Tuesday, November 29, 2011


David is a handsome British safari guide who heads into dangerous territory to finish off a leopard that his middle-aged client only wounded. The land, marked by tree carvings of a white rhinoceros, in inhabited by a tribe that is cursed by spirits of the past, and that insists on killing any white men who trespass because it was white folks that brought on all their troubles by killing off the rhinos. Sure enough, after David kills the leopard, he is captured by the tribe who put on a big dance before they sacrifice him in front of a huge statue of a white rhino. However, as soon as David touches the rhino's horn, time freezes, the rocks split, and David finds himself in the past, among a tribe of fierce (as in, they wear false eyelashes and have fabulous hair) Amazon women. The hot brunettes, led by Kari, have enslaved the hot blondes, led by Saria, and the grungy men (no leader) who seem to have wandered in from some other time and place altogether and who were responsible for past enslavement and destruction. One hot blonde gets sacrificed monthly to appease the rhino god, or something. Kari wants to make David her lover and co-ruler, but he's fallen for Saria, and eventually, with David's help, an uprising against Kari is successful.

This is another of Hammer’s mid-60s forays into exotic adventure-fantasy (see SHE) and lovers of the campier aspects of these films will like this one. Beauty queen Martine Beswick is the main reason to watch this; she bites into her role with gusto, and by playing it mostly straight, adds to the camp value of the film. Her best scene has her writhing about, in a skimpy bikini-loincloth, on her throne, trying to entice David into sharing her pleasures. Michael Latimer as David is attractive but not the heroic-hunk type, and he plays most emotions by scowling or looking off-camera, but you get used to him. Hungarian actress Edina Ronay is the very 1960s-looking Saria. There is a credit for choreography, and there are indeed several tribal dances that are actually kind of fun to watch. Actor and playwright Steven Berkoff, known for his villainous roles in films like Octopussy and Beverly Hills Cop, has a one-line bit at the end. Its B-budget means it was filmed on cheap sets, but it all looks pretty good in widescreen format. [TCM]

Sunday, November 27, 2011


It's a boring day in 1868 in Morgantown, Pennsylvania when suddenly a mountain, called the Great Eyrie, erupts and a man's booming voice begins intoning apocalyptic warnings. Some members of the Weldon Balloon Society decide to take a balloon up and check things out. The group consists of Henry Hull, a munitions manufacturer; his daughter (Mary Webster); her boyfriend (David Frankham); and Charles Bronson, a government scientist who is strong and silent and therefore by default the romantic hero. Their balloon is shot at by the airship Albatross, and its captain (Vincent Price) takes them on board. It turns out that Price is the one behind the shenanigans at the Eyrie; he has declared war against war, delivering ultimatums to world governments to give up their armies and weapons or be destroyed. The captive group is witness to Price's bombing of British navy ships. They're torn between action and passivity; should they actively try to stop Price or make the best of their imprisonment? There is some infighting between the gentlemanly Frankham and the realistic Bronson, but when Bronson finally takes a stand, it might mean that all four of them will have to sacrifice themselves to stop Price.

This fantasy adventure is based on two novels by Jules Verne featuring the character of Captain Robur (Price). The film has its moments, but the American International budget was just too small to produce effective thrills and the cast is way too mild to bring about much excitement. Bronson, who would become an action hero in the 70s, plays a quiet, composed hero; we like him, but he's not very exciting. Webster is bland, so we never care about the halfhearted romantic triangle; Frankham shows some promise early on as an antagonist, but despite pulling off a very nasty trick against Bronson late in the movie, never really comes off as very threatening. Hull, on the verge of overacting, seems to be in a whole different movie, and the usually reliable Price seems rather tired. The musical score is inappropriately peppy. Vito Scotti provides some mild comic relief as a cook on the airship, and I rather enjoyed the hunky, blond, and often shirtless airship pilot—I think he was played by Richard Harrison. In the last section, when Price tries to stop a desert war, the pace does pick up a bit, but overall this is a disappointment. [DVD]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SHE (1935)

This earlier version of Haggard’s "She" has a good reputation and does have its moments, but isn't quite as much dumb fun as the later film. It also changes the plot details considerably. In this film, Leo is set on the trail of eternal youth by his dying uncle; it seems that 500 years ago, a relative of theirs named John went off to the great frozen north in search of a mystical Flame of Eternal Life and may have found it, though he never returned. Leo and his friend Horace head off for the Shuko Barrier in the Arctic, and are joined by a gruff trader and his daughter Tanya—she takes the place of the more exotic Ustane from the book. Once they get to the mysterious land past the Barrier, the action is largely the same as in the later film, though here, Leo turns out to look exactly like his ancestor John, whose embalmed body is still intact. Ayehsa's first appearance, from behind a wall of smoke, is genuinely thrilling. There is a long, heavily choreographed ritual dance that looks like it might have inspired a similar number in DeMille's TEN COMMANDMENTS. Unlike Ustane, Tanya survives, but the rest of the story follows the same course as the '65 film.

Randolph Scott is Leo, and you would think he would have all the qualities needed for the perfect adventure hero, but he seems a bit detached, though he gets better near the end as he falls under Ayesha's influence. Helen Gahagan (above, in her only movie role before she entered politics and became a Congresswoman) is dull and monotone, and lookswise can't hold a candle to Andress. Nigel Bruce provides some fun as the stuffy, mildly amusing Horace, and Gustav von Seyffertitz has the Christopher Lee role, but plays it without much gusto. The rather drab Helen Mack (pictured with Scott) is Tanya, and she irritatingly pronounces Leo "Lay-o" throughout. The film is in black and white, but the set design of the Arctic and the city (which looked like it should have been in Maxfield Parrish colors) is nice. The flame effect is better here than in the '65 film. The final scene, with Leo, Tanya and Horace gathered around a cozy fireplace back in England, is sappy and wrong. Both films are worth watching, though if you can only find time for one, I'd pick the Hammer version, and the book is still worth reading. [DVD]

Friday, November 25, 2011

SHE (1965)

H. Rider Haggard’s famous adventure/fantasy novel from 1887 is considered one of the earliest of the "lost world" novels, in which adventurers discover a land that has been hidden from civilization. It has been filmed several times, but two versions (from 1935 and 1965) are the most common. I'll start with the '65 version from Hammer Films, which is by far the most faithful of the two. We meet three British soldiers heading home from WWI in Palestine: the older Horace, the young handsome Leo, and the working-class Job. In a nightclub, the lovely Arab Ustane flirts with Leo, but when they leave the club, she leads him into an ambush. He is taken to see the ravishing Ayesha who shows him his startling resemblance to an amulet with the likeness of the long-dead high priest Killikrates, her former lover. She asks Leo to journey across the desert to the secret city of Kuma which she rules, and if he proves himself worthy, she will take him as her lover and co-ruler. Leo and his friends head off, undergo several trials (the slashing of their water bags, an attack by bandits) and finally arrive near the city where they meet up again with Ustane (who has by now taken a liking to Leo). When the suspicious natives decide to sacrifice Leo, Billali, chief assistant to Ayesha, arrives with his men. They are taken to Kuma, a city entirely inside a mountain, where they learn that Ayesha, aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, is hundreds of years old; she has kept her youth by bathing in the Flame of Eternal Life. Convinced that Leo is the reincarnation of Killikrates, she wants him to bathe in the flame as well, though Ustane and Horace aren’t so sure that’s a good idea. Leo begins to fall under Ayesha's spell, and finally does enter the Flame, but bad things happen when Ayesha takes a second dip for herself.

This is adventure done on the cheap, but for a Hammer movie, it doesn’t look bad with some effective use of matte painting effects. The journey drags in spots, but things pick up once they get to Kuma. Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress doesn’t exactly stretch her acting chops (and, to be fair, all her dialogue is dubbed, which never helps) but she looks exactly right as the cold, demanding Queen. John Richardson also looks the part as the hunky blue-eyed, golden-haired hero and is marginally better in the acting department, but is never as commanding as he should be. Old pros Peter Cushing (as Horace) and Christopher Lee (as Billali) steal their scenes easily. Bernard Cribbins as Job has little to do. The nicest touch, and one that I think the filmmakers added, is having Leo actually stand in the Flame and become eternally young, which could have been a nice jumping-off point for a series; there was a sequel, The Vengeance of She, but it has been universally panned. [TCM]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In order to find a new Sultan of Damascus, a contest is held in which whoever can bend the magical Ebony Bow to shoot the Golden Arrow will not only rule the city but have the hand of Princess Jamila. Several try but only the mysterious Prince of the Isle of Flames can shoot the arrow. When he claims his prize, it turns out that he is actually the handsome thief Hassan who, with his band of merry men, er… ragtag rogues, kidnaps Jamila and holds her for ransom. But then we discover via a magic birthmark that Hassan is actually the "chosen one" who should be Sultan anyway. Hassan and Jamila fall in love and he frees her, but the villainous Baktiar, who wants to be Sultan, jails Hassan. Jamila wishes on the stars for help and Three Stooges, er… three bumbling genies come from the sky to help out. They aid Hassan's escape but soon not only are Baktiar's men after him, so are his former buddies, the thieves who are pissed off about missing out on the ransom money. A variety of adventures follow: people are turned to stone, a cave queen lets loose men made of fire, Hassan astral-projects himself to make mischief with Baktiar, an elixir which can restore life is discovered, and a final battle—involving flying carpets, fiery catapults, and levitating objects—lets Hassan finally claim his rightful place as Sultan and husband to Jamila.

On one level, this is a colorful and delightful Arabian fantasy, done on a budget which is a notch or two above the average Italian import of the time (shot probably in Italy or Spain, with a mostly Italian cast and crew). The sets, both interiors and exteriors, are impressive and though the special effects are inconsistent, they're not bad. Had I seen this as a child when it came out, I would have loved it. But as an adult, I'm bothered by the incoherent plot which is simply stitched together from a bunch of Arabian Nights motifs, augmented by echoes of King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Greek mythology. It could have been a rich stew, but the screenwriters can only achieve a watery broth. The acting is about average for this kind of film. Tab Hunter is at his blond, California beach-bum peak, and is a treat for the eye in his silky, body-clinging, pajama-like outfits (white in the first half, brown in the second), but he's not meaty or stoic enough to pull off the heroic "Thief of Bagdad" part effectively—and he's hurt by bad dubbing. Rossana Podesta (pictured above with Hunter) comes off OK as the lovely princess, though she really has little to do. The genies are totally ridiculous, clearly thrown in for the kiddie matinee crowd. The main musical theme keeps threatening to turn into "Misty." Fans of 60s fantasy will enjoy this. [TCM]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GOG (1954)

At a secret underground government research center in the middle of the desert, scientists of several varieties are working toward the launching of a space station. We see two scientists running a suspended animation experiment on a monkey, quick-freezing him so his heart rate drops to zero, then successfully quick-thawing him back to life. Unfortunately, one of the scientists gets locked in the chamber and is frozen to death, and when the second one returns, she too winds up dead the same way. This is just the first of a series of bizarre accidents at the center, and soon a federal agent (Richard Egan) is dispatched to investigate. One entire floor of the center is devoted to NOVAC, a super-computer which runs the entire building, and which itself is supervised by a German scientist (John Wengraf) who seems a little too intense for his own good; could he be attempting to sabotage the experiments? Eventually, two powerful robots, Gog and Magog, start to malfunction and Egan and his assistant (Constance Dowling) suspect that some exterior force (Commie spies, perhaps) has gotten control of the center. Can a handful of humans overcome a supercomputer and two rampaging robots?

I'm starting my usual Thanksgiving week of sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews with this film which I actually did see for the first time over a Thanksgiving weekend sometime in the mid-60s. The central issue of the film, basically the hacking of a computer system, is one that is still relevant, and the idea that an artificial intelligence is responsible for some of the mayhem would be explored in more detail in Kubrick's 2001. Though this has a sci-fi atmosphere (and the opening credits are presented against deep space backgrounds), it plays out more like a traditional industrial mystery movie—who's gumming up the works at the factory? On the plus side, the color scheme is bright and shiny; on the minus side, the pacing is faulty: the film opens with a nice burst of mayhem (the monkey and the frozen scientists), then drags with lots of exposition and the half-hearted setting-up of a romance between Egan and Dowling, then suddenly comes to life again in the last 20 minutes with robot mischief and radioactive poisoning. The two leads are deadly dull; Wengraf (pictured above with one of the robots) is OK though a little too passionless to be a truly effective mad scientist; and the puppet-like robots are rather silly looking, looking like the friendly robots of Lost in Space and The Jetsons. William Schallert (the father on The Patty Duke Show) is effective in a small role as Wengraf's assistant. The accidents (including a pair of human subjects who get spun too fast in a gravity experiment) are fun to see, and were probably even more fun during the film's original theatrical run in 3D. [Netflix streaming]

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Irene Dunne's husband, a well-known doctor, has just died of a heart attack. She is told he might have been saved, but the boat that could have taken him to medical attention was being used to attend to a drunken playboy (Robert Taylor) who fell into a lake. Taylor, being cared for in the same hospital that the doctor founded, is cocky and obnoxious (and quite handsome) but unaware at first that he is being blamed by some for the doc's death. Not wanting to stay in the hospital, he escapes and has a roadside encounter with Dunne. She doesn't hold him responsible, but he is insensitive enough to flirt with her. After going on another bender, Taylor winds up sleeping it off at the house of sculptor Ralph Morgan, a friend of the doctor's, who tells Taylor about the doc’s "secret": he believed that one could be "in contact with a source of infinite power" and improve one's life by giving generously to others without public acknowledgement. It turns out that the doctor had spent most of his life giving away his wealth to needy individuals, Morgan being one of them who then went on to implement the philosophy in his own life. Taylor gives some money to a beggar and moments later runs into Dunne, which he takes as a cosmic sign, but in the act of resisting his advances, she is hit by a car, winds up blinded, and falls into a deep depression. Later he befriends her, not telling her who he is, eventually bringing her out of her shell, but when he "comes out" to her, she opts to leave him, thinking he's with her out of pity.

So far, a solid romantic melodrama. The incredible soap opera turn occurs when Taylor decides to finish up the medical degree he had been working on when his playboy tendencies took over. A mere six years later, he is a world-famous doctor and a Nobel Prize winner to boot. Dunne has been living in isolation and in decline, due to a "slow clot," and Taylor decides to take on her case in a risky operation. Will he save her life and her sight? Let's just say the playboy didn't get a Nobel Prize for nothing! This is based on a very popular novel of the day, and the colorful and glossy 1956 remake by Douglas Sirk is known as Rock Hudson's first big hit (with Jane Wyman as the blind love interest). This version, which has been out of circulation for some time, is less ostentatious and generally a bit more believable. Taylor and Dunne (pictured) have good chemistry, Morgan is fine, and the supporting cast includes Betty Furness as the doc's daughter, Charles Butterworth as her comic relief "older gentleman" friend, Sara Haden as a supervising nurse, and Arthur Treacher as, of course, a butler, who gets the best line: When asked if someone is "dippy," he replies, "If you mean, is he barmy in the crumpet? Yes!" Available on Criterion DVD as a supplement with the Sirk version. [TCM]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


In the seaside town of Weymouth, England, American McDonald Carey gets beaten up by some "teddy boys," leather-clad hooligans on motorcycles, when he gets friendly with Shirley Ann Field. Turns out her brother (Oliver Reed) is the head of the toughs and they routinely use Field as bait to prey on older tourist types. However this time, Field is tired of the rough games and gets friendly right back with Carey. More or less on the run from Reed, they meet up with a free-spirited sculptress (Viveca Lindfors) who lives on a hilly beach, and scientist Alexander Knox who is conducting some secret research at a nearby compound--I initially assumed that Lindfors was Knox's kept woman, but actually she might be "keeping" him. When Reed catches up with Carey and Field, they all wind up in a cave where they discover a group of cold-blooded children, the subjects of Knox's experiments. They've been exposed to radiation since birth and would theoretically be capable of surviving in a post-nuclear holocaust world, but what Carey and Field don't know is that the children are also radioactive.

One of the reasons this film has a reputation is also one of its faults: it's an odd mix of genres. For the first half-hour or so, it's a gang movie, and a fairly uninteresting one at that. The middle-aged Carey is boring, Field is nothing special, and the creepy incest vibe between Reed and Field is really all it has going for it. But Lindfors and Knox, by far the best actors here, save the day, along with the radioactive kids. The film would have been better if it had spent more time on this story, and perhaps let us get to know a couple of the kids. The film has a downbeat ending, which fits with its generally downbeat mood. Flawed but worth seeing. [DVD]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


One night, handsome research scientist Jeffrey Hunter finds lovely trophy wife Anne Francis drunk and passed out in a car parked across some railroad tracks. He tries to rouse her and fails, but when a train comes down the tracks, he breaks into the car and rescues her. He gets her to the home of her husband, Dana Andrews (coincidentally the owner of the company he works for) and discovers that he interrupted a suicide attempt. A few nights later, she tells him it was all a mistake and invites him to a party; it turns out it's a scavenger party and he is one of the hunted objects, a "scientific device." He takes it in relative good humor and later that night, she admits she hates her husband and they embark on an affair. Eventually Andrews finds out about it and, discovering that Hunter had a breakdown some years ago, begins a scheme to make it seem like Hunter is going nuts again: among other things, Hunter's office is vandalized and the janitor claims that Hunter did it one night in a rage. Hunter decides to turn the tables: he'll act like he really is going insane, and then kill Andrews, using the insanity defense to get away with it. Not surprisingly, things don’t go exactly as planned—Hunter must not have seen SHOCK CORRIDOR where a similar idea goes awry.

This is a glossy 60s take on film noir, specifically DOUBLE INDEMNITY, though it's missing a few crucial elements: lovely as Anne Francis is, she winds up in a supporting role; she's not even a real femme fatale, as, unlike Stanwyck in INDEMNITY, she's essentially passive, not actively engineering events in any way. We also don’t get very close to Hunter, so we don't care as much about his fate as we might if we knew more about him. The film is essentially a three-person show, and though Hunter and Francis are OK, neither is terribly compelling, and Andrews doesn't have much to do. Viveca Lindfors does well with her supporting role as Hunter's therapist. Directed with some visual style by William Conrad, TV's Cannon. [TCM]

Friday, November 11, 2011


At his surprise birthday party, rich bachelor Dennis Morgan meets two very different women: a sexy gold digger (Alexis Smith, pictured standing) and a photographer (Ann Sheridan, pictured seated) who works part-time for a small left-wing magazine. Morgan takes a liking to Sheridan and her publisher (Reginald Gardiner) and buys their struggling publication, to the dismay of his father who wants him to join the family conglomerate business. Morgan wants to marry Sheridan, but she's uncertain how she'd fit into his life and turns him down, so on the rebound, he hooks up with Smith, much to the chagrin of Morgan's butler (and longtime buddy) Jack Carson who sees through her. When they marry, Smith starts running Morgan's life, starting with getting rid of Carson. By the time Sheridan comes back into the picture, Smith has plunged into a backstabbing plan to get Morgan away from the magazine and back with his father. A tug-of-war ensues between the two women for Morgan's heart and soul.

This enjoyable drama, with romantic comedy touches, is a remake of the 30s film THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, based on a play by Philip Barry. The earlier pre-Code version is sexier, but this one fleshes out the backstory in an interesting way, and the cast is solid, not only the central core of Morgan, Sheridan, Smith and Carson, but also supporting players like Gardiner, Jane Wyman (as Sheridan's sidekick), Thurston Hall (Morgan's father) and John Loder (the family lawyer who encourages Smith to set her cap for Morgan in the first place). This may not stick with you for long, but it's fun while it lasts, especially when Smith's diabolical plan becomes clear. Favorite line, from Alexis Smith: "Stop being bitter and get me a drink!" [TCM]

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


In Africa, where, we are told, "death wears a bright mantle—and beauty has fangs," Vargo (Raymond Burr) and his associates are hunting elephants for their ivory which they sell to the exotic Lyra (Monique Van Vooren, pictured) and her husband. Burr makes plans to go after a large but dangerous herd, and he enslaves men from the Laikopos tribe to help him. But Tarzan (Lex Barker) is a friend to the tribe, so when their women come for help, Tarzan rescues them. Vargo sets out to reclaim the natives and kidnap Jane so Tarzan will help them by using his jungle call to get the elephant herd together for easy capture. Jane manages to escape his men, but their treehouse catches fire and is destroyed; Tarzan, assuming Jane is dead, gives up, and is captured and tortured by Vargo's men. Meanwhile, Lyra's husband finds out that Vargo plans to double-cross Lyra. In the end, Jane's reappearance gives Tarzan the strength to fight, and he gets back at everyone by calling the elephants in for a deadly stampede. This was Barker's last Tarzan film and, though it starts out fine, falls apart when Tarzan falls apart. The Ape Man just sits around and sulks, and even the torture scenes aren't mean or fun enough to be distracting. Burr is a good heavy but Van Vooren is on the lackluster side, partly because she isn't given much to do. Joyce McKenzkie makes for a rather plain Jane, though she and Barker get a nice scene of an early morning, pre-coital dip in the river, after which Cheetah brings them a huge ostrich egg for breakfast. Not the worst in the series, but until the exciting climax, there's not much here to recommend. [TCM]

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Potentially interesting thriller with sci-fi overtones from B-studio Monogram, tripped up by a slow pace and no background music. Noah Berry, captain of an ocean liner, is suffering from near-psychotic episodes, so he is relieved of his command and replaced by Boothe Howard, a rather slimy fellow who competes with his first officer (Cornelius Keefe) for the affections of on-ship nurse Astrid Allwyn. This particular ocean trip is important because a new device, named S-505, is secretly being tested. If it works, ships can be controlled from hundreds of miles away via radio remote control. But we soon learn that there are two spies on board determined to steal the radio tube and replace it with a device that will scramble the radio signal. When the inventor is strangled, an investigator (Edwin Maxwell) comes on board to help sort things out. Among the suspects: a dotty but lively old lady, her gayish grandson, and a suspicious Germanic fellow. Complicating things is a report that Berry, the crazy captain (whose illness may have been brought on by a voodoo poisoning) escaped from the asylum and might be on board. All this sounds more interesting in summary than it is in action. The movie starts well, and does work up an exciting final sequence, but bogs down in between with lots of scenes of people entering rooms, talking at each other, and exiting rooms, in the usual Monogram fashion. Keefe and Allywn make a passable pair of central characters (to call them "heroes" would overstate their importance to the film's outcome); top-billed Beery has only two short scenes which he essentially sleepwalks through; reliable supporting pros Maxwell, Zeffie Tilbury (as the old lady) and Gustav von Seyffertitz (as the German) provide most of the acting interest. Based on a story by the prolific pulp writer Edgar Wallace. The print shown on TCM was that rare artifact: a pristine copy of a Monogram film. [TCM]

Thursday, November 03, 2011


A political/romantic melodrama set in Haiti during the reign of terror of President-for-Life "Papa Doc" Duvalier. As the times get tougher (a bad economy, a murderous secret police known as the Tonton Macoutes), hotel owner Richard Burton is looking to leave Haiti. The only thing he'll miss is his mistress, Elizabeth Taylor, the wife of a South American ambassador (Peter Ustinov). As Burton returns from New York on a failed attempt to sell his hotel, he runs into Alec Guinness, a boastful but rather comical figure who is trying to sell second-hand arms to the regime; unfortunately, his contact in the government has fallen out of favor and has been tossed in jail, so Guinness is, too. Also newly arrived is Paul Ford, a blustery American businessman trying to open a vegetarian health center in a new development called Duvalierville, and his wife (Lillian Gish) who is quiet but shows backbone when she needs to. These six characters interact with each other and with a handful of natives, including surgeon James Earl Jones and poet Georg Stanford Brown, both of whom have ties to a slowly developing resistance group, and who eventually come to think that Guinness, who's been freed from prison and who brags about his military experience in Burma, could lead their ragtag band in attacks on the Tonton Macoutes. Add to this some voodoo, a nighttime public execution to which children are invited, and lots of anguished kissing between Burton and Taylor, and you've got this mixed bag, based on a novel by Graham Greene.

This movie should have been better than it is. Some critics blame Burton and Taylor, who were pretty much at the peak of their allure as a celebrity couple, but the real problem is the preponderance of long, bloodless conversations—sometimes exposition, sometimes philosophy. There are action scenes here and there, and a startling killing during a medical operation, and much of the film (shot in the West African country of Benin) looks great, even though the dry, barren land is not especially inviting. This is really Burton's movie and he does a nice job as a passive, degraded man stuck in a rut who eventually wakes up and tries to change things. At one point, Burton is referred to as being like a defrocked priest, a nice reference to his role in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA; that Burton was all rage and impulse, but here, he's more like a sleepwalker until, like Bogart in CASABLANCA, he wakes up and decides to join the fight. Taylor's role isn’t very big, but she looks good. Ustinov doesn’t have much to do, but his presence is always welcome. Although it's the white characters we're supposed to care about, it's the black actors who make their characters more interesting. In addition to Jones and Brown, there is Roscoe Lee Browne as a reporter who flits through the film acting like a trip to Haiti is as pleasant as a trip to Disneyland. Raymond St. Jacques is effective as an officer in the secret police: he plays opposite Burton in the same way that Claude Rains did with Bogart in CASABLANCA, except he's a nasty piece of work with no redeeming qualities. Not a popcorn flick, but OK for literary types. [DVD]