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When "Dangerous Mission" was made as a another "B" color feature in 1954, it was probably considered by its producers to be a a routine action script. The film did have lovely young Piper Laurie, Betta St. John, Harry Cheshire. plus Vincent Price, William Bendix and as star handsome Victor Mature. But I assert that it had some hidden assets as well: very intelligent direction, unusually lovely Glacier National Park scenery, a logical storyline and first-rate production values from Roy Webb's music to costumes by Michael Wulfe and sets to art direction and second-unit work by Asst. Director James Lane. Also, the script was what I term a "sense-of-life film", of the same sort as "Bend of the River", "Smoke Signal" and "The Miracle Worker". We as viewers in other words only learn about a charismatic but suspect hero gradually, by experiencing his actions which are set against his negative reputation. Price steals the film as a complex character out of place among straightforward personalities; Mature lacks the speech for a senior detective but Bendix, St. John and Laurie and Cheshire are all very good in their roles. Make no mistake; this is an inexpensive film, with the outdoor actions using rear- projection to include most of the Glacier Park locales. But the film looks colorful and very spacious for a "B". It presents a square dance interrupted by an avalanche, a battle with a live-wire, a first-rate forest fire, a stirring chase and climactic battle on the glacier, plus intelligent dialogue and character-revelation scenes. The makers have put together I suggest a first-rate romance, an interesting mystery noir, and a very entertaining adventure. I never miss this one, having discovered it fifty years ago and championed its values for years. With a Keith Andes as its star, it might have become famous.
The best thing about Dangerous Mission is the great location
cinematography of Glacier National Park where the film was shot. It
must have boosted tourism in Montana considerably after it was in
theaters and later on television. No doubt this film made WOR TV in New
York when RKO closed as 99.9% of that library was sold to them.
Piper Laurie witnesses a mob killing in New York, but she's afraid to testify and flees back home to Montana where she knows everybody and strangers can be spotted easily. She's a guest at the tourist lodge owned by Betta St. John and her father Steve Darrell who's also got some problems with the law. But being an Indian he's pretty good at staying outdoors and living off the land.
Two strangers take an interest in Laurie both quite charming in their own ways, Victor Mature and Vincent Price. Just the names will tell you who the good and who the bad guy is. William Bendix is also in the cast as the chief Forest Ranger in the park. I wish Bendix had been given more to do in Dangerous Mission.
With the great outdoor cinematography in color you can't really call this a noir film. Still the plot elements would be noir if it were set in the big city.
Another thing Dangerous Mission has to recommend it is a very good depiction of a landslide which wreaks havoc on a hillside house and later Victor Mature goes out and tames a downed power line. The final chase scene across the glacier is also well done.
Though the plot is routine, it's all well written and staged and Dangerous Mission is enjoyable.
Oh Gawd...... RKO in the Howard Hughes years.... terrible films with good production values.... and in 3D comes DANGEROUS MISSION.... what a terrible title... it is like calling a film SOMETHING HAPPENED. Of course it is a dangerous mission.. what would be the point of it otherwise.....In this hybrid noir and faux-Republic western, we get some terrific location forest and glacier footage mixed with shoddy studio shots, half the film is re created indoors on sound stages almost as if to give the studio staff and crew something to do. The whole film could easily have been filmed on location, but for almost this 'keep 'em busy at Gower St' reason insert shots and close ups and odd shots get a studio level makeover.. and this includes a 3D forest fire (!) a 3D whiplash loose electrical cable, a 3D avalanche.. all of which believe it or not have nothing to do with the story. If you see the trailer on the "3D trailers DVD" available in discount shops, there is a hilarious gangland assassination of some piano player in reel one (he keeps tinkling on the treble keys as he slides off the stool) some gal sees it and some guys follow her to her holiday hideout in the mountains. The second unit alpine reality is gorgeous and the Indian theme inspires 50s sets and clothes are kitsch.. and the interaction and jumbled scenes often do not make sense... in fact it is downright startling that some scenes have nothing to do with the next. One scene in the lobby early in the film has Vincent Price and Victor Mature chatting up the two female characters in the film. cut to: entry at a chalet square dance where Mature arrives with one of them... no asking her out in the last scene... just 'here they are here now:... then the roof falls in courtesy of producer Irwin Allen. The glacial scenes in the last reel make no sense as they swing between the same actors in shopping clothes in icy terrain and them them on a cardboard set shooting each other. It is just a mess...BUT and here I have to admit, it is all so entertaining. Almost no story, subplots dismissed (the Indian Dad), pointless running about and apparently witty macho banter between the guys. Some noir twists and BANG it's all over in a 3D avalanche too. What a mess. How enjoyable!
No doubt the real star here is Glacier National Park and its scenic
vistas. It's 1953 and Hollywood is trying to lure TV audiences back
into theatres with lavish Technicolor that b&w can't compete with, and
with a 3-D process that faded as quickly as it soared. In short,
Hollywood is looking for new formulas that work. I suspect an uncertain
background of this sort accounts for this very odd movie product. In
brief, it's a scenic jumble. Maybe you can make sense of story
developments, I couldn't. It's a weird blend of noirish plot with The
Nature Channel. Something about a mysterious hit-man tracking down a
murder witness in the Park. But somehow the thread never really gels
amid a welter of confusing events. I also suspect the screenplay is the
result of too many chefs, even good chefs like W.R. Burnett, Horace
McCoy, and Charles Bennett (a Hitchcock favorite), all of whom are
credited, and each likely with his own ideas.
The cast is also an uneasy blend of aging names and hopeful no-names. Mature, Price, and Bendix lend some waning marquee strength, while Laurie and St. John are attractive newcomers. Yet, it's a real stretch to have the nubile young St. John ga-ga over the slightly effete, 40'ish Price. Then too, casting the unlikely Price as a top New York hit-man doesn't help. I realize there's supposed to be a surprise factor here, especially with the guffawing Cheshire's role; still, these come across as little more than artificial plot devices. Note too, the remnants of 3-D that come rolling at us during the avalanche sequence. And judging from the extravagant set for the climactic crevasse scene, "disaster" producer Irwin Allen is already experimenting with big ideas. Anyway, the storyline may jumble, but those Technicolor vistas continue to shine through and remain about the only reason to catch up with this RKO goulash.
Dangerous Mission has some great strengths and some very noticeable
Originally filmed and released in 3-D, to keep up with the 3-D craze in the early 50s, Dangerous Mission had some great strengths: Irwin Allen's hand as Producer, a great cast, plot twists, a rousing music score, gorgeous location Technicolor photography.
The serious flaws are the disjointed story line: episodes that have virtually nothing to do with the plot: landslide during a party, forest fire, Indian ceremony and stupid subplot of an indian falsely accused of murder. Add some silly dubbed dialogue during noisy scenes and the usually great William Bendix given some incredibly stupid lines.
All in all, great fun despite typical 1950s stereotypes--especially to see Victor Mature as a moody tough guy, Vincent Price as a somewhat effeminate photographer, and the gorgeous Piper Laurie.
A man tinkering on the piano with one hand "One for My Baby (and One
More for the Road)" is murdered by an unseen gunman. A woman, whom we
also do not see, happens upon the site, screams, and runs before the
killer can plug her too. The next set shows a New York City backdrop
with Johnny Yonkers and two men in a room discussing the necessity of
tracking down and killing the female witness, who is in hiding.
Although the gunman is present we still do not see him. The very next
scene is at the visitor's entrance to Glacier National Park in northern
Montana, where Matt Hallett (Victor Mature) has just driven. He packs a
pistol. The Park will be the setting a most attractive one for the
remainder of the movie.
Louise Graham (Piper Laurie), originally from the east, runs a gift shop at the Visitors' Center. Converging there are amateur photographer Paul Adams (Vincent Price), Hallett, and chief ranger Joe Parker (William Bendix). Parker reminds Hallett that he needs to disclose to park authorities that he has a .38-caliber pistol on the grounds, even though it is legally registered. Hallett says he is an ex-marine. But is he a policeman or the killer hired by Yonkers? For it is obvious that either Adams or Hallett is the gunman. Louise is unaware that both Adams and Hallett are after her for different reasons. Neither of the two men knows her likeness.
This formerly 3D movie features an avalanche, forest fire, Indian dance/ceremony, and live wires (downed electrical power line), none of which is related to the plot. Katoonai Tiller (Steve Darrell), at large in the distant part of the National Park, is wanted for murder. His state of affairs also has nothing to do with the plot. Tiller's daughter Mary (Betta St. John) is the sexy Indian girl in love with Adams, who is much older. Dennis Weaver ("Gunsmoke," 1955-1964) has a small role as a park ranger. As of this writing Piper Laurie is still acting; she had silver screen parts in "The Hustler" (1961) and "Carrie" (1978). Victor Mature, who was decent enough, had good roles in "My Darling Clementine" (1946), "Cry of the City" (1948), and "The Robe" (1953). Also, Mature played such diverse historical figures like Sampson (Jewish), Hannibal (Carthaginian/North African), and Chief Crazy Horse (American Indian).
The editing of "Dangerous Mission" is quite choppy, and the character development is rather weak. For instance, at movie's end we still know very little about Louise Graham and Matt Hallett. And what is the story on Katoonai Tiller? Was he really guilty of murder? Then again there is the Cave of the Winds shootout and an exciting chase along the park glacier (even though it's a sound stage). The park setting, lovely ladies, and ending save the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film begins with some sap getting blasted by a hood. Unfortunately,
a woman witnessed the killing and the murderer knows he faces serious
jail time unless she can be located.
The scene abruptly changes to Glacier National Park as Victor Mature is heading into the park. As he reaches for the glove box, you see a gun but really don't know why he has it--perhaps he's a cop or perhaps he's a killer on the trail of the witness.
Much later, after some mushy romance between Mature and a gorgeous Piper Laurie, an assassin sent by the murderer makes his move and tries to kill Piper. However, when it's unsuccessful, the law is after the man and this leads to a very exciting chase through the mountains and onto a glacier.
While the plot is apparently recycled from a Gene Autry film according to one of the reviews, I felt that the action and suspense were good and setting most of the action in beautiful wilderness was a very nice touch. This might not have been the most surprising suspense movie I have seen, but it did deliver a pretty good punch and is well worth seeing.
This is a good movie.
It's the story of a good guy cop going West to find a killer. Mature is the good guy, and Price is the killer. The killer is also trying to execute a witness to a murder (Piper Laurie). Any male watching will be sure to notice the heroine's perfect looking girl friend, played by Betta St John. One watches this film and wonders how this eye popper didn't become the centerfold girl of all time.
But enough about going gaga over Betta. This is a good old fashioned, rootin tootin film. There's a lot we'd probably all like to change. For instance, I notice many say Bendix as the park ranger should have had more to do, and I certainly agree with that. It looks like maybe some of his lines were cut, or perhaps it was just a hastily put together job. Price, as the killer, probably wasn't the best choice, but as an icon, it's good to see Price in the role.
The action sequences and adventure are well thought out, and it has a little something for everybody. It just seems like a lot was cut out. Still, the cinema scenery is excellent, and it is a great popcorn and soda film.
Did the State of Montana invest a huge chunk of money in Dangerous Mission? We see, in brash Technicolor, the snow-capped mountains and crystalline lakes of Big Sky country; we even get to see a forest fire and a couple of avalanches, one of which seems to have something to do with a plot. There's not much else to divert the attention, except the spectacle of white actors "made up" to impersonate native Americans (they look as though they'd been steeped in Paas Easter-egg dye). A fine cast --Victor Mature, William Bendix, Vincent Price and the very young Piper Laurie -- is thrown to the winds in a wisp of a story that seems left over from the final days of film noir, reworked as a Western, and finally released as this mash-note to mountain lodges and dude ranches. It concerns a woman (Laurie) who witnessed an execution back in the evil east and is being tracked down to insure her silence. The song "It's A Quarter to Three" keeps cropping up as though it had great thematic relevance, but it doesn't. Dangerous Mission has no theme, let alone thematic relevance.
It's difficult to determine exactly what is going on in the minds of
the people who made this movie. Anyway, it starts out as a crime drama;
a murder is committed, apparently witnessed by a woman who gets away.
Soon, there is an avalanche, causing massive destruction that completed
disappears in a couple of seconds. I took the avalanche as a inside
joke; you see, this film goes nowhere but downhill. Or, it might be
meant to foreshadow the end.
Victor Mature (he's Matt) and Vincent Price (he's Paul) compete to see who gets the girl -- when they're not competing to see who gives the worst performance. Piper Laurie is the blonde witness. There are Indians involved. When they all go after each other at the end, the background is entertaining to watch (snowy Montana mountains).
** Dangerous Mission (1954) Louis King ~ Victor Mature, Vincent Price, Piper Laurie
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