In Paris, a down and out medical student Johann Radek (Franchot Tone) is paid by Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton) to murder his wealthy aunt. A knife grinder (Burgess Meredith) is suspected, but ... See full summary »
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Thomas E. Jackson
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Alfred E. Green
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James Houghland, inventor of a new method by which television signals can be instantaneously sent anywhere in the world, refuses to sell the process to television companies, who then send ... See full summary »
In Paris, a down and out medical student Johann Radek (Franchot Tone) is paid by Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton) to murder his wealthy aunt. A knife grinder (Burgess Meredith) is suspected, but Radek keeps taunting the police until they realize that he is the killer. The police and Maigret (Charles Laughton) are led on chases through the streets and over the rooftops of Paris and finally up the girders of the Eiffel Tower. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
There's probably a great film to be made of Georges Simenon's A Battle of Nerves, but The Man on the Eiffel Tower isn't it. Charles Laughton might seem perfect casting as Maigret but evidently he was too busy fighting with original director and producer Irving Allen to invest much character into the role it's just Charles Laughton with a pipe. Nor does replacement director (at Laughton's insistence) Burgess Meredith make much of an impression as the patsy set up to take the fall for a double murder (just to complicate matters, all of Meredith's scenes were directed by Laughton). Instead its left to co-producer Franchot Tone's manic depressive villain to steal the show, fluctuating between depression and wild bursts of ego, his fading looks perfectly suited for a brilliant mind gone to seed like both Leopold and Loeb rolled into one. It ain't a subtle performance, but he's one of the few cast members who actually seems to know what he wants to do with his character and goes for it.
It's not so much a terrible film as one that holds the interest even while it fails to make the most of the material thanks to a somewhat awkward script and direction that, understandably with the number of cooks in the broth, never really gets a solid grip on the story or the characters. The best of the film is the striking and extensive location in post-war Paris, the city earning it's star billing in the opening credits more than most of the cast. Sadly Stanley Cortez's cinematography is no longer quite as striking as it must have been in 1949. The old Ansco Color has lost its lustre even in the UCLA's restored print, though that's as much down to the loss of the original negative (Allen brought up the rights and buried the film after it flopped) as it is the fading on the two color prints used as the basis for UCLA's restoration. But even in less than glorious condition, Cortez's lively camera-work makes its mark, and its no surprise that Laughton would later choose him to photograph his sole outing as director, Night of the Hunter. The final chase on the Eiffel Tower itself is a marvel of daring high wire work from actors, stuntmen and camera operators alike, and there's a pleasing absurdity behind it rather than saving an innocent, it's to prevent a murderer from killing himself so that he can be guillotined instead
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