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An American World War II veteran Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) comes to
Scotland in order to conduct an investigation concerning death of his
brother during a special mission in France during the war, the mission
he was the only casualty what appears to be very strange to Clay.
through Scotland, one by one he meets former war mates of his brother and
tries to inquire them as about circumstances surrounding his death. But
everyone pretends to know nothing or very little about what happened back
then, the fact that makes Clay Douglas more and more sure that it's in
one of them, his former colleges, is guilty of his death. The question is:
which one of them?
Circle of Danger marked Jacques Tourneur's return to Europe, namely Great Britain where he went in order to make this movie. Though the Circle of Danger doesn't belong to the Film-Noir genre it might be considered the bleak shadow of Jacques Tourneur's Film-Noir classic Out of the Past. Parallels can be drown especially in terms of the story, which in both cases concerns the main character's past, only in Out of the Past Robert Mitchum's character Jeff Bailey tries to forget it, to hide from it, which ultimately proves to be impossible and results in tragic ending, while in Circle of Danger Ray Milland's character Clay Douglas decides to travel back in time and uncover its mysteries related the unclear circumstances of his brother's death in world War II. Only in Circle of Danger everything is much more `primitive', much more simplistic in terms of the story and character's development and their interactions as well as in lacking of that great wittiness of dialogs which is one of the main masterpiece ingredients of the Out of the Past, and finally the film's ending, a time where a question might arise in our minds: Is it was worthy the time we invested in seeing it? 6/10
Son of a French famous director (Maurice),but an American citizen since
1919 when his father came to Hollywood,Jack (Jacques) Tourneur began
his career in the land of Victor Hugo with funny comedies such as
"Toto".But he is best remembered for his thrillers ("out of the
past"),his adventures films ("the flame and the arrow") and his fantasy
and horror movies ("cat people" ,"curse of the demon",my J.T.
"Circle of danger" belongs to the "thriller" category although it's rather a whodunit detective story ;as it takes place in England ,it is closer to Agatha Christie's puzzles than to American film noir .A man (Ray Milland ) investigates his brother's death.In WW2,he joined the English army and was killed in a raid .But the bullet that went through his head was not German.
Jack Tourneur has a very special way of filming the places .It is obvious in "Curse of the demon" .Here too the places seem more important than the characters : the mines,the nice cottage in Scotland,the dancing school,the theater ,and above all,the sensational use of the Scottish country in the final sequence.He makes harmless elements very strange nay scary: the awful choir,the ballet,the commander's mom....
There is a slight sag in the texture and tension in the second part when Tourneur focuses on the female character played by decorative Patricia Roc.Besides,when Clay talks about his kid brother,it's not enough to make acquaintance with a character who does not appear in the movie,and it is important,when you know the ending of the film.
By the last thirty minutes,the movie becomes exciting again.The whistling tune is a very good trick,worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.And the final scene cannot be praised too highly:a very good suspense.
Ray Milland (born in Neath, Glamorgan, Wales) keeps his transatlantic
accent playing an American searching for the reason for his brother's
death during a commando raid attached to the British army in 1940
(before America entered the war) in Brittany, France.Ray leaves his
diving team searching for precious metal off the coast of Tampa,
Florida, takes his share of the profits to date and travels to the UK
in his aforementioned quest.Along the way he meets up with the few
surviving members of the commando team travelling to Covent Garden,
London; Teddington Lock on the Thames; Hammersmith west London; and up
into the Scottish Highlands where he meets Patricia Roc a children's
book authoress and illustrator.Her character seems to blow hot and cold
with Ray but at least she does not have to compete for Ray's attention
with Margaret Lockwood (who was busy filming elsewhere).Also there, is
Hamish (Hugh Sinclar) who was the commanding officer in the raid and
who loves Patricia Roc's character (although she only likes him).Ray
even buys a used car off wide boy Naunton Wayne (who for once is
without his screen companion Basil Radford) in return for information -
at least it saves Ray having to "cadge" lifts.
Marius Goring plays a sinister character who since the war end has gone into producing ballet (and I am sure he got the role after playing the composer in Powell & Pressburger's acclaimed " The Red Shoes" (1948).The director, Jacques Tourneur is most notable in my collection for "Out of the Past"(1947) and "Experiment Perilous" (1944) and here directs an exciting "whodunnit" which takes Ray back & forth as he gradually unravels the truth.As another reviewer has stated we get to see some good locational shots which makes a change from hidebound studio interiors.Another curious thing is there is no noticeable mood music in the film.The final scene is unexpected and you are led down several blind alleys first.Enjoyable, I rated it 7/10.
Jacques Tourneur directed this postwar British mystery film very well, and the cinematography by Ossie Morris and camera operating by Arthur Ibbetson were superior, and added to the film's atmosphere considerably. Ray Milland is the lead actor, playing an American who visits England and wants to find out how and why his younger brother had died during the War. The brother (not seen in the film) had joined up as a British commando in 1940 and was mysteriously killed on a commando raid 'with not a German in sight'. Was he murdered by a comrade? Milland sets about visiting in turn all of the 12 men of the commando unit, only to discover that many of them are dead and one died only two weeks before his arrival in England after suggesting that the brother had been a murder victim. One of the surviving men is an East End wide boy played by Naunton Wayne, who is usually a bumbling gent but on this occasion is a convincing used car salesman. His girl friend 'Bubbles' who even does a singing number is played by the ever-effervescent Dora Bryan. A deeply sinister performance is contributed by Marius Goring, as a gay ballet dancer who knows how to handle a gun and whose role in the story only becomes clear at the end. Patricia Roc is the love interest, who alternates between being bouncy and adorable and being the most horrible spoilt brat who pouts if kept waiting for a few minutes and accuses Milland of not being dressed properly when he is in a mere suit and tie (she snottily points out that he has 'ruined her evening' because he hasn't had time to change into black tie). She really needed several good spankings, but does not get one, unfortunately. Milland is very effective in this mysterious tale, exerting extraordinary self-control in the face of extreme provocation from the uncommunicative and rude former comrades of his brother. There are some fine shots of the Scottish highlands as Milland pursues the truth north of the border, where the whistling of a folk tune called 'White Heather' takes on significance in terms of identifying the killer. This is a fine film without pretensions, where the intrigue is unravelled like a thread and leads Milland to strange discoveries about what really happened.
Although I had not intended this current noir marathon to be a tribute
to any one particular actor, this will be my fourth Ray Milland movie
in a row! Originally hailing from Wales, this sees the Hollywood star
making a welcome return to his homeland (and its environs) albeit
playing an American! for a rather unusual Hitchcockian post-war
thriller. The story deals with a salvage captain leaving Florida to go
all over the United Kingdom (Wales, Scotland and London) the
roundabout nature of the route anticipating the Hitchcock classic NORTH
BY NORTHWEST (1959) to seek out the surviving members of a commando
team who operated in France during WWII and unravel the mysterious
events surrounding his younger brother's death.
This largely reticent and unhelpful bunch includes a wonderful turn by Marius Goring (who has now become a celebrated ballet choreographer), Hugh Sinclair (the former commando leader who is now a brooding baronet), Naunton Wayne (a clear nod toward Hitchcock right there, having acquired a reputation playing one of two cricket-crazy twits in THE LADY VANISHES  now a chatty, crooked car salesman) and Edward Rigby (playing a Welshman, thus obviously a miner!). Notable support, then, is provided by the lovely Patricia Roc (as Sinclair's intended, and whose 'meeting cute' with Milland precipitates a bumpy affair again a' la NORTH BY NORTHWEST but with the expected happy ending) as well as the ever-reliable Reginald Beckwith (from director Tourneur's later NIGHT OF THE DEMON , as Goring's long-suffering partner).
Despite the rather glum aura of the proceedings, this is less a noir than a whodunnit and, as if to emphasize that very difference, we are regaled with celebrated cinematographer Oswald Morris (and equally notable camera operators Gilbert Taylor and Arthur Ibbetson)'s breathtaking location shooting the downbeat revelation at the climax, taking place in an open field, is particularly masterfully handled as opposed to the claustrophobic studio sets usually associated with the former genre. For the record, Milland himself had starred in Fritz Lang's superb wartime thriller MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944) boasting a famously inaccurate Hollywood rendition of London!
Another link to "The Master Of Suspense" is the presence of co-producer Joan Harrison (a longtime Hitchcock collaborator), even if the 'whistled tune' giveaway device immediately reminds one of Lang's child-murdering masterpiece M (1931)! In the end, one should be grateful Jacques Tourneur's first working trip to England here worked as well as it did since, in six years' time, this would be followed by his last great (and one of his best-ever) film i.e. the afore-mentioned NIGHT OF THE DEMON.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A tale of mystery and a quest for the truth make this quite the journey. An American (Ray Milland) sets out to find how his younger brother died in service. Along the way he meets a lovely Scottish lass (Patricia Roc) and falls for her. However his quest is so obsessive he may get the truth and lose the girl. This is a nice film with twists and turns that will make you want to go along for the ride. The last portion of the film is tense and we wonder if Douglas (Milland) will survive his walk with Hammish the man who killed his brother. Too bad that this film has such lousy transfer, the quality is very poor. However it is worth watching again, and again.
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