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Anton Diffring stars in this duff British supporting thriller concerning (guess what!) the smuggling of a cigarette case composed of a secret alloy. Really it's just "The Lavender Hill Mob" without the Eiffel towers or the comedic charm of Ealing. Its produced by "Butcher's Films", Britain's poverty row film production company who turned out many a mediocre b-feature at this time. This particular one was made in 1957, but shelved until 1959 until a suitable main feature was found to go with it. Don't let the rather nudging title fool you because it's not that exciting. These days the Butcher's films occasionally turn up on ITV in the wee small hours as a time filler.
MARK OF THE PHOENIX is a stodgy little effort from the reliably poor
Butcher's Film Service. This one tries for a Cold War vibe but ends up
being poorly-plotted and rather uninteresting, with long stretches
where nothing happens. The cast of rogues are hardly engaging and the
storyline, about a new metal alloy which everybody's trying to get
their hands on, is particularly dull.
The film features Anton Diffring and Roger Delgado as a couple of detectives on the hunt for a cigarette case, and there are various murders and fights between principal characters along the way. However, the direction is constantly pedestrian - Maclean Rogers did a lot better with some of the Paul Temple films earlier in his career - and the script from CARRY ON writer Norman Hudis fails to find any sympathetic characters in the cast. It's nice to see Diffring and Delgado playing the good guys for a change, but they have very little screen time at the end of the day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is actually a good story line here. Obviously the film had a zero
budget and it shows but it is well worth the watch. There are numerous
flaws but there is a great deal of attention to detail - I particularly
liked the scenes in the shop when the lighter case was moulded and then
electroplated. As an engineer it all looked pretty accurate to me. Also
the genuine coldness of the murderers who took the life of a lonely
scientist. I also found the story really good - the dissident who
swapped hotel rooms was an interesting character.
Not the easiest film to get hold of but if you watch it in context of it's age and low finance it is quite good.
"Mark of the Phoenix" (1958) is a Butcher's Britnoir. The story begins
with the murder of a scientist in order to obtain an alloy he's created
that's impervious to radioactivity. The thieves seek a safe way to
transport it to the Communist side, so they have a jeweler fabricate a
cigarette case from the metal. That sequence is intriguing. Jewel thief
Sheldon Lawrence arrives to fence some jewels with this jeweler and is,
in one way or another, targeted as an unknowing courier. Lawrence
himself targets Eric Pohlmann for a burglary of his jewels, and
Pohlmann is the man behind the smuggling attempt. Pohlmann's financee,
luscious Julia Arnall, drops him unceremoniously and has eyes for
Lawrence. Anton Diffring goes in and out attempting to unravel what's
Although the plot is roughly the preceding, it's actually very complex and hard to link together logically. The story is basically impossible to sort out. If not, it doesn't seem worth the effort to tie things together ourselves and rationalize what each person is up to. The actors heroically play it, however, lending each of the scenes some interest, even if their connections are anything but clear.
This one has to be for desperate fans of spy movies, those who are in love with these 1-hour British quickies, collectors of Butcher's films, fans of Diffring and Pohlmann, and noir completists and fanatics like me, because its objective values are hard to ascertain.
I taped Mark Of the Phoenix when ITV screened it during the early hours
some time ago. They often used to screen these British crime B movies,
but don't seem to now for some reason.
In this one, a jewel thief gets hold of a cigarette case made from a new type of metal. Police are on his trail and it turns out that the metal this case is made from is atomic.
This is one of the slightly better crime dramas made during this period and the fact that the metal the case is made from being atomic is certainly not surprising as the Atomic Age was at its height.
I've only heard of one of the stars of this movie, Anton Diffring (Circus of Horrors).
Mark of the Phoenix is a good time filler one evening. Not too bad.
Rationg: 3 stars out of 5.
I rather lost the rather complicated plot on this one.Maybe it was the unusual sight of Anton Differing playing a good cop.however the first scene rather set my teeth on edge.A scientist is shot in the chest from about 10 feet,the killer places the gun in his hand,and for some strange reason the police assume that he committed suicide.This undermined the whole film for me.From then on the film had so many twists i reminded me of a coiled python.However at no time did it show any sign of life.Lots of location shooting but to no real effect.A really poor effort,and rather a waste of time.The title is rather misleading.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are times when a movie surprises even those who thought they were
beyond being shocked. It doesn't happen often but every now and again
even I can be shocked at how stupid a script is. Forgive me for
sounding so egotistical but this movie is so incredibly stupid that it
makes you feel like you could take over a world filled with dummies
like those portrayed in this film.
The plot is simple, some bad guys kill a scientist working on a new metal, making it look like a suicide. They then have a jeweler make it into a cigarette case for easy smuggling. Enter an American Jewel smuggler...and this is absolutely one of the worst plotted movies I've ever seen. The detectives ignore clues and just stand around (they can't find what the dead scientist was working on but we saw the liquid metal dripping on the floor, the man is shot in the chest from across the room yet the gun is found in his hand by his head, ever hear of powder burns?). Everyone does what is the least likely thing that anyone in a similar situation would do. It boggles the mind at how stupid these people are. You want to scream at the screen because these people are so dense and stupid. Its a truly frustrating exercise. I made it half way into this turkey before I had to shut it off lest I die of apoplexy.
Mind bogglingly bad-and coming from me thats saying a great deal since I love bad movies, just not ones this bad.
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