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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
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" (MGM, 1953), directed by John Sturges, is not a movie about the behind-the-scenes look about the making of a popular TV game show, but a fast-paced suspense drama revamped from a radio play.
The story simply starts off with an all-American family, Helen Stilwin (Barbara Stanwyck), Doug, her husband, (Barry Sullivan), and their little boy, Bobby (Lee Aaker) of California taking a vacation by driving to Mexico. While there they park their car in a quiet but somewhat abandoned fishing village by the ocean where they decide to make their camp. Shortly afterwards, their adventurous son ventures on an old rotting pier, where he gets his foot caught. Father Doug goes out there and releases him by taking off his son's shoe. Moments later, Doug falls through the pier and ends up getting his own foot caught beneath a heavy pile on the beach at low tide. Unable to set his himself free, Helen leaves Bobby with his father to drive off and get help. Suspense builds after Helen picks up a stranger (Ralph Meeker) for assistance, only to soon learn that he is an escaped killer whose main interest is to elude from the police authorities. As she finds herself being held captive by this dangerous and heartless character with nothing to lose, the tide of water slowly builds that may soon be over Doug's head unless help comes.
What a neat thriller this is! Fast-paced and a real attention grabber that doesn't lose control of its audience. Stanwyck, as professional as always, starts off casually but changes into a fierce and desperate woman who becomes tormented after finding herself the victim of a desperate killer on the run, with her main interest is to get back to her husband in danger, and her little boy.
"Jeopardy," which is shown on Turner Classic Movies, is, according to host Robert Osborne, a movie based on a 22 minute radio play, "A Question of Time," extended to a tight 68 minute film. Not as well known as other thrillers of the day, especially those directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but this one is worth a look. Highly recommended for nail biters wanting to save money on manicures. (***)
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