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Don't know if this one is out on video (I just picked it up in 16mm) but if it shows up, give it a look. Zachary Scott plays a Dimitrios-like master criminal named Max Brant and, after effecting an escape from the gallows, hides out at old buddy Mervyn Johns' mansion. Johns is a former counterfeit engraver and he reluctantly gets roped into a new venture with Brant. Complications ensue when Johns' daughter (very lovely Peggie Castle) arrives home and Brant's lecherous tendencies are aroused. The picture moves well with every step of a counterfeit operation detailed and yet there is still time for some action and brutal shockers. Sharp ears will hear music later used in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE in one of the early scenes of the picture.
What a wonderful surprise for me to discover this one. I did not expect
so much. I like Monty Tully's films, but not so far. It's ten times
better than another picture directed by him that I saw last week :
"Strange Awakening". A real sleeper.
I know that the screenwriter for this one is no one else than James Eastwood. It tells the story of a big time operator - Zachary Scott - who escapes in France from a cellular convoy, with dead escort policemen, and then manages a big scale counterfeit money ring from England. All the mechanism, working technique of that "business" is described.
Scott is of course the ideal bad guy, ruthless, fierce, as we expect him to be. Delicious. Peggy Castle plays the daughter of the old man implicated by Scott in his criminal plan. Gorgeous gal...Hmm...Hmm
Good action sequences too in this feature.
Don't miss it. It would be a heresy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Convicted criminal Zachary Scott escapes from France to the UK with the
help of Lee Patterson. They hide out in the mansion of Mervyn Johns,
who used to be a forger. Scott blackmails him into picking up his old
trade, and with the help of Sydney Tafler they create a money- pressing
setup in the mansion's basement as well as gather a network of
distributors for the counterfeit money. Things go smoothly until
Johns's daughter Peggie Castle returns home unexpectedly to tell her
dad she is getting married to Robert Arden, and Scott soon has a leak
in his organization.
You know you're dealing with a British thriller when the criminals use a snooker game as a front for their negotiations! Scott ('Mildred Pierce') is great as always as the criminal mastermind who is wanted across Europe but has no interest in laying low, and I'm becoming a fan of Tafler ('Assassin For Hire') who's more posh and less slimy here than his usual roles. Castle ('99 River Street') does a nice job but her role is too demure to really show her acting talents.
Using American leads in these British B-features wasn't uncommon and neither are the names of the crew. Director Montgomery Tully ('Five Days', '36 Hours') and DoP Phil Grindrod ('Street Of Shadows') worked on many of these features, and their competence is on full display in this movie. It's well-paced while still managing to spend a decent amount of time on the details of the money-forging which makes the movie that much more engaging and interesting. The only drawback plot-wise is that the part of Castle's fiancée Arden seems slightly contrived, as if they wanted his part to be bigger but couldn't decide on it, and he ends up just kinda 'being there'. Visually it's not really noir-esque, but it does look good and well thought out in regards to camera angles/positions and it never looks really flat/TV-like.
All in all, the movie is solid and a great way of spending 85 minutes of your time. It doesn't really surprise you, but it does captivate and entertain. And Zachary Scott as a criminal mastermind, what's not to like there?!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the fifties it became common for American actors to cross the pond and play in UK productions. In rare cases - Gregory Peck - they were still on top of their game but in the majority of cases - Richard Basehart, Van Johnson, Dana Andrews - they had either never quite fulfilled early promise or were slipping from leads to supports. This was the case with Zachary Scott who started with a bang in Mask Of Demetrious and went on to tasty fare like Mildred Pierce but was never quite able to grasp the brass ring. Here, cast as usual as a ruthless villain, he appears to be ill but even then he has little problem bullying milquetoast master forger Mervyn Johns out of retirement for a major score - forging around a million pounds' worth of the old white fivers. It is, of course, doomed to end in tears but does weigh in with some interesting technical skinny on the art of the forger. One for VERY wet Sunday afternoons.
"The Counterfeit Plan" (1957) is a Britnoir and a crime noir. It almost
entirely takes the view of the criminal counterfeiters led by escaped
murderer Zachary Scott. Scott is ruthless in the pursuit of starting a
counterfeit operation from scratch and seeing it through to the mass
distribution of the forged currency. The story is a crime procedural.
Scott is assisted willingly by Lee Patterson, as muscle, and Sydney Tafler to set up the distribution. Making the plates unwillingly is Mervyn Johns. His daughter, Peggie Castle, shows up and then must be held too.
Scott is a driving, ambitious, forceful presence throughout, and dangerously violent at times. He lets no person or obstacle hold him back. I was reminded of a more ruthless Cagney character as in "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" or Mickey Rooney's "Baby Face Nelson". These movies and "The Counterfeit Plan" have pruned away all softness and reached a core of toughness. They become character studies of total criminal personalities. The dialog and action cut to the chase. There is no Freudian psychology here or mention of childhood issues or even much challenge of the wisdom of the project. There is no preaching and not even much in the way of moral condemnation. He's resisted in certain respects, but talking to him would be futile. Scott is all drive, and that can be a problem for him. He's very alert to any leakage of information or impediment that might compromise his project, but can he control everything?
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