In pursuit of stolen aircraft engines on a Central American island, federal agent Rigby meets chief suspect Hintten and his wife Elizabeth, a sultry cafe singer; and is watched by Bealer, a "pie-shaped man" with sore feet. Rigby knows he's on the right track when Bealer offers him money to leave Carlota. When Rigby and Elizabeth are drawn to each other, the gang realizes there's more than one kind of bribe. Everybody sweats. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Latin-intrigue noir saved by 5 principals, pyrotechnic climax
The reflective voice-over narration was a staple of film noir, but here it boasts the conceit of Robert Taylor addressing it to himself in the second person ("You..."). That curious choice informs the first half of The Bribe, told in flashback; midway, we catch up to the present and the droning ceases. Starting as a routine foreign-intrigue drama -- something about surplus airplane motors, but who cares -- set in an island off Central America called Carlota (or sometimes Carlotta; the film can't quite decide), the film boasts a top-notch cast: Taylor, Ava Gardner, John Hodiak, Vincent Price and Charles Laughton, who could be either the most actorly of hams or the hammiest of actors but here opts for the latter. Most of the way through it's not bad, but in its second half the tone darkens noticeably, when director Leonard decides to treat us to some stylistic flourishes. The over-the-top, Wellsian-Hitchcockian climax is (literally) pyrotechnic, and actually stands as one of the more memorable sound-and-light shows in the whole noir cycle.
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