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The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)

Not Rated | | Mystery | 29 May 1963 (USA)
A former intelligence officer is tasked by the heir to the Gleneyre estate to investigate the unusual deaths of a disparate group of eleven men on a list.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (based upon a story by)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Cameo (as organ grinder)
...
...
...
Cameo (as Slattery)
...
Gypsy
...
...
...
...
...
Sir Wilfrid Lucas
Jacques Roux ...
John Merivale ...
...
Max Karoudjian
...
Insp. Pike
...
Derek Bruttenholm (as Walter Anthony Huston)
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Storyline

Messenger asks a friend to check into a list of names before leaving on a trip. When his plane is blown out of the sky, the matter becomes more serious. As his friend checks into the list, each seems to have died in mysterious circumstances. As he goes down the list, the deaths become more recent and a race to find the remaining survivors and what put each of them on this list ensues. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

5 Great Stars Challenge You to Guess the Disguised Roles they Play! See more »

Genres:

Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

29 May 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Totenliste  »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was partially filmed on John Huston's own estate in Ireland. See more »

Goofs

Gwendolynne La Doll's address is shown on the manuscript as being on Fulham Road, London S.W.8., and later dialogue describing the location as "the Fulham Road" makes it clear that this means the main street of that name. But this runs from Fulham to Brompton, whereas the SW8 postal district lies across the Thames in districts such as Battersea and Wandsworth. See more »

Quotes

George Brougham: [Referring to the plane crash] You know, according to the newspapers, there's a stromg possibility that the crash was no accident.
Lady Jocelyn Bruttenholm: If there was a bomb, it would have to have been put there by a madman.
George Brougham: That's the excuse they usually givefor evil. Hitler was mad they said. So he may have been... but not necessarily. Evil does exict. evil IS.
[He shakes his head]
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the end of the last scene, the words "The End" (and production company and distributor credits) are superimposed. But then Kirk Douglas says in voiceover "Hold it! Stop!" The text now disappears again and the music score also stops. He continues: "That's the end of the picture, but it's not the end of the mystery." Scenes featuring four of the film's minor roles are now quickly reprised, with a suitable musical score, and the four actors each remove face masks and other makeup to reveal that the respective parts were played by Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, and Frank Sinatra. Finally, Douglas similarly reprises five disguises that his character wore during the course of the story, and after the last one, reveals his face (which we had already seen when his character was undisguised). He says to the camera, "Ladies and gentlemen -- The End", and continues picking off bits of face mask glue while the musical theme concludes. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 54th Annual Academy Awards (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Nocturne In E-Flat Op. 9 No. 2
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played on two pianos by Dana Wynter and Kirk Douglas
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Yes, Movies Were Total Cash-In Enterprises Back Then, Too.
14 February 2011 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

John Huston displays an indiscreet lack of subtlety, taxing our tolerance with a somewhat modern English whodunit with an extra publicity stunt: Numerous major Hollywood actors are announced to appear in the film, but are all thickly concealed in John Chambers' make-up design: Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis as an organ-grinder, Burt Lancaster as an old woman, Frank Sinatra as a gypsy horse-trader. Their identities are exposed to the audience at the very end of the film, when each star strips off his masquerade. Actually, only Douglas (by far the most interesting performance) and Mitchum do any real acting beneath their heaps of collodion and crepe hair. The others just walk on to shoot their brief, tacked-on unveilings at a salary of $75,000 each, while being doubled in the film itself. The film even further cheats by often dubbing their voices with that of voice-over actor Paul Frees!

The vehicle for this cash-in is a plot wherein the eponymous writer believes a succession of ostensibly isolated "accidental" deaths are really related murders. He asks his friend George C. Scott, just retired from MI5, to help resolve the obscurity, but Messenger's plane is sabotaged while he's on the way to gather data to corroborate his fears and, with his last lungful of air, he struggles to impart to a fellow passenger a crucial clue. What do you know, the passenger just so happens to be the sole survivor and…just so happens to be Scott's old WWII Resistance comrade. They collaborate to probe Messenger's inventory of names, and decipher his puzzling last gasps. Aside from the ones that insult us, more than a few story aspects in the film are akin to The Hound of the Baskervilles, like hounds, the intentions of the killer, the allusions to Canada, and the exposure of the killer using a hoax.

While we discover rather soon who the killer is, the obscurity of his intentions and the anticipation of his capture are enough to keep going, even if not gripped by genuine tension or suspense. Burdened with a rasping, implausible plot, maybe this lockstep adventure should've been set in Victorian times to oblige its villain with an infatuation with costumes, its Edwardian-style consulting sleuth in a bowler hat, and its foul play in a misty Thames Path.

There is something I quite liked, maybe because it took the edge off, made me relax and enjoy the kitsch. Before the haunting trumpet solos of Chinatown, the strange and threatening cues of Alien or the atmospheric strings of Basic Instinct, a comparatively green-horned Jerry Goldsmith shaped an evocative, and purely '60s-kitsch, ambiance out of an instrumental jumble incorporating saxophone, electric guitar, tuba, harp and the definitive eerie UFO-suggestive electronic whistle that creates nostalgic vibes as when we hear it in The Lost Weekend, Spellbound and BBC's Midsomer Murders.


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