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Not-bad adaptation of Max Ehrlich's novel "First Train to Babylon" turned out to be Gary Cooper's final film (he died before its release). An American Air Freight sales manager in London testifies against a fellow employee in a murder/robbery trial; five years later, with the manager and his spouse now living in luxury, the wife begins to suspect that her husband was the killer the entire time. Hurt by a seemingly lower-end budget--and by a script that doesn't always make sense--this is still a most unusual project for Cooper, who manages a fine performance. Film builds to a fine pitch of suspense in its concluding sequence (which Adrian Lyne might have studied for his "Fatal Attraction" closer). Deborah Kerr stays wide-eyed and white-knuckled throughout as Cooper's wife; she's also quite good, though the godawful shlock music by William Alwyn underlines all of her suspicions with a thundering of drums that could wake the dead. So, is Cooper guilty or not? The finale provides an amusing frisson or two--and a twist which the ghostly voice-over informs the audience to please not betray. **1/2 from ****
"The Naked Edge" is a much better film noir mystery-thriller than its
current IMDb reviews give it credit for, in my judgment. Clearly, it
does bear a similarity to Hitchcock's "Suspicion" and, in fact,
suspicion, growing distrust and condemnation of the wrong men are its
main theme. In addition, there is a scene or two whose staging remind
one strongly of Hitchcock. But overall this is its own picture.
The plot is unique. It's a bit far-fetched but still logical enough not to insult our intelligence. The key is that when her husband is accused of murder, the accusation rings in Kerr's ears. This plants a seed which never quite goes away, and when new evidence piles up years later, that seed sprouts into growing, if never full blown, distrust and suspicion. It eventually produces resignation.
The acting is good to very good, as might be expected, from a cast with Cooper, Kerr, Eric Portman, Peter Cushing, Diane Cilento, and Ronald Howard.
I liked most the really excellent sets, photography, deep focus lensing and their pervasive use to obtain foreboding and uneasy visuals. Film noir viewers are in for a real treat. The murder scenes are exceedingly well done, in flashback, with some being quite expressionistic. Scenes in the courtroom and at the mansion and offices are equally impressive. The director and cinematographer deserve a great deal of credit for this. They are Michael Anderson and Erwin Hillier, respectively, both of whom did excellent work before and after this film.
A region 2 widescreen copy with excellent contrast and detail is available, but pricey.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***** Mild Spoilers Ahead *****
"The Naked Edge" is the last film that the famous American actor Gary Cooper was in, wrapping up a career which lasted for over thirty years.
In "The Naked Edge", Gary Cooper portrays a business man who has been accused, but acquitted of murder. After the trial, Cooper's character becomes very wealthy through investments in the stock market. His wife(Deborah Kerr) opens a letter which contains blackmail threats against her husband. She begins to suspect that her husband may have truly committed the murder and begins to do some investigating of her own. What she discovers leads her to conclude that he was the murderer. Her husband is aware of her conclusion and it begins to look as if he may kill her too!
Deborah Kerr, as usual, delivers a terrific performance. Gary Cooper does his best with the dialogue and the role he is given, but it isn't enough to make this film believable to the discerning viewer. The dialogue between the characters is contrived to leave every situation open to the possibility that Gary Cooper is the murderer. The result is that the film quickly becomes annoying. I felt jerked around as a viewer. The film would have turned out better if the director would have been stabbed instead of the victim in the movie! It's not nice to patronize your audience when you are making a serious mystery or suspense film. It's too bad, because both principal actors, Deborah Kerr and Gary Cooper deserved better. I'm not going to go into how irritating the musical score was in this movie. Let's just say it takes melodramatic background music in a film to new lows.
It's a shame I can't give this movie a better review because I so wanted to like it. Thankfully, the superb acting talents of Deborah Kerr and Gary Cooper can be seen in many other great movies which they starred in. Sadly, I rate this movie only a 70/100.
During after hours in a nearly empty London office, a man is murdered
and a sack of cash stolen. George Radcliffe, an American associate, is
working late and witnesses the murderer's escape. Later, he is the key
witness in a trial that sends the accused man to prison. But was he
guilty? Where did the money go? Michael Anderson's 1961 thriller, "The
Naked Edge," is a nicely done mystery that echoes Hitchcock's
"Suspicion" in many respects. Hitchcock is also linked to the film
through screenwriter Joseph Stefano, who earlier wrote "Psycho" and
adapted the novel "First Train to Babylon" for this film. At age 60,
Gary Cooper was at the end of his career and near the end of his life.
Although looking tired as Radcliffe, Cooper manages, like Cary Grant in
"Suspicion," to maintain his nice-guy image, while suggesting something
darker and enigmatic. Lovely Deborah Kerr matches Joan Fontaine as the
loving, but doubting wife. Kerr is at the center of the film as clues
surface, her suspicions grow, and she seeks the truth behind both the
murder and her husband's inexplicable behavior.
A stellar cast of stalwart British actors support the stars; led by Hermione Gingold and the priceless Wilfred Lawson, the list includes Michael Wilding, Peter Cushing, Eric Porter, and Diane Cilento. The black-and-white cinematography by Erwin Hillier captures appropriately gritty images of working class London and shadowy atmospherics that enhance the climactic suspense. Only William Alwyn's music tends to overwhelm early in the film, when the composer telescopes the action and loudly punctuates critical moments. While Anderson is not Hitchcock, and "The Naked Edge" is not "Suspicion," the director manages to maintain a brisk pace, build tension and suspense, and reach an exciting and satisfying climax.
Well done throughout, "The Naked Edge" will grip viewers and keep them absorbed to the end and beyond, when a voice-over warns the audience not to divulge the ending. Of interest for more than just a great American star's final role or for another opportunity to admire the always radiant Deborah Kerr, the film is a taut thriller that delivers. Although Hitchcock-like and Hitchcock-lite, "The Naked Edge" is worthwhile, even if dedicated crime buffs will likely outpace Kerr and guess the outcome.
The suspense of this film evokes the work of Alfred Hitchcock. It doesn't quite live up to such a comparison but nonetheless the plot and character interactions should rivet most viewers to the film. Creative shot selection (especially the preparation of the wife's death), fine performances (especially from Deborah Kerr), and a compelling plot create an entertaining movie experience, 7/10. I think this was Gary Cooper's last screen performance.
In Gary Cooper's last performance you can see that he is almost washed up, acting like an old age Roark (from 'The Fountainhead') stiffer than ever with very little stamina left, while fortunately Deborah Kerr makes up for it completely in her superb rendering of a married lady who just can't make things add up, wavering between an increasing suspicion of her husband's possibly having committed an heinous murder while at the same time refusing to believe it could be true. Another asset is Peter Cushing's brilliant acting as the prosecutor. The film begins with the murder trial with Gary Cooper sweating from the beginning, he himself can't make things quite fit while he is perfectly convinced that he couldn't be wrong, while the triumph of the film is the very clever story. By the accumulating inconsistencies a suspense is mercilessly built up and increased all the way to the bitter end in a virtuoso thriller more like Hitchcock than any Hitchcock. The real turning point though is the marvellous scene with Diane Cilento as the victim's wife, whom Deborah Kerr visits with traumatic consequences, which really triggers her suspicion and conviction that nothing in this story fits. After the climax in the end with all battles fought to the bitter end, everything falls into place however with perfect logic. This is a marvel of a thriller, and not even Hitchcock could have made it more exasperating in its irrevocably constantly increasing unbearable suspense. This is Michael Anderson's best film, and you regret that he didn't make more films like this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I won't recap the plot as other reviewers have done so quite
adequately. Those who think Gary Cooper (who might well have suspected
his days were numbered as he'd just undergone an op for prostate
cancer) turns in less than his usual powerful performance are incorrect
in my view. He underplays in his typical style, but I discern no
failing of his powers. True, his role lumbers him with having to
respond to his wife's perfectly reasonable suspicions in a way that is
consistently ambiguous, and one might argue he feels hurt that he
should have to explain his innocence to someone who should trust him
implicitly, so he's purposely evasive except he's already argued
against that very position early in the film, accepting that sometimes
one can demand proof even where convention dictates it shouldn't be
necessary. The obvious conclusion is that it was a plot device to keep
him firmly in the frame for the murder throughout.
Yes, the music is rather blaring and obvious at times - a common feature of British thrillers in the '50s/'60s. The composer, William Alwyn, was quite the polymath, and very experienced - he'd written around 70 film scores in the preceding 20 years. Perhaps the style was what was ordered, and not entirely of his own choosing.
This is a must-see for fans of Gary Cooper and of Deborah Kerr, who here is both radiantly beautiful, and effective in her role. Overall, I enjoyed the movie which, like many Hitchcock films, has some creaky moments and plot inconsistencies, but certainly keeps the tension going right to the end.
There is a stylistic feel to this film, a clever use of dark and light
tones and an impressive use of camera angles and close ups which does
give more than a nod towards Hitchcock, though perhaps at times it is a
little overdone. The story itself is a good one, with a number of
clever twists and turns, and the two leads give good solid
I did enjoy this film; the sort I felt could bear more than one watching. Unfortunately, the ending is too obviously hurried in its attempt to tie up all the loose ends, and this, for me, is what lets it down.
Heavy handed drama where every move and action, no matter how
insignificant it is, is followed by a loud blast of orchestra-like
music that almost blows you out of your seat. In many cases the music
is aided by quick and ultra-sharp close-ups that makes you think that
your seeing a Mel Brooks comedy of an Alfred Hitchcock film like the
1977 movie "High Anxiety". These techniques are done over and over in
the movie "The Naked Edge" that after a while you forget what the story
is all about in the first place.
Gary Cooper in his last movie, before he died on May 13, 1961, looks drawn and tired as George Radcliffe a witness to the murder of his boss Jason Roote, Martin Boddey,and the robbery of 60,000 pound-sterling from the London office of the Jason Roote Air-Fright corp where he works.
It was Radcliffe's testimony that sent fellow worker Donald Heath, Ray MacAnally, away for life. Radcliffe seems to be hiding something about the crime that happened at the Jason Roote office from his wife Martha, Deborah Kerr. That's the main core of the story in the movie "The Naked Edge" but you have to suffer through almost 90 minutes of ridicules Hitchcock-like dramatics to get to the truth in the last ten minutes or so of the movie which, the films totally contrived ending, didn't seem worth sitting through.
Even top stars like Gary Cooper and Deborah Kerr as well as Eric Portman and Peter Cushing couldn't save this turkey. We see at the start of the movie George Radcliffe testify about a murder and robbery at the Jason Roote office in a weird dream-like flash-back where Roote is murdered, off-screen. The killer, unrecognizable in dark shadow, takes off with a sack of the companies daily c.o.d's amounting to 60,000 pound-sterling. Searching for the killer the police find Heath in the boiler room drunk but the money is nowhere to be found.
Identified by Radcliffe as the murder Heath is convicted and sent to prison for life. It's right after that were bombarded with clues and innuendos to who the real killer is. It's not until almost the end of the movie that we finally find out just who he is when Radcliffe finally regains his lost memory of the event. Watching the film is like going 15 rounds in the ring with a 30 year-old Rocky Marciano that in the end leaves you totally punch-drunk from the pounding to your five senses that the movie gives you. The blasts of music and eye-popping close-ups as well as the strain on your brain make any kind of sense of what your seeing on the screen moot.
A key piece of evidence shows up five years after the Roote murder that's in a letter that was lost in the mail addressed to Radcliffe that's being used to blackmail him for the crime. Radcliffe also came into a large sum of money just after the Roote murder which he tells his confused and surprised wife Martha that he made in a "Killing" in the stock market.
You sit through the rest of the movie wondering if Radcliffe did or did not kill Jason Roote and stole the 60,000 in pound-sterling. Radcliffe at the same time does everything possible to convince you, and his wife Martha, that he did and almost drives her to commit suicide.
The really off-the-wall and obnoxious ending in the movie is far worse then the murder/robbery in the film "The Naked Edge". It just about does you in and leaves you in an almost comatose state of mind.
The last film of Gary Cooper is an enjoyable thriller-drama. It's not great
cinema, but I was surprised by the pace of it. With most of those "old"
films, I have trouble to sit them through. But this one kept my attention
from beginning to end.
The story is about a man(Cooper) who's a witness to a murder and thanks to whose testimony the killer is locked away. But did this guy really commit the murder? Years later, Cooper's wife(Kerr) starts to suspect her husband. Slowly, everything begins to point in HIS direction. Is she still safe with the man she loves? Will he kill her(too)?
As I said, this film is very entertaining. The story however has some major holes in it and the ending is a bit of a let-down. You'll have to see what you make of this film with the ending in mind. This could have been done much better. Cooper is very good in his last role as the husband, but Kerr was less convincing as his wife. There are also some rather colourful, but sometimes annoying supporting roles. I can recommend it, as long as you don't expect to much of it. But if you don't like old films, this is a good movie to help you with that. The filming is very up-to-date. 6/10
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