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Two Living, One Dead (1961)

 -  Drama  -  1964 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 31 users  
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Three Post Office employees are at work when the facility is held up. The robber kills the supervisor and knocks out another employee. The third one offers no resistance and survives ... See full summary »


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Title: Two Living, One Dead (1961)

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Three Post Office employees are at work when the facility is held up. The robber kills the supervisor and knocks out another employee. The third one offers no resistance and survives unscathed. Afterwards he begins to wonder if his refusal to resist was a prudent move to preserve his family, or an act of cowardice, as many in the town believe. The resulting conflict begins to tear apart his family. Written by

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Release Date:

1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Asalto a mano armada  »

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Remake of To levende og en død (1937) See more »

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If a man thinks he is a coward so will everyone else
2 September 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

McGoohan plays a dour clerk who has spent twenty years working for the Post Office. He is a serious-minded man whose only passion lies in his wife and young son. However, although he is asocial, he has a keen eye for cruelty and an early scene has him quietly reassuring the young Michael Crawford after he has been set up by the popular, loud-mouthed Bill Travers who is the Office 'character'.

Aurally, an extremely violent hold-up takes place. McGoohan's boss is shot and dies gurgling in a most horrific fashion. Travers is knocked out. McGoohan reacts to the violence by evidently thinking about his wife and child and resists his impulse to fight the robbers. Thus he emerges uninjured.

In the ensuing two weeks McGoohan's self-confidence is undermined by the police, the towns-people and most of all his superiors. All of them consider him a coward. He is passed over for an expected promotion and the job is given to the brave Travers instead. McGoohan's relationship with Virginia McKenna deteriorates as his sensitivity to what people think of him increases.He takes to wandering the streets alone at night. Eventually he meets a mysterious stranger (who shares the same lodgings as Travers) and they take to having nocturnal assignations. McGoohan discusses his behaviour in the third person by pretending he is a friend of his own character. The mysterious stranger empathises and reassures him. One night they part at McGoohans front gate and McKenna unexpectedly invites the stranger in for supper. McGoohan's deception comes to light and McKenna's distress at his betrayal of her (by his intimacy with this stranger) leads her to reveal their son is being ostracised at school because his father is a coward. Their relationship has now completely shattered.

In due course the stranger reveals he and his brother were the robbers. His brother has died in an accident consequent to their crime. He now wants to make amends for ruining McGoohans life and tells him Travers was not knocked out by them but ran into a door-post in panic during the robbery. Furthermore they were only able to plan the robbery because Travers had talked openly in his lodgings about how much cash there was and when it was available. McGoohan exorcises his demons by borrowing the gun and staging a fake hold-up of Travers where he is revealed as the braggart he is.

Mcoohan and the stranger part, the stranger promising to put his ill-gotten gains to charitable use. McGoohan returns home and offers intimacy to McKenna. She realises her man has come back and falls into his arms again.

This is a curious film where McGoohan was able to take a break from being the gallant persona that Danger Man had created for him. Around the same time he explored the characterisation of a more craven physical coward when he played the scheming Johnnie Cousin in 'All Night Long'.

The film could have been a classic British 'kitchen-sink' drama but for some reason is set in Scandinavia. This must have made it totally non-box-office at the time of it's release except maybe for the Bergman brigade! One can only assume that as it was a Nordic novel originally, the copyright-holders insisted the film be based in it's country of origin. Maybe the Norwegian in McGoohan (via 'Brand') meant he wished it to retain it's ethnicity. He surely must have had some influence in the decision as a respected theatrical actor and successful TV personality.

Either way it was one of the early steps off the beaten track that this determinedly un-populist actor was to make and of course, if you can find a copy, essential viewing for McGoohan admirers.

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