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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British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It did not surprise me to discover after watching this film that three different persons directed it. There is no consistent vision to the film, and the narrative is poorly handled: the plot is complicated, with multiple story threads that are not coherently executed. Shot in Anscocolor, an experimental colour processing technique, the film has a strange, washed out look to it, which could be the result of film stock degrading, as everything seems to have a yellow tinge. In general, the film is quite a drag - not particularly well made, nor easy to follow - however it has a significant amount of minor virtues.
The acting in the film is quite adequate, with Charles Laughton doing the best to make his detective character charismatic: he twitches his nose, smokes a pipe, and talks in an almost monotone voice when he is dealing with a suspect. Franchot Tone comes off the best though, giving a real sense of life to his character, a mastermind criminal who is obsessed with the idea that he cannot be caught, and often raves about it to Laughton. Even Burgess Meredith has some interesting moments as an insecure, introverted man caught up in the mess somewhere.
The music, cinematography and art direction are all adequately good too. The music fits to the appropriate mood of each scene, the camera-work is interesting now and again, either following the characters around or tilting up to look at the different bits of scenery, and the scenery, the locations all fit the tale reasonably well. Set in Paris, yet with Americans involved, there is a sense that this is a foreign environment where no one really knows the rules.
It is not a completely virtue-less movie, but it is still a mess overall. There are a number of jump cuts, although with four threads of story poorly woven together, a continuity error here and there does not disrupt too much. The dialogue is rather lame and often only says the obvious, plus the style of the film is melodramatic, and it often seems overdone. A humorous touch or two, Tone's performance and okay music are pretty much all that makes it bearable.
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