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
Leonard Maltin must've been watching some other movie. (Though I find his Guide to be quite a valuable resource, please disregard his comments on this one.) He states "starts off well then fizzles" when it's really the reverse
"starts off tepid then catches fire". The plot is about as simple as it
gets. Happy Mom, Happy Dad and Happy Son take a vacation at an isolated beach, Dad incapacitated in accident, Mom runs off to get help, meets up with dangerous escaped convict. Mom tries to trick convict into helping while Dad waits and hangs on for dear life.
Good white-knuckler given an electric jolt by Ralph Meeker, appearing suddenly (the director, John Sturges, films it in a clever way that will make you gasp) around halfway through as the cunning, desperate criminal. Meeker is an unusually flippant, reckless actor (at least here and in the classic "Kiss Me Deadly") and he happily snatches the keys to the film's narrative and speeds off with the top down. His character has a habit of grinning childishly and saying "Pretty neat, huh?" when he's especially pleased with his misdeeds. There is a funny break in the action when they get a flat tire and he tersely instructs his hostage, Barbara Stanwyck, "Don't go away". She fires back "Where would I go?" (they're in the middle of nowhere) and he realizes sitcom-ishly "Yeah, that's right". The friction between them is a hoot.
There are flaws, somewhat ridiculous ones. There's one scene where the police, who have been chasing after Meeker for some time, stop Stanwyck's car and to evade detection Meeker rests his head on her shoulder like a loving husband supposedly would, and pretends to be asleep as she's being questioned. A. He looks conspicuously un-masculine in this pose and B. I think it's safe to say that any adult who appears to be asleep during an encounter with law enforcement would certainly arouse suspicion.
Still a sturdy thriller which builds to an exciting and edifying conclusion.
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