Saturday, July 2, 2016

THREE CAME TO KILL (1960)


Cameron Mitchell seems to continue his role from “Inside The Mafia” in another association with this Robert Kent Production. This is his film and he commands your attention. Told with opening voice over narration in the style of  ABC’s ”Untouchables” series, the device gives the viewer the impression this is based on a true story. But the script is sufficiently perforated with some illogical action and editing. The Los Angeles International Airport stock footage and location shoots of vintage autos will make most transportation historians perk up. The limited budget also requires a good share of studio backdrops yet Kent can usually improve a small budget.



The film opens behind the United Nations building where a foreign interpreter is gunned down in a back alley. Mitchell and his partner, Steve Brodie, exit in a Mercury land yacht as it bobs and weaves over the pavement. The story quickly shifts to Los Angeles where special agent, Paul Langton, arrives from New York on a plastic scale model Lockheed Constellation and deboards an actual Douglas DC-6. Script perforation No. 1: the film’s editor is not interested in following through with the correct aircraft from one scene to another. Langton’s job is to get ahead of possible repercussions from the U.N. killing, hoping to avoid the assassination of a Middle East Prime Minister in seclusion in Beverly Hills. No motor lodge for him. Langton is assisted by a special agent and a local investigator played by King Calder. Calder again comes off authentic in every detail though his screen time is limited. They establish a secret route for the Prime Minister to arrive at the airport safely and return to his country.

Mitchell is the over confident paid assassin to kill the Prime Minister and he will do it from the home of air traffic controller, John Lupton, by shooting the plane’s fuel supply on the runway as the engines power up before takeoff. That might make some sense if you stop watching the film at the twenty minute point. Script perforation No. 2: the studio backdrop film showing the runways appear to be nearly a mile away. Script perforation No. 3: nevermind that Mitchell’s Fisher-Price map has the house on the wrong side of the runway. Nevertheless, Mitchell and Brodie abduct Lupton outside his house and everyone settles in to hear Mitchell boast about his perfect plan in overtones from the movie, “Suddenly.”

Mitchell vows to not hurt Lupton, his wife, her visiting sister and boyfriend if they just go about their daily routine. But the audience is skeptical. He breaks his vow immediately, threatening everyone with a gun to the stomach. Actually not part of their daily routine. Brodie brings a radio to pick up the control tower chatter (Mitchell calls him a genius as he tunes in the tower) but he is annoyed at those “stinkin’ jets!” flying over drowning out the radio. Commercial jets had only been in service less than two years and Brodie does not like the future. As the tense afternoon wears on, Lupton is ordered back to the tower and when the plane is ready for takeoff he is to use a specific phrase signaling Mitchell when to shoot. If he does not follow through, he will start killing his family. Script perforation No. 4: it is harder to hear over any radio a written note being passed to the authorities in the tower of the situation. Brodie rapidly returns with news of the passed note. Mitchell is angry. He grabs his revolver and to look the part, puts on his hat before approaching the room where the family and a previously wounded federal agent are being held captive. Script perforation No. 5: why he puts on a hat is mysteriously funny. He opens the door to find the wounded special agent holding a shotgun at him. Mitchell quickly closes the door and perforates it with bullets.



Script perforation No. 6 or is it 7? I am losing track. He made it a point earlier to Lupton that he must level one table leg to stabilize his world renowned shot. Another nod to “Suddenly.” Yet when it comes time to shoot the plane he simply breaks the window and from a standing position aims for the plane. The one about a mile away. Fortunately, he is jumped as he prepares to shoot. By then the police arrive to level the playing field in a hail of bullets. With the Prime Minister’s plane, a Boeing Stratocruiser, safely in the air it transforms into a DC-6 after takeoff. A final curtain call for the film’s editor.

Mitchell comes off flamboyant as the “big shot” getting set for his big shot. His arrogance blinds his reasoning. The authorities knew who he was thanks to some final words from the U.N. victim. Something Mitchell said was impossible. When he makes people dead they stay dead. If that is not embarrassing enough, they know he drives a Ford Edsel. The film does not give Brodie much to do with his limited screen dialogue but it is good to see him in another of his typecast roles. Lupton is competent and believable. With enough implausibility to elicit a groan or two, the film moves along quite well. This would have been a more stunning television drama, however.

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