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An American gangster is exiled from the United States for criminal activity and is sent back to the Greek island where he was born. Once on the island, he is watched by a corrupt local police chief. Upon meeting an exiled king, he attempts to purchase the king's family jewels for a million dollars. However, when he wires for the money to his associates back home, they double cross him and send him a beautiful gun moll instead. Written by
Charlton Heston in his memoirs said that when he was signing for his part in Touch of Evil it was mentioned that Orson Welles was going to be playing the sheriff, but that Universal still hadn't selected a director. Well says Heston, why don't you get Orson Welles to direct. Duh, says the studio heads, that's a splendid idea.
On Surprise Package with none other than Noel Coward in the cast, why didn't they get him to take charge of the whole thing. It is amazing to me that with all the talent in this project a better product didn't emerge.
This is a caper film involving a deported U.S. gangster played by Yul Brynner now living on a Greek island trying to steal the crown of the exiled King of Anatolia played by Coward. Along for the ride is Mitzi Gaynor as Brynner's moll and the baddie played by George Coulouris from the People's Republic of Anatolia, the gang that overthrew the king. The director is Stanley Donen from a novel by humorist Art Buchwald.
Brynner is terribly miscast in his part. A gangster I can believe him as, but he just has no flair for comedy. There were some comic moments in the King and I, but that's overall, a serious part. Coward looks bored by the whole thing, I wish he had scripted and directed it also and he probably wished he did too. George Coulouris was his usual menacing self.
Mitzi Gaynor was a fine musical talent who came along just when musical films were ending. She was probably grateful for a number or two in this film. Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn wrote the title tune which she sings as well as Noel Coward. Can you imagine if he had contributed some musical number as well?
The script has some topical references to the Cold War, the Appalachian underworld gathering, rigged quiz shows, etc. etc. that Yul and the cast comment on.
It also would have been nice since this takes place in the Greek Islands to have splurged for some technicolor.
If you see it, try to view it as a curiosity. Someone should have whispered in ears of the studio heads at Columbia the way Charlton Heston did at Universal.
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