Friday, July 01, 2016


A cocky but blacklisted pilot (Steve Cochran) gets in a barfight in Madrid. Instead of being jailed, however, police detective Paul Hubschmid arranges for him to get a job in Mozambique for a businessman named Valdez. By the time Cochran gets there, Valdez is dead and Cochran has to deal with Valdez's widow (Hildegarde Knef) and two of his underlings (Martin Benson and Dietmar Schonherr) who all seem engaged in a power struggle. Valdez had a lot of money in Swiss bank accounts, but the paperwork is missing so everything is up in the air. Cochran isn't sure who he can trust, but he winds up piloting a small plane that he soon discovers is involved in drug smuggling. He also gets close to the lovely Vivi Bach, a singer at Valdez's nightclub, and helps her out when she discovers part of her job is to be a sex slave to a wealthy Arab sheik. Cochran, along with Schonherr, rather improbably flies in and helps Bach escape, but while Cochran and Bach get in a little skinny-dipping and canoodling in a river in the middle of nowhere, Schonherr is murdered in the plane. When Hubschmid, the Madrid cop, shows up in Mozambique, Cochran realizes that there is more at stake here than he's known.

Steve Cochran was a solid B-lead antihero in noir and crime movies of the 50s (PRIVATE HELL 36, HIGHWAY 301, but by the 60s he was moving toward the world-weary good-guy end of the spectrum (OF LOVE AND DESIRE). Cochran died at 48 less than a year after filming this movie, and it's hard to say where his career would have gone—he was doing more television than film at this point but he surely still had some good years left. In this film, he showed he could be tough, sensitive, grungily sexy and morally conflicted, even if he might never again have been in an A-movie. This film occasionally has the feel of a low-budget European spy film, what with the exotic settings, the eye-candy women, and the fairly exciting climax, set at Victoria Falls. Cochran (pictured above with Bach) carries the film over some loose plot points, and he gets help from a decent supporting cast, especially Knef, Hubschmid and Schonherr. Even Bach, who doesn't have much to do (even though she's on screen more than Knef) is OK—and she married Schonherr the next year. The movie could do with a little more humor or wit, and there is a bizarre "killer dwarf" plot twist that comes out of nowhere, and goes right back there again. But overall, watchable, especially as a relic of the international intrigue genre of the 1960s. [DVD]

No comments: