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When the President decides to pass through the small town of Suddenly
on route to a fishing trip, the town's police and chief officials rise
to meet the challenge of assuring his protection as there have been
rumors of an assassination attempt.
The hired guns meanwhile make plans of their own. They cleverly trick their way into the home of the best house in town from which to try and carry out their assassination plot - the house of Pop Benson, respected citizen with an house upon an hill that overlooks the President's planned arrival destination. Now only an handful of hostages stand between the President and doom...can they in some way warn him in time?
Frank Sinatra steals the show here as the ruthless criminal mastermind behind the want-to-be assassins - a man named John Baron. He is downright brutal and nasty in the role--an utterly detestable villain who does remind us the it was the army that created him and made him into a killer or maybe deep down, it's just that he was always a killer at heart. An outstanding multi-dimensional performance from Sinatra.
Sterling Hayden meanwhile plays the idealistic police sheriff Tod Shaw, who believes in America and the American way and supports unquestioningly the system and will do whatever it takes to preserve the America he believes is right and just. He too served in the military to protect rights and freedoms and now carries on the good fight as Suddenly's sheriff. An interesting contrast of two extremes with the pacifist minded Ellen Benson (played here by Nancy Gates), her becoming a widow after her husband got killed in the war, finally forced to take a stand at the film's climax.
Daring for its time, this film deals with surprisingly intense subject matter for the early 1950s. Quite good.
Like another user I found this movie at a "dollar store" and decided to
take a chance on it. I believe the stories that this was pulled from
circulation simply because I had never heard of it before. Where have
they been hiding this movie?
I can believe those stories for another reason. It has an eerie feel to it ... and seemed oddly prophetic: Imagine, an attempt to kill a President from a sniper position in a window above and behind, using a military-style weapon, by a former soldier. If Oswald truly watched this movie ... one would have to wonder how HE felt about the movie. I mean, I wasn't aware of that bit of trivia until I watched the movie and THEN checked out IMDb. While watching it I could not help but draw comparisons. Brrrrrrrr. It seems plausible that Sinatra might have had similar feelings.
Sure, this is not the best movie ever made but it is a good solid 1950s movie, with a good performance by Sinatra. Yes, it is corny, but given the timeframe, that is to be expected. To be honest, I am tired of special effects and enjoy movies with an actual story and actual acting. Even corny stories and corny acting. Not a single car blew up in this movie. Wow. What a relief.
in fact some rather too well with unnecessary plot descriptions. My
reactions were mixed, but SUDDENLY is worth seeing for three
1) Early Sinatra, of course. This is the kind of role he would not, to the best of my knowledge,repeat. My mother has long had a crush on him, an infatuation undimmed when she saw the film with me on P.B.S.
2) This movie is a study of the ideals and point of view of mid-1950s America. SUDDENLY was made after the Hollywood investigations of the later 1940s and whilst the McCarthy Paranoia was still going on. None of the other commentators have noted that item, but one should take note that the studio big-wigs had had the bejaysus scared out of them. American film was not only to refrain from social criticism, but was going to be a cheerleader for the essential rightness of the American Way of Life and character. SUDDENLY oozes this point of view, and I note with amused contempt the very last scene and what the two protagonists say to one another.
3) The film is a foreshadowing of what is to come in a country so sure of its social and political stability, quite accidental to be sure. Yes, the head bad guy is a nutter, but he is not the comfortable one-lone-nutter. This plot is highly organised and obviously well-financed. The unspoken They have turned to a pool of violence that is highly American -- organised crime -- to do the deed. Baron and his plotters are not ill-shaven Marxists or slanty-eyed types. They are as American as the Colt 45, and they are willing to do the unthinkable for enough money, and in the leader's case, the simple thrill of bagging someone.
I do not know whether SUDDENLY "rises" to the level of Film Noir, but it had some disturbing things for postWar Americans. Perhaps that is why it is not well known in the Sinatra gallery, and indeed I had never heard of it until about six years ago.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As the President of the United States is touring out west, a sniper is
awaiting him, with his European-manufactured rifle pointing down from a high
window. The assassin is a mentally-disturbed ex-serviceman in the pay of
powerful vested interests ... However, this is not Dallas in November 1963,
but an eerily accurate foreshadowing, made nine years earlier.
Suddenly is a drowsy little Californian town whose peace is broken one sunny Saturday afternoon when it transpires that the President will step off his train here, to transfer to a limousine for the journey into Los Angeles. Frank Sinatra plays John Baron, the psychotic killer who arrives in town intending to kill Suddenly's most illustrious visitor.
Todd Shaw (Sterling Hayden) is the town sherriff, and like western sherriffs of an earlier age he is strong, decent and resourceful. He is courting Ellen Benson (Nancy Gates), Suddenly's beautiful widow, whose husband died a war hero. Being a regular kind of guy, Todd is trying to fix up a date with Ellen which will involve accompanying her to church on Sunday morning. Ellen's six-year-old son (played by Kim Charney) is known by the nickname 'Pidge'. Pidge is a good kid who wants to be a peace officer when he grows up, and on the strength of this career ambition Sherriff Shaw buys him the cap pistol which Pidge's mother has steadfastly refused. In Todd's eyes, it makes no sense to disapprove of firearms: "Guns aren't necessarily bad. Depends who uses 'em."
Pop Benson (James Gleason) is an Eisenhower lookalike and Pidge's grandfather. Formerly a secret serviceman, he is renowned far and wide for his probity and straight talking. "I'm an American, aren't I?" asks Pop, needing no other philosophy in life. Within seconds of making his first appearance in the film, Pop is sounding off about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". When his home is being searched without warrant by men he takes to be FBI agents, he welcomes them with, "I get quite a kick outta this!"
And so the scene is set. Baron's small team of crooks will occupy the Benson home in order to set up their sniper's nest. Ultra-patriotic Pop and his family will do their best to resist the invaders.
"Suddenly" has some very noticeable flaws. The labouring of the 'dangerous electricity' point is clumsy. Though this tiny 'burgh' is crawling with state troopers and secret servicemen, nobody hears the gunfight in the Benson living-room. Todd lamely explains it away by surmising that a passing train must have 'muffled it'. What possible reason can Baron have for sending Benny down into the town? Nothing can outweigh the risk that he will be detected - as indeed he is. And how come Baron, the man who feels like God when he has a gun in his hand, fails to notice that Pidge's cap pistol has been exchanged for a real revolver? How is it that, minutes after the end of this dramatic siege, life in Suddenly is back to prosaic normal?
Despite these infelicities (and the mystery of how Baron knew the President's schedule so intimately) "Suddenly" is a very enjoyable film. Lewis Allen's terse direction keeps the story taut and dramatically interesting, and Sinatra is excellent as the psycho. Watch for his sick smile as he hurts the man with the broken arm!
As well as being eminently watchable, this neat little thriller is also surprisingly thought-provoking. "You've got that duty look in your eye," says Baron scathingly to Shaw, identifying succinctly the difference between the two men. Shaw's honour-code puts patriotism before life itself, whereas Baron's perverted values scorn altruism. He works for money - and the pleasure of killing. "I did a lot of chopping in the war," repeats Baron in a sort of mantra, and Shaw learns to exploit this preoccupation. He grasps that Baron's self-esteem is grounded in his combat record, and he starts to use Baron's psychological kinks against him. One of the film's deep-structure themes is the central role of the family in both the nation's life and the life of the individual. America will be strong and safe as long as it continues to produce families like the Bensons. Conversely, Baron's sad neglected childhood has created a warped psychopath. The attempt on the President's life is launched with a crisp "Let's go to work." One wonders if Tarrantino was consciously using the identical phrase for the start of the robbery in "Reservoir Dogs".
Main Street has to be cleared of Americans before the President can set foot in it. The people cannot enter into the presence of their chief executive officer, and he dare not move among his fellow citizens. What does that say about America?
Frank Sinatra was certainly one of the greatest singers of our time. He was also a fine actor as well, he won an Academy Award for From Here To Eternity. This was the first film he was in after he won his Oscar and he proves it was not a fluke. He is absolutely chilling as a crazed cold blooded assassin who is out to kill the President. The only other actor who did a better job in this type of role is John Malkovich in In The Line Of Fire. This is a little known classic that really showcases Sinatra's acting talents. I think that this film and The Manchurian Candidate are the best films he ever made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like "The Desperate Hours" with Humphrey Bogart, "Suddenly" depicts
1950s American conformity facing forces of chaos that threaten to
destroy it completely.
The peace and tranquility sought after during those post-World War II years is symbolized by the quiet rural town of Suddenly, a western community formed by explorers hunting for precious metals. Suddenly finds itself the unexpected host of the President, who is making a brief stop by train during a cross-country trip.
In this town lives Ellen Benson, widowed mother of 8-year-old son Pidge. In residence with the Bensons is Ellen's father-in-law Pop, an admired World War I vet, Secret Service vet, and bodyguard for Calvin Coolidge in the '20s. Courting Ellen is Tod Shaw, yet another war veteran, and the tall, fit, and honest sheriff of Suddenly. Tod is so loyal to his country and president that he orders a car rental guy to get his limousine ready for use, no questions asked and no fee exchanged!!! It's interesting to note that Sheriff Shaw is played by Sterling Hayden, who went on to play another uniformed man in "Dr. Strangelove": the crazed General Jack D. Ripper.
But the pleasant community of "Suddenly" finds itself menaced by a strong-willed, opinionated, and tough-talking criminal, the chief officer of ruthless forces that intend to eliminate the very symbol of American political and historical might -- the President himself. Leading his small band of hoods, John Baron has been hired by an interested party to organize the assassination via a sniper rifle bullet shot from the Benson house, which lies high on a hill. Baron coldly and rudely commandeers the Benson household in the course of his work, and isn't afraid to use force against the family members. I suppose the fact that the villain is played by a non-WASP, "ethnic" actor could be interpreted a certain way, too.
The film is full of patriotic, pro-USA messages that are so heavily delivered as to be laughable, and reflect some of the conservative interests that were prevalent in the 1950s. All of the honest, law-abiding characters are simply bewildered that anyone would even conceive of killing the President of the United States, who to them plays the same godlike role that the ancient pharaohs of Egypt did, it would seem. Apparently, they haven't considered how money, politics, and a number of personal interests could persuade some people to do that kind of thing. The TV repairman presents one of the most outrageously dewy-eyed, flag-waving, gushing movie characters since Jefferson Smith. When he learns about the intentions of the assassins, he blurts out, "They're commies they're enemy agents!"
Patriotic Pop likes to recite US rhetoric, and looks down on Sinatra and his thugs as traitors to their country. Pop is also quite convinced that his dead son (Ellen's husband) died a good death by getting killed on the battlefield while defending the values of America. Even though the death has moved Ellen to view war, guns, and violence as methods that lead to the pointless waste of life, Pop criticizes her and implies that his son's actions were not only honorable but necessary, and that he wouldn't mind seeing the same thing happen to his grandson!
In fact, Ellen is portrayed as timid and weak, though her eccentricities are at least well-intentioned. She's the stereotypical '50s mother -- hysterical, fainting, misguided, and inferior to men when the going gets tough. Pidge is upset at her because she won't buy him a toy gun and wants to shield him from violence, which has caused him to look like a "sissy" in front of his classmates. Tod meanwhile scolds her for her anti-gun views and extols the merits of firearms.
A firearm even plays an integral part in the downfall of the assassins. Good ol' Pop keeps it in his bureau, though it's a mystery why the assassins never found it during their search of the house, and never asked about it. Of course, it's up to the leading man to fire the final shot to take down the ringleader, after Pidge shoots and misses, and after Ellen wounds him but then breaks down. Yes, Tod does mighty fine despite his broken arm and sling. Funny how those guns never recoil, too.
But in spite of this hokey fun, "Suddenly" is surprisingly tough and frank for its time. You may be taken aback by how some of the strong words made it past the censors. The sordidness of Sinatra's parents and his unglamorous life are touched upon. And the action includes the close-quarters shooting of a federal official, who's hauled away afterwards in a carpet, if I recall correctly. Meanwhile, violent threats of murder are made towards the 8-year-old, with talk of knives, throats, and such --- and in the boy's presence.
It remains a very good suspense movie, and will provide a healthy dose of good entertainment for classic film fans that are looking for an old thriller. It's also a great chance to see Sinatra in action, and as a vicious villain, no less. He provides an energetic, memorable performance, and Gleason and Charney are good as well. While you watch, just remember the different characteristic of the era during which the film was made.
When I started to watch this movie I didn't think it was going to be any good. How wrong! I've seen lots of Frank Sinatra movies and I never liked any of them, because I think he is a terrible actor in all those movies (and that goes for films like "From Here to Eternity" and "Some Came Running", which the critics always claim to be "wonderful - come on!). BUT in this one he is GREAT, just GREAT - his best performance, perfect. The movie is quite good as well. Simple, but good. And those close-ups on Sinatra's face are always right were they should be to create the dramatic effect perfect for the situation. Watch it! It's good, and doesn't bore you because it doesn't go on and on and on like most films nowadays about somebody wanting to kill the president of the USA.
This tense, relatively well-crafted little thriller dispenses with
frills or padding, and tells its story in a straightforward way that
works pretty well. Once it sets up the story, it maintains the tension
carefully enough to make up for some plot holes and one-dimensional
The focus remains almost entirely on the story, and the characters are never developed very deeply. The three main roles are rather well-cast, though, and Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, and James Gleason each deliver what their roles call for.
Although implausible at some points, the story is otherwise well-constructed, and it moves at a good pace. Many film-makers are tempted to inject superfluous material into this kind of story, and this is an example showing that it usually works better to keep it simple. While nothing extraordinary, it works more than well enough to be worth watching.
I'm at a loss to explain why Frank Sinatra chose this particular
project in the wake of all the acclaim he got for From Here to
Eternity. Without his presence in the film, Suddenly with its length of
75 minutes on my VHS version would be a B film, even with Sterling
Hayden starring in it as the sheriff. My guess is that Sinatra wanted
to expand and test himself as an actor, something he did less and less
of in the following decade.
The President of the United States is coming to the small town of Suddenly where he will leave the train he's traveling on and proceed by motorcade to a vacation in the Sierras. The Secret Service has come to town to do their usual thing in protecting the Chief Executive.
But three contract killers headed by Frank Sinatra are in town to kill the president. We're never told exactly who is paying for this contract, but the inference is that it is our Cold War enemies. Through a combination of circumstances the sheriff is wounded and the head of Secret Service detail, Willis Bouchey, is killed. And the killers are holed up in Nancy Gates's house with her, her father-in-law James Gleason, and child Kim Charney and the wounded Hayden.
Most of the film is taken up with the wait for the train to arrive where a lot of souls are bared open, including Sinatra's. It's the one and only time that Francis Albert ever essayed the role of an out and out villain. He does it well, but I suspect he didn't want to push it with his public too much, so he never did anyone as evil as this again.
Of course history tells us that the president named Eisenhower at the time never was an assassin's target so we know Sinatra's efforts will fail. However it's rather ingenious as to how it does fail.
I think more than fans of old Blue Eyes will like Suddenly.
I found this at an "everything $1.00 store" and bought it just because
Sinatra was in it. What a find!! The film is really slow and poorly acted
until Sinatra shows up about 20 minutes in but then becomes MUCH better.
This is written right after Brando died and all the obituaries said he
changed acting with his facial expressions and emotions right out there for
the world to see, but it seems to me Old Blue Eyes deserves some of the same
credit. In 1954 when this was made, everybody was reading their lines and
standing very straight but in this film Sinatra breaks those rules and shows
us into the mind and heart of a man badly damaged by his war experiences.
If you get a chance to see this by all means do it!
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