The Stilwins are on vacation to an isolated beach in Mexico. Walking on a deserted jetty, Doug Stilwin gets his leg trapped under one of the logs. All attempts to move the log are futile and Helen Stilwin takes the car to get help. However, an escaped criminal kidnaps her. Will she be able to return to her husband before he drowns? Written by
Jeopardy is a tense, satisying thriller, a cut above a B but not really a major production. It qualifies as almost an experimental film, as the studio that produced it, Metro, was desperately looking for new kinds of films, stars and directors to compete with the then new medium of television. The director, John Sturges, was an up-and-comer whose best years lay ahead. He had just recently begun directing A level films, and had already proved himself a most capable craftsman. Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan and Ralph Meeker, were at very different phases of their careers. Stanwyck's glory years were behind her, and yet she could still carry a film, as she proves here. Barry Sullivan, as her husband, was one of a dozen or so leading men who got started in films in the forties who never quite achieved the success many had hoped for him. He was a fine, low-key actor, poised, but in an upper middle rather than upper class way, which made him excellent in professional roles. As the escaped convict who is the only person around who can save Sullivan's life (he is trapped under a pier, and the tide is rising), Ralph Meeker is more energetic than usual. This excellent actor had the misfortune of having come to films after Brando and Clift. He was in his way as good an actor as either of them, but he lacked charisma. His bargaining with Stanwyck, which comes down to his demanding sex in exchange for saving her husband (by implication only, as this is 1953), makes for an intriguing premise which, had this been a different kind of film, could all raised all sorts of interesting questions about Stanwyck's character. Meeker is indeed a more exciting character than Sullivan; and in her scenes with him Stanwyck is livelier than she is with her husband and son. But as this is a formula picture, not a Strindberg play, the possibility that Stanwyck might want want to have a fling,--leaving aside the question of her husband's predicament,--remains unexplored. In this sense the incoming tide doesn't quite have the effect one might have wished, though the movie remains tense and highly entertaining thanks to excellent acting, fine location photography, nearly all of it outdoors, and excellent direction by the woefully underrated Mr. Sturges.
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