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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Naked Edge is directed by Michael Anderson, has a screenplay by
Joseph Stefano which is based on the novel by Max Ehrlich. The film
stars Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Diane Cilento, Ray McAnally, Peter
Cushing and Eric Portman.
This is a cracking thriller, filled with plenty of tension and good performances. The film struck me as being very similar to Hitchcock's Suspicion, focusing on the wife beginning to doubt her husband and fear for own safety a little.
George Radcliffe(Gary Cooper)witnesses a murder and robbery. Donald Heath(Ray McAnally)is arrested for the crime, he strongly insists that he is innocent but at the end of the trial he is found guilty and sent to prison.
Some time later Radcliffe's wife Martha(Deborah Kerr)receives a blackmail letter which claims George was the killer. Martha slowly finds herself beginning to doubt her husbands innocence and becomes frightened of him.
George says he is innocent and is hurt that she could doubt him. Martha tries to get to truth and even meets the blackmailer(a sinister performance by Eric Portman)to try and get to the truth. Up until the final scene we're not sure just how innocent or guilty George is and that adds to the suspense and tension the film builds up. Cooper plays the character in a way that you can see guilt if you look for it, you can also see innocence too and you're never entirely sure what to make of him.
Cooper and Kerr are excellent, I think it's a real shame that they never made other films together. Diane Cilento is very good as the wife of Heath, she knows her man is innocent and will stand by him no matter what, she believes George is the real killer. Eric Portman is creepy as the mysterious blackmailer.
I think the music spoils the film, it is much too loud and intrusive in scenes where music wasn't needed. Apart from that this is a very good thriller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Several commenters have chided this, the final picture of Gary Cooper,
for being overscored. They did so with good reason. William Alwyn's
music almost turn the story into a parody of a suspense movie -- "The
Naked Gun" rather than "The Naked Edge." It's awful.
But it's concordant with the direction by Michael Anderson. In the first five minutes, while Cooper is being questioned in a British courtroom, he is asked who else was in the building when the murder occurred. Cooper hesitates, looks uncomfortable, and finally says, "Heath." The camera zooms at lightning speed into a closeup of the man's startled face, accompanied by a crescendo of brass. Terrible. The jury foreman stands up and says, "Yes, your honor. We find the defendant (cut suddenly to a giant closeup of the speakers face) -- "guilty." The defendant leaps to his feet and shrieks, "I'm innocent! YOU did it, Radcliffe!" Ho hum. It's a dark, spare melodrama and resembles an episode of "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour." As a matter of fact, the plot is similar to Hitchock's "Suspicion." Well, poor Mr. Heath is marched off to the slams for the rest of his life. And if he did the murder and absconded with the sixty thousand pounds, he well deserves his sentence.
BUT -- did he do it? Immediately after the trial, Cooper begins acting strangely. He speaks of grandiose plans involving a great deal of capital. Where did the money come from? He's been playing the stock market and, "I made a KILLING." He roughs up a man who is following him out of curiosity. All this, and more, foments uncertainty in the mind of his wife, Deborah Kerr, who -- and I hate to use this expression -- is as lovely as she's ever been. She has long wavy hair, innocent features, a recherché nose, and a winsome voice. She breathes elegance. If she lived to be a hundred years old, she'd still be elegant. I -- I just thought for a second of her legs, and I grovel in shame.
Six years after the trial, Cooper has gone up in the business world and the couple are now well off. But a blackmail letter arrives. Kerr is still puzzled, still believes Cooper innocent of any wrongdoing but Cooper himself senses doubt in her, and he's upset by the letter. He snarls a bit and frowns, lighted in such a way as to be caricature of a man with a secret. There's a shot of him sharpening his straight razor. A slight chicane in the plot here. Cooper began spending money to buy property a year after the murder and theft. He claims he made money on the stock market. Easily solved. I could write Kerr's line for her. "Oh, dear, I have nothing to do this afternoon and I wonder if I might leaf through your brokerage accounts and see if I can understand any of it without my poor head swimming." It wouldn't take much skill to interpret the trades. Anyone could understand my account, despite the rusty stains of dried blood and the gloss of vulgar expressions.
The performances are professional enough, although it's difficult to watch someone like Gary Cooper acting not just like a murderer but like a particularly dumb one. It's sad too because we know now that he was not only old but dying. Nice job by Eric Portman as the man who knew too much. All are hobbled by the inferior script and the pedestrian direction. It's not an insulting movie, and it does have its moments, but neither is it very good.
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