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The List of Adrian Messenger
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Reviews & Ratings for
The List of Adrian Messenger More at IMDbPro »

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26 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Intriguing mystery from John Huston with celebrity cameo roles

8/10
Author: (clive@moviebuff.freeserve.co.uk) from Eastbourne, Sussex, England.
9 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another first rate thriller from John Huston but this time with a subtle difference. Kirk Douglas and George C. Scott are the leading actors but other stars were brought in to play small cameo roles hidden under heavy disguises! Among them are Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster. Part of the mystery (and enjoyment of the film) was to guess where and when these stars appeared. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that a trick was played on the unsuspecting audience and that other (unknown) actors stood in for both Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster during the actual film and that these two stars only put in an appearance at the very end of the film when disguises were taken off to reveal who was who! Even so, this still remains a film worth seeing as the clever story holds your attention throughout. The film had a good supporting cast including Dana Wynter, Clive Brook and Herbert Marshall. Kirk Douglas wore the most disguises during the film and seemed to be having a good time in his various roles. "The List of Adrian Messenger" could best be described as an old fashioned mystery thriller and is none the less enjoyable for that. It is well directed by John Huston who also managed to fit in a guest appearance in the climatic hunting scene. 8/10. Clive Roberts.

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26 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

A gem

10/10
Author: vukodlak from Belgrade
8 February 2000

Because of that gimmick with Curtis, Mitchum, Sinatra and Lancaster people seem to regard this film as a sort of spot-the-star contest. But it is much more than that. Excellent acting (especially Douglas in what must be his best role since Paths of Glory), superb music (Jerry Goldsmith) and brilliant direction of John Huston more than make up for occasional lapses in the story.

The story is quite simple, but the less said the better. The 'list' in question is a list of 10 names of people from all over the UK, who seem to have nothing in common except...well just see the movie.

And spotting the stars is quite fun too.

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27 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Not just a whodunnit, but a who-the-heck-is-that-er?

10/10
Author: Thomas Clement (Mr. OpEd) from Los Angeles
22 April 1999

Stunningly original. It's great fun sitting with people seeing the film for the first time and telling them all the big stars who are in it! "OK," they finally say, "I've seen George Scott and I've finally seen Kirk Douglas; where's everybody else?" Once you experience this classic, you'll know what I mean. Scott (one of the few Americans who can sustain a British accent) is wonderful as the sleuth. Houston's slight-of-hand direction is bang on. Goldsmith's wicked little theme and moody score need to finally be released on CD (Varese? Silva?).

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21 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Scary and Unorthodox

8/10
Author: (rms125a@hotmail.com) from New York, NY
28 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the first murder mystery, to my knowledge, where the bad guy has already killed most of his victims (including scores of innocent people via airplane bomb) in the first part of the film.

Kirk Douglas' character is heinously evil, and not just in the present time frame, but going back to his days in the Japanese prison camp during World War II (important plot narrative not to be overlooked) where he sabotaged his fellow inmates' escape attempts in his function as a mole at the camp.

Chilling at moments as the murderer just goes along killing in nefarious and creepy disguises. Well worth seeing without commercial interruptions.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Mystery thriller with a gimmick.

7/10
Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
12 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A good, old-fashioned mystery thriller, The List of Adrian Messenger offers a rare chance to see director John Huston serving up an atypically light-hearted style of film. Huston is usually the champion of dark and difficult stories in which flawed characters undergo moral and religious crises. But The List of Adrian Messenger is more of a playful suspense story - similar to the kind of thing Hitchcock might have made at that time - and it comes across as a likable and occasionally exciting film.

Retired British Intelligence agent Anthony Gethryn (miscast George C. Scott, struggling with his inconsistent English accent) investigates the murder of Adrian Messenger, killed in the bombing of a plane. Shortly before his death, Adrian predicted that an attempt might be made on his life, and Gethryn is understandably intrigued when Adrian's prediction is proved true. Aided by a survivor from the plane blast, Raoul LeBorg (Jacques Roux), Gethryn links the killing to a list he was given just before Adrian's demise. It becomes apparent that the murders are the work of George Brougham (Kirk Douglas), a wartime informer and a long-lost brother to a British aristocrat, who is deviously murdering his way to a fabulous inheritance. Gethryn realises that Brougham is only two killings away from claiming his prize, and sets about ensnaring the villain before his sinister scheme is complete.

The gimmick in the film is that four major stars have brief guest roles beneath heavy make-up. Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster are the stars - they're quite hard to spot (Mitchum is probably the easiest, but the others are very well disguised). It's an interesting gimmick, though I agree with other reviewers who have pointed out that in some ways it diverts the viewer's attention away from important plot developments. If you forget the gimmick and watch The List of Adrian Messenger purely as a suspense thriller, it holds up pretty well, with clever twists and turns and a very memorable final sequence in which Brougham plans an elaborate killing during a fox hunt. There are better and worse films of this type out there, but this one will do nicely just the same.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Above Average Mystery with a gimmick

8/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
3 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of those mysteries where a talented amateur (George C. Scott) slowly unravels what the police (despite having all the resources) can't seem to figure out.

Anthony Gethryn is a friend of the family of the Eark of Glenyre (Colin Brook). One of the cousins of the Earl's current heir (his grandson) is Adrian Messenger (John Merrivale) who is an author. Messenger has been working on what he calls a mystery plot, which he mentions vaguely, but with some ill-ease, to Gethryn. It seems he has been tracing a series of people he (Messenger) knew who have mostly died in grotesquely horrible accidents. He promises to tell Gethryn about it, but he has to take an air flight on business. Earlier we saw an odd looking religious man handing in a package that was supposed to go on the plane. Naturally the plane blows up killing most of the passengers and crew. But a badly injured (actually dying) Messenger tells the surviving passenger (Jacques Roux - Raoul Le Borg) a message for Gethryn. It is a long disjointed message, and Gethryn does get it after Roux is picked up (by then the sole survivor of the bombed plane).

Gethryn slowly works out the message on a set of blackboards with the assistance of the recovered Roux and Lady Jocelyn (Dana Wynter) and Sir Wilfred Lucas (Herbert Marshall). Gradually he realizes that the list of names are of men who were prisoners of war with Messenger, and that they and others were betrayed by another man who will kill anyone who is in his way to claim a large estate.

The gimmick of this film (which makes it a guessing game, but also ruins the mystery to some extent) was to guess who were the celebrities in cameo roles in this film. The five celebrities were Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Curtis. In the case of Lancaster, Mitchum, Sinatra, and Curtis the disguises are not too bad (although Mitchum bone structure is a dead give-away. But Douglas (and I am not ruining the story to say this) is in four disguises, and like Mitchum it is just too difficult to hide his bone structure. One of his disguises, by the way, looks like Dr. Hawley Crippen.

Despite the gimmick taking one's attention away from the actual mystery, the film is a good one, well directed by John Huston (who has a cameo here as well, as does his son), and has some nice countryside photography - particularly of the final fox hunt. It is a decently made, above average mystery.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A swell party except for the gatecrashers..

Author: derekcreedon from United Kingdom
4 June 2008

Shortly after Huston's engaging oddity was released in the U.K in 1963 a Sunday Newspaper article 'exposed' the stars-in-disguise as a hoax. I'd just seen the film the previous week and though I'd half-suspected something of the sort I still felt cheated - mainly through the smug 'last bows' of the 'guests' who hadn't even come to the party. Mitchum was obviously an honourable exception, you couldn't mistake him and he had given us an excellent dialect-cameo. Douglas' villain gradually assumed command of the piece and could be excused, I suppose, for sub-letting a disguise or two. His creepy Mr.Phythian was certainly all his own. Mr.Lancaster, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found on the hunting-field. His role was played by Marie Conmee (the surname is peculiarly appropriate under the circumstances) an Irish actress reportedly sworn to secrecy. Sinatra's gypsy was filled-in, it transpires, by Hollywood look-alike Dave Willock. It was an additional marketing-ploy, of course, to bring in the punters and we fell for it. I enjoy the film certainly as an old-fashioned Holmes vs Moriarty intriguer which could have stood alone without the gimmicks.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Huston Takes a Vacation

6/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
7 April 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's an easy-going, mildly entertaining mystery, the solution of which is given before the ending. The mystery itself could have been cooked up by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle as a neat Sherlock Holmes short story. This one is rather dragged out. There's a subplot involving a French businessman and Dana Wynters that has nothing to do with the main story. Some of the Reveals are telegraphed ahead of time. Holmes could have solved the whole thing in a few hours over three pipes of shag.

That doesn't matter. It's kind of relaxing and enjoyable. I mean, here are all these famous faces hidden behind rubber masks, sometimes with dubbed voices. The only one we can consistently recognize from beginning to end is Kirk Douglas. (That nose! That chin!) Well, that's not entirely true. In an epilogue, Robert Mitchum struggles manfully to remove his makeup and when he's through he looks almost exactly as he did before. Some mysteries are easier to solve than others.

No need to go on about the plot. I will bet my riding breeches that whoever wrote the script had read "The Hound of the Baskervilles" not long before.

However, here are John Huston and a lot of megastars of the time having a vacation in Ireland. (Not the only Huston vacation, to be sure.) Few of the megastars appear in the same shot. That's because -- well, it works this way. You hire, say, Burt Lancaster for a week. No more than that because he's expensive. And you shoot all his scenes in a few days. Then you do the same with, say, Frank Sinatra. By featuring them all in short and separate scenes, you wind up with more cameos for your buck.

The lead is George C. Scott, with a reasonable British accent, at least to untutored ears. The unnecessary French friend may have added some appeal for French audiences. Kirk Douglas has a more substantial supporting role as the head heavy, and Robert Mitchum is on screen several times as a drunken scoundrel.

The director, John Huston, had an estate in Ireland at the time and rode in exaltation to the hounds in fox hunts. Fox hunts -- "The unspeakable after the inedible," commented Oscar Wilde.

Yet I have this vision of them all having drinks and dinner at Huston's country place. And Huston getting to his feet at the end of a long evening and suggesting they all start half an hour later tomorrow. To him, at least in my vision, this is what "Donovan's Reef" was to John Ford. And the disguised cameos are kind of fun, even after you know who's who.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Was it that bad?

9/10
Author: Rob Falconer from Penarth, Wales
27 June 2004

Looking through the readers' comments, nobody seems to like this film very much. OK, so it is gimmicky, but that was the trend in the early sixties. I failed to spot most of the made-up stars as I assumed they would have been central to the plot, which most aren't. But the plot is unusual and interesting, and the film really shows what it's like to be in love when it seems unreturned (few others might describe this film as romantic, and yet it is one of the most realistically romantic films I've seen - one can really identify with the French "hero" on seeing his apparently superior rival). Also, Jerry Goldsmith's score is phenomenal. And, in his final "unmasking," is Kirk Douglas trying to suggest he was the George C. Scott character too? The resemblance is quite strong.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Nice murder mystery compellingly directed by John Huston with intrigue , thrills and twists

7/10
Author: ma-cortes from Santander Spain
23 August 2015

This enjoyable suspenser contains intriguing events , emotion , and plot twists . A former intelligence officer called Anthony Gethryn (George C. Scott) is tasked by the heir to the Gleneyre estate to investigate the unusual deaths of a disparate group of eleven men on a list . Later on , a mysterious stranger (Kirk Douglas) visiting an English state whose owner is a Lord , Marquis of Gleneyre (Clive Brook) , and the puzzling series of killings that coincide with his arrival . As retired MI-5 officer has to figure out the unusual deaths of a varied group of eleven men on a list , each seems to have died in mysterious circumstances . Working with a survivor from a airplane disaster, Raoul Le Borg (Jacques Roux) he discovers weird clues until an unexpected conclusion . The main question is the following : Someone committed killings . Can you guess who's behind the disguise?

This whodunit packs crisp performance , intrigue , thrilling scenes , suspense , twists and turns . The main gimmick results to be the all-star-cast are all heavily disguised in the character roles . This is a family film made by John Huston , as it was partially filmed on John Huston's own estate in Ireland and played by Huston's friends as well as his son . The best scenes turned to be when the stars appeared at end of the film in unmasking sequence where they peeled off makeup . Highlights of the movie result to be the fox chase scenes under an impressive soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith . Very good support cast such Robert Mitchum , Tony Curtis , Frank Sinatra , Herbert Marshall , Gladys Cooper , Marcel Dalio , Bernard Fox , being the fourth of seven films that Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made together and final film of Clive Brook . And cameo by John Huston , who was an avid rider and hunter, appeared in a small role as Lord Ashton in a short dialogue scene in the last hunt . The filmmaker's child Tony , billed as Anthony Waller Huston plays Dana Winter's son . Evocative as well as atmospheric cinematography in black and white by Joseph MacDonald . Thrilling and suspenseful musical score by the great Jerry Goldsmith .

The motion picture well produced by Edward Lewis was stunningly by the great John Huston at his best , its tense filmmaking makes this crackerjack entertainment . The picture was made in a good time of the 60s , 70s and 80s when Huston resurged as a director of quality films with Fat City, (1972), The man who would be king (1975) and Wise blood (1979). He ended his career on a high note with Under volcano (1984), the afore-mentioned Honor of Prizzi (1985) and Dublineses (1987). Rating : Above average , this is one of John Huston's best films , a model of his kind , definitely a must see if you are aficionado to suspense films . Huston broke a new ground with this landmark movie , providing classic scenes and agreeable dialogs . Rating : Above average , as the intrigue is entertaining on its own .

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