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 ...
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William K. Howard
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 were various production problems on this picture, including Charles Laughton's threatening to walk off the picture if the original director, Irving Allen (who was also one of the film's producers) wasn't replaced (star Burgess Meredith eventually replaced him as director). Allen himself was very dissatisfied with the final results. After its initial run, he bought the film rights back from RKO and kept the prints out of circulation for a long time. Many believed that the film was lost, even Meredith. However, it has been released on VHS and DVD and can be relatively easily found at rental stores. See more »
When Maigret is reading the 'Letter to the Editor' about the escape, the position of his hands on the newspaper change between shots. See more »
Incoherent Parisian thriller from Burgess Meredith shows even veteran cast in jaundiced light
Alarmingly shot in a process called Ansco Color (now decayed into a jaundiced sepia), The Man on the Eiffel Tower marks the first of two movies directed by Burgess Meredith. Unlike his co-star Charles Laughton, however, whose sole directorial effort Night of the Hunter showed style and assurance, Meredith lacks the rudimentary skills that would turn an actor into an auteur. Faced with a complex plot drawn from a Georges Simenon story, he failed to construct a coherent narrative skeleton; when different plot elements happen to mesh together they do so abruptly, jarringly. Instead, Meredith relies on a jumble of amateurish but flashy effects that illuminate nothing but themselves. It's a pretentious mess of a movie that should have been fun.
A rich American (Robert Hutton), torn between wife and mistress, hatches a scheme to kill off his wealthy aunt. He engages sociopath Franchot Tone to do the job, who in the process frames itinerant knife-sharpener Meredith for the murder. Hunting down the killer is Laughton as Inspector Maigret, taunted every step of the way by Tone.
The three veterans from 30s Hollywood had all seen better days (only Laughton would see them again). Tone looks seriously unwell (perhaps a touch of Ansco) and acts it. With a crop of carroty hair in need of harvesting, Meredith dithers around as if preoccupied with figuring out the next day's shooting schedule. And while Laughton delves deep into his larder of ham, he never fleshes out a memorable character for Maigret.
That leaves, as in Charpentier's opera Louise, the last character: The City of Paris (for so it's listed, ominously, in the credits). Like sightseers on a tour bus, we're trundled from Les Deux Magots to Place Pigalle to the erector-set edifice of the title itself. The movie's many and baffling chases along the banks of the Seine, across rooftops, through mansions with no shortage of doors lead nowhere but offer the glossy pleasures of a French travelogue. But the final scenes, filmed high in the dizzying geometry the Eiffel Tower, finally display some bravura. Pity they come too late, and after too much ill-directed footage, to matter.
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