Adventurer James Brennan returns to Istanbul five years after being ejected under suspicion of diamond smuggling. In flashback, he recalls his last days there, his torrid love affair with Stephanie Bauer, the efforts of shady characters to obtain a strange ornament he received from a friend, and Stephanie's disappearance during a fire. Now that Brennan is back, Stephanie (or her double) reappears, and there's still the question of where the supposedly smuggled diamonds are... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Yes, comparisons can be made to Casablanca, but this is not a remake of that movie. It is, however, a remake of "Singapore", starring Fred MacMurray and Ava Gardner. Aside from being left speechless by Ms. Gardner's overwhelming beauty, "Singapore" is a dreadful film. "Istanbul", however, is far more enjoyable for several reasons. 1) Errol Flynn. In spite of being older, slower, and puffy from decades of extremely hard living, the man had a personal charisma, effortless charm, and undeniable star quality that transcends all of the decay he had allowed to occur. I know of very few people who take Errol Flynn seriously as an actor, or think him very talented, but any true film aficionado knows the truth. Mr. Flynn's problem was that his performances were so casual, so effortless, so filled with natural humor, that the response was always "Oh it's just Errol being Errol" (not unlike the fate suffered by Dean Martin). I defy anyone to try and find a film where Mr. Flynn was not 100% honest on screen. Do you know how difficult it is to come across as casual on screen...as if the words you are saying are actually your own and not written in a script? Give the man his due. He is one of the most underrated actors in film history, which is a real crime. 2) Cornell Borcher. I don't recall ever having seen her before, nor since, so I looked her up on IMDb. I saw The Big Lift with Monty Clift, but don't recall her performance. Her other films appear to all be European and I haven't seen any of them. For reasons that are unexplained, she stopped acting in 1959. In my opinion, that is a shame. I thought she was really wonderful in this movie. It is rather startling how similar she is in look to Ingrid Bergman (which I am sure is another reason why there are Casablanca comparisons). I wish she had done more films, as I think her departure from acting was a loss for the movie-going public. 3) John Bentley as the customs agent who hounds Errol Flynn for the smuggled diamonds. Here is another actor who I had not seen before, nor since, but who gives a performance that is very nicely executed. His exchanges with Errol Flynn really help elevate the film. 4) Although a color film, there are many nice noir moments, and noir shots by director Pevney that attempt to generate viewer's interest, along with some very nice location shots of Istanbul that add immensely to the color and flavor of the film. 5) The incomparable Nat King Cole. A previous IMDb reviewer knocked Mr. Cole's acting, but I thought he did a fine job in this film, and there isn't a negative word that can be said about the man's singing. He was a one-of-a-kind.
I am certainly not blinded to the films drawbacks, however. Although under 90 minutes, there are times this film feels very long. Sections drag, and the story could have been tightened up quite a bit, but then I assume they were adding filler to make this movie a respectable length. The script is average, most of the supporting characters are one-dimensional or uninspired (with an obnoxious caricature of a petty thief presented by Hogan's Heroes star, Werner Klemperer). Some might also be expecting more action from a film that has Errol Flynn's name above the title, but one must keep in mind that this is a love story, with the smuggling, suspense, and action being truly secondary.
I think people are much harder on this film than they need to be. It is a flawed film, but that in no way keeps it from being entertaining...and, as I stated in the beginning, it is far better than the film it is intended to remake. A must-see for Errol Flynn fans, and a recommended outing for those interested in the kind of romantic-thriller-set-in-an-exotic-country movie that old Hollywood loved to make.
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