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Intrigue is just what this earnest romantic adventure is short on
Into a web of Asian intrigue flies, from a `secret airstrip in French Indochina today,' pilot George Raft; at the center of the web waits spider-woman June Havoc. Raft is the sole survivor of four wartime buddies discharged by court-martial; now he runs contraband. But the risks are high and he wants more money; his superior (Marvin Miller) balks so Raft goes over his head to the boss (Havoc). She runs her criminal empire garbed in elaborate ladies'-longs and makes him her partner - and maybe something more.
But another side of him pulls him toward Helena Carter, come from the States to vindicate her dead brother, one of his disgraced buddies. And into the mix, too, comes another old friend (Tom Tully), a roving newspaper man investigating the black market that keeps the city's populace near starvation but that's also Raft's bread and butter. The sloe-eyed orphans which Carter helps to feed start to gnaw away at Raft's sense of his `right to live first cabin.'
A romantic adventure along the lines of Singapore, Saigon and Calcutta, Intrigue could use a good deal more of it. The movie starts strongly and promises twists and turns as intricate as the back alleys of Shanghai. But then it hits a sentimental, sermonizing slump about how the black market devalues the Chinese dollar, thus keeping rice and `canned goods' from the mouths of enfeebled children, and it never quite climbs out again.
Because not much else is going on, it becomes hard to ignore the clichés that keep piling up: Jay C. Flippen as a salt-of-the-earth bartender, Philip Ahn as the trusty native sidekick, Miller and Dan Seymour as Hollywood heavies who fall short of any real menace. Havoc's glamorous presence can't compensate for the thin writing in one of her too few movie roles (she was far more fun with Alan Ladd in Chicago Deadline). His bomber jacket and white aviator's scarf can't quite disguise Raft's thickened midriff or the fact that he's on the shady side of 50 (he commands attention only when he's nattily tailored). The movie should have been slimmed down and barbered up, too; it might just have made the jump from forgettable to passable.
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