not. Still, she doesn't seem to be sure what she's doing until she sees a man getting out of a cab, attacked by two other men, one with a knife. She screams, the attackers run, and suddenly, she wakes up in her room at the Rustic Dell Inn. Two men burst in to see if she needs help, and one, William Wright, is the man she saw being attacked. Foch and Wright, both involved in war work and both on employer-ordered vacations, hit it off; when he's called to San Francisco, he asks her to come along. However, he gets orders from his boss (Otto Kruger) to take a top-secret packet to Hong Kong, so they have to cut their tentative courtship short. German spy Konstantin Shayne overhears enough of their conversation to set a trap for Wright. Sure enough, he winds up in a cab with Shayne and another thug, and sure enough, Foch winds up on the foggy bridge just in time to scream and stop Shayne from killing Wright. At this exciting point, we're barely halfway through the movie, but it's all downhill from here. Wright and Foch go looking for the packet, which got tossed off the bridge into either the Bay or onto a ship that may have passed under them, Shayne and his spies come after them, Kruger has to deny knowing Wright, and so on to fill out the last half hour. The locked room climax, with Wright and Foch tied up in a room filling with gas, does have a fairly ingenious solution, but getting there, the plot fills up with ridiculously contrived situations to get all the characters in the various places they need to be. Wright is a handsome and reasonably effective leading man, but he would remain a supporting player in B-movies until his untimely death 4 years later from cancer. Foch, later nominated for an Oscar, is at sea here, possibly because of the wishy-washy script. None of the supporting players register, though Shelly Winters has a very brief bit as a taxi driver. It's interesting that the dream premonition is never explained away. If this one airs again, catch the first half, then nap during the rest. [TCM]

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