The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1950) Poster

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It's bad, but it is not a complete waste
sol-3 July 2006
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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5/10
Incoherent Parisian thriller from Burgess Meredith shows even veteran cast in jaundiced light
bmacv14 December 2002
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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Burgess Meredith en Rouge? Sacre Bleu!!
PolitiCom17 May 2004
Dedicated film buffs will find only three elements of interest in this

otherwise disappointing production.

1. It was shot in Anscocolor, a process originally developed in Germany

designed to compete with Technicolor which it did with some success into

the 1950's. It's use here is unintentionally amusing because in the VHS

version it has been so badly degraded that rather than full color most

of the scenes appear as sepia-toned with the exception of Burgess

Meredith's hair which is an incongruous flaming red!

Anscocolor was used successfully in a number of films during this same

era such as The Student Prince, Brigadoon, Take the High Ground (with

Richard Widmark) and The Long, Long Trailer starring Lucille Ball and

Desi Arnaz.

2. The atmosphere of post-war Paris is used to good effect and is

historically interesting, but still meager compensation for a dull,

plodding narrative.

3. While Burgess Meredith is listed as the director there were actually

two others. Irving Allen, who later went on to become a noted producer, was replaced

at the insistence of Charles Laughton who then directed the scenes in

which Meredith appeared.

If you are fan of Georges Simenon's detective novels, you will also be

annoyed by Laughton's uninspired portrayal of the iconic Inspector

Maigret.....
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Somewhat disappointing
grghull22 January 2006
I'd read about this movie years ago (and nearly bought a DVD at the supermarket, but passed) so I was pleased to see it on PBS last night. It does sustain interest but ultimately isn't very satisfying. Parisian locations are very nice and lend the right touch of authenticity to Simenon's tale, but the most disappointing element is the cast. As the villain (spoiler?) Franchot Tone (who also co-produced) begins well in his quieter scenes but as his megalomania takes over he simply shouts his way through the part. Meredith plays a mousy character he's done countless times (the glasses gimmick would be used again, memorably, in a "Twilight Zone" episode). Most unfortunate is Charles Laughton, an actor I rarely find less than hugely entertaining (even in ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD) who in this film just can't seem to find a handle for his character, coming across as erratic and boring. The only actor who emerges with professional honor intact is Wilfred Hyde White, who shines briefly in a small cameo.

The climactic chase on the Eiffel Tower, however, is a vertigo inducing delight, marred only slightly by unfortunate use of a dummy. A movie worth seeing once, especially for the finale, but not more than that.
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9/10
Portrait of a Sociopathic Villain
theowinthrop30 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It is an odd film, and the elements that made it are rather disjointed, but THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER is actually quite rewarding in the long run. When it was made in 1950 it was rare for any of the novels of Georges Simenon to appear in American or British productions. In particular the novels of Inspector Maigret. Within a few years of this film, a second rare one (THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE TRAINS GO BY) was made with Claude Rains and Herbert Lom, and it too was a good film but (like this) just did not win a large audience.

The interesting thing about Simenon's novels is that he concentrates on the characters, but he insists on making their behavior fit psychological patterns that rarely emerge in other popular detective novels up to his period of writing. Imagine Agatha Christie or Rex Stout making a novel turn on the psychological behavior of their villains. Dorothy Sayers did that occasionally (most notably in GAUDY NIGHT, where the villain hates female scholars for a deeply felt reason). But Christie's Poirot and Mrs. Marple studied clues to see what were the course of events in a murder case - they were not interested in the motivation of the killer's actions

In THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER, Franchot Tone's character dominates, although Laughton's Maigret is able to figure out how to handle him. Tone is a normal looking sociopath, who hears Robert Hutton lament his problems with gaining an inheritance that would settle his problems with his wife and mistress. Of course, Tone is aware that Hutton's position is a weak one, and he plans to do the crime but use it to blackmail Hutton for the lion share of the inheritance. The scheme does in Hutton's aunt and her servant, so that Hutton seems to be benefiting, but he is very skittish talking to Maigret and the other authorities, exciting their suspicions that he knows more than he is saying. When he is found dead they realize that he was very dangerous to the real killer.

Tone is not only willing to let Hutton look guilty (after he's squeezed money out of him for while). He is also willing to frame Burgess Meredith, who once had the temerity to be critical of Tone. He also has sadistic attitudes towards other figures who are not central to his scheme. He lures Hutton's wife (Patricia Roc) and his mistress (Jean Wallace) to the house where Hutton died, with the intentions of them meeting (they literally hate each other) so that they might kill each other off.

It is doubtful if Tone ever played such a totally dislike-able person as M. Radek. Besides his sheer violence and willingness to destroy anyone he wants for his pleasure, he is an absolute intellectual snob. But Laughton's Maigret figures out how to undercut him - you ignore his comments and ideas openly, and he becomes confused. His ego is not ready for that type of rejection, and Tone suddenly acts sluggishly and with uncertainty - as though he is on anesthesia and has not come out from under it.

In the end, Maigret shows that all the crimes Radek committed can be traced back to him. Radek knocks out the gendarme holding him, and he goes toward the Eiffel Tower, climbing higher and higher to avoid capture. And Maigret succeeds in forcing him down, when he tells him that he is not worthwhile risking their necks for. Maigret and the others leave Radek holding onto the side of the Eiffel Tower, and he suddenly realizes his danger. He follows them and is arrested.

His last moment in this film have a marvelous tag line. As he is led to the guillotine, Tone/Radek turns to Laughton/Maigret and sneers, "I bet this is one place you will not follow me to Maigret." A great conclusion to an interesting psychological study of a criminal.
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6/10
Nearly a classic
djensen123 April 2005
This clever suspenser from the French Maigret novels is undone by first-time director Meredith. The plot revolves around the murder of a wealthy woman and her maid one dark Parisian night. A dandy living off his aunt wishes her dead in public and catches the ear of Radek, a desperate fellow who is very clever but also a bit loopy (cast Gary Oldman in the remake).

Radek engineers a fiendish scheme to implicate a simple tinker in the crime, collect his fee, and lead Inspector Maigret down the garden path. The details are delicious--if you can follow them--and the characters (the dandy, his wife, his mistress, the tinker and his wife, the inspector and his detectives, and the arrogant killer) are interesting enough for three movies. But Meredith allows the plot to get muddy and doesn't really pull the best performances out of his actors (including himself).

Radek's manipulation of the other characters is real genius (for example, he gets others to search for the murder weapon while the cops are tailing him). The Parisian setting is terrific, and the spectacular climax atop the Eiffel Tower is not to be missed, altho it's a bit contrived. The result is a decent film, but Hitchcock would have hit this one out of the park.

Note: The version I saw was from the 50 Mystery Classics DVD set. It's in color, but very faded. However, I actually found its desaturated look to be a pleasant medium between full color and black and white.
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Interesting If Uneven Overall; Has An Exciting Finale
Snow Leopard3 October 2005
The exciting finale is by far the best part of this movie, which is an adaptation of one of Georges Simenon's crime stories featuring Inspector Maigret. Most of the movie is rather uneven, although it does have some interesting moments. Except for Maigret, who is played by Charles Laughton, most of the characters never really come to life, which keeps the story from being as involving as it could have been.

The Parisian cinematography helps sustain it through some of its murkier stretches, and it is likely that it might have been more impressive visually in its original state. Most or all of the prints on home video or television airings now have most of the color washed out of them, giving it a drab appearance that probably does not do justice to the original camera work.

The story has some interesting features in itself, with a murder plot involving several persons in one capacity or other, and Maigret engaged in a battle of wits with the killer, leading up to the finale on the Eiffel Tower. This lengthy sequence features some well-chosen views, and at times they create a dizzying feeling of suspense. Director Burgess Meredith's technique is unexceptional in the rest of the movie, but in this sequence it works quite well, and of course it had to overcome the technical challenges involved without the aid of computer imagery.

Most of the movie is really of interest only for some scenery, the curiosity value, and perhaps for the cast, but the exciting finale makes up for a lot of its weaknesses. If nothing else, the finale is worth watching for its own sake.
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5/10
Climbing the Eiffel Tower
bkoganbing18 December 2006
As I started watching The Man On the Eiffel Tower it looked like it was going to go in the direction of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Robert Hutton is having a sit down with his wife Patricia Roc and his mistress Jean Wallace in a Paris cafe. He gets an offer from Franchot Tone who was all ears that he'd kill Hutton's aunt who controls the family pursestrings so that Hutton could be independent.

Tone doesn't lack for chops. He not only does the deed with a maid thrown in for good measure, he manages to pin the crime on milquetoast Burgess Meredith who just happened on the scene.

Fortunately police inspector Maigret as played by Charles Laughton doesn't buy the pat scenario. He turns up Tone as a suspect, but he can't quite pin it on him. Tone's character reeks of Nietzchean superiority and France had just gotten liberated from a country that bought into that philosophy. Probably for today's audience, especially an American one, that particular dynamic can't be appreciated.

Even an escape allowed by the Paris police by Meredith blows up in Laughton's face and threatens to ruin the career of Inspector Maigret. Fortunately Laughton has a few tricks up his sleeve.

What we have in The Man On the Eiffel Tower is three very distinguished players from stage and screen who got together and made the film almost as a lark. Tone spent his entire film career trying to get out from under typecasting as a debonair gentleman in tails who usually loses the girl in the end to a bigger name. Right after this was done Franchot Tone did exactly that role in Frank Capra's Here Comes the Groom. His role here as Radek is certainly miles away from his usual parts. Tone produced this as he also produced another independent film the year before, Jigsaw, which was shot in New York.

He got friend Burgess Meredith to direct and play the stooge. The story unfortunately does sag at times until the climax chase scene on the Eiffel Tower. That whole sequence is almost like The Third Man except where Harry Lime seeks escape in the sewers of Vienna, superman Tone leads his pursuers up the Eiffel Tower. In the end though he's not quite the superman he thinks he is.

Charles Laughton made a nice Inspector Maigret. This is the second French police inspector of literature he's done. But there sure is a world of difference between Maigret and Javert of Les Miserables. In fact Laughton is far more like Sir Wilfred Robards in Witness for the Prosecution than Javert.

It's too bad that director Meredith didn't have the kind of computer generated special effects and had to rely on brave stunt men and actors to do the job. If Man on the Eiffel Tower were filmed today, I'm sure it would have been far better.

This criticism is almost a cliché, but Alfred Hitchcock could have really done something with The Man on the Eiffel Tower.
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6/10
Thriller , mystery , suspense with awesome Charles Laughton-Jules Maigret investigating the killer's identity
ma-cortes11 July 2007
There were various production problems on this picture , including Charles Laughton's menacing to walk off the picture , as he asked leaving if the original director , Irving Allen , threatening to be replaced and Burguess Meredith then carried on the filming . The film happens in Paris , there a dandy named Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton : Invisible invader , Slime people , Vulture) wishes death his aunt , so he can get her inheritance and pay off divorce his spouse (Patricia Roc : Wicked lady , Canyon passage) and marry his lover (Jean Wallace , Cornel Wilde's wife) . A medicine ex-student named Radek (Franchot Tone , also film's producer) is hired to kill the old lady . By night , a knifes grinder , now become thief , named Heurtin (star Burgess Meredith eventually filmmaker) aware the murder but he loses his glasses and he's helped by the assassin . He's framed of killing and then escapes . Meanwhile , Radek is taunting the police and leaving fake clues and banter on Kirby's two women : the wife and lover . Inspector Maigret becomes involved into investigation and swiftly discovers the owner of the thick glasses , though there is no real evidence against him . Then , Inspector Maigret undergoes a cat and mouse game with Radek . It's a battle of wits , an obstinate detective and an intelligent villain , and winds up pitting two rivals against each other in order to destroy themselves . Meanwhile , there are developed pursuits through Paris streets , squares and on rooftops and an exciting chase on the girders of Eiffel Tower.

The film is based on Georges Simenon novel about the famous detective Inspector Maigret who is adapted on various cinematic renditions . The movie displays suspense , thriller , action , mystery and results to be quite amusing . Casting is frankly magnificent , Laughton is excellent , as always , as Maigret who is early assigned to the case and quickly tracks down the suspicious ; Tone as a maniac-depressive man is top-notch and magnificent Burguess Meredith as a knife grinder becomes involved with problems , he directed partially the film when Laughton threatened to quit if Burgess Meredith did not take over . Besides , appearing Wilfrid Hyde White as a sympathetic professor and Howard Vernon (Jesus Franco's usual actor) as an Inspector . Numerous problems during shooting , as producer Irving Allen was the original director, but after only three days of shooting , Laughton directed the scenes in which Meredith appeared .

Adapted from Georges Simenon's 1931 novel "La Tête d'un homme", his fifth to feature Inspector Maigret . It had already been filmed in France, under its original title, in 1933 . In spite of being splendidly shown streets , squares , monuments from Paris : River Sena , Eliseos Fields , Pigalle , Concorde Square and photographed by expert cameraman Stanley Cortez (Night of hunter , Magnificent Amberson , Secret beyond the door), the cinematography is lousy and faded but the film copy is worn-out , it's necessary an urgent remastering . The motion picture was rightly directed by Burguess Meredith , who replaced director Irving Allen (who was also one of the film's producer) . 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 . Burguess , subsequently , directed other film titled the ¨Yin and Yang of Mr. Go¨ , as well . The flick will appeal to Charles Laughton fans and intrigue lovers but contains a highly suspense story .
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3/10
Lousy Print; Disappointing Story
ccthemovieman-114 October 2006
This was disappointing because:

1 - My VHS quality was bad (perhaps I or you can find a better copy, although the cheap price on the DVD makes me believe that's a poor transfer, too.); 2 - the story was a bit confusing with Franchot Tone's role and dialog very difficult to understand in the final 30 to 40 minutes.

The ending of this film was decent and some of Charles Laughton's lines were very good. Photography-wise, this was done in some kind of experimental color, and it didn't really come off, at least on my weak VHS transfer. Some scenes looked like they were still n black-and-white and some had a sepia tone. They did have some nice shots of Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

In all, I would need to see this with a nice print to make a better evaluation of it, but the story did not impress me, regardless. With the fine cast it sported, it should have been better.
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