Saturday, August 20, 2016

INTENT TO KILL (1958)


This is a pretty effective drama/thriller directed by Jack Cardiff, famed cinematographer. More effective than the paid assassins in the film. Shot during a cold, snowy season in Montreal, the movie opens with a climatic score (over a blaring ambulance siren) yet we are only into the film’s first two minutes. Perhaps not that peculiar as it anticipates what is ahead. But one expects something drastic to happen at any moment but the only “excitement” is the quiet and careful deboarding of a South American president, Herbert Lom, who has been transported to Montreal for personal safety and special surgery on his potentially fatal cranial blood clot. Having previously survived an assassination attempt, the fire escape outside his window makes him nervous and requests a move to another room. A nice touch in the film’s early going as who knows what goes up or down those steps all hours of the day or night. To help comfort him, he asks a nurse to bring him his statue of the patron saint of assassination.

Lom’s political opponents have hired hitmen, Warren Stevens, John Crawford and Peter Arne in an effort to kill Lom for good. They are taking orders from Lom’s personal aide, a detail unaware to Lom. Crawford and Arne do not get along. Stevens has to bring the hammer down on Crawford for his attitude and his absences for drinking and womanizing. Arne, a former doctor, is to administer a needle full of air into Lom’s vein. Stevens’ scouting made him aware about Lom’s move to another room and informs Arne after his deed while sitting in the rear seat of their automobile. He forgot to mention this to Arne. Sorry about that.

Mixed into this assassination plot are surgeon, Richard Todd, and his nagging, self-centered wife, Catherine Boyle, who has arranged for him to take a high-paying position back in London. The high-paying part is of special interest to her. Todd has no interest except in fellow doctor, Betsy Drake. Judging by Boyle’s effective, irritating performance, most viewers might feel Todd deserves better. Meanwhile, the personal aide is hoping for a future with Lom’s beautiful wife once he has been dispatched.


As Lom recovers, he comes to the conclusion that the two may be romantically involved or plotting to kill him. The hitmen, determined not to lose their payoff, become even more incompetent leading to confrontations in the hospital. Arne tries once again to needle Lom but a detective assigned for protection asks him to identify himself. I would say Arne loses his cool at this point but he never had any from the start. Todd volunteers as a lookout in the stairway entrance and Drake joins him. Crawford shows and threatens Drake at gunpoint to vouch for Arne. She stumbles over a  question from the detective answering, “He...he is...doctor...watch out!” An unusual name to be sure. The detective falls from Arne’s bullet. What is funny are the gunshots which sound like cap pistols. Would not hurt a fly. The film takes a nosedive from this bad sound edit alone and barely recovers. Arne gets a bullet in return and when Crawford enters the hall, sends Arne to eternity by shooting him a few times. Nice knowin’ ya, bub.

Todd tangles with Crawford, who leaps down a flight of stairs in swashbuckling form that Dr. Peter Blood would envy. Todd jumps on Crawford again and their struggle crashes both through a window where they fall to the pavement below. Crawford is arrested and Todd is due for surgery to remove Crawford’s cap pistol bullet.

As confusion and chaos rages in the hospital, Stevens assumes the role of an authoritarian figure, ordering nurses and orderlies around. Very official. It manages him to enter Lom's temporarily unguarded room to perform a quick hit. Barely inside the room, he discovers Lom knows how to use that statue in a manner he could never have anticipated.

It is a decent, forgettable film with competent performances. I can forgive Lom’s dull performance owing to his brain surgery. Alexander Knox possesses his role as the chief surgeon and wise counsel. Stevens stays cool and calm despite being a failure at the boss level. In an odd Todd closing, prior to going under before surgery, Drake leans over next to his face and quietly says, “Breathe deeply.” Outside of that common medical order, one could spend some time debating why that line ends the film.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thanks for submitting to The Classic Movie Marathon Link Party

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