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I had to comment on this movie- it was looking all forlorn with a grand total of '0 votes'! Well, here goes. . . I taped this film from the TV, because I'm a huge Stewart Granger fan. I have to say that I didn't keep the film! It's not the worst movie in the world but I've seen better. There's a vague suggestion of a plot that goes something like this: A reporter (Robert Ryan) arrives in a country somewhere in the Balkans and exposes the dirty dealings of it's dictator (Granger). Of course, he's eager to leave the country with this information, and the dictator's wife, who happens to fall in love with him. One of the better scenes is one where Granger 'poisons' Ryan to get him to talk then, while the latter writhes in agony, puts his feet up and reads the newspaper! There's a lot of backstabbing and skullduggery and you come away feeling more than a little disappointed. I'll stick to Granger's earlier films in future- Ryan's too, for that matter.
"The Crooked Road" is quite a good noir of its type from the later or
post-era that starts around 1958-1960. It was filmed in black and white
in Yugoslavia and in places shows some very nice scenery to good
advantage. The cast is first-rate. Robert Ryan is a staunchly
moralistic American investigative reporter who hopes to publish an
expose of the Duke of Orgagna (a fictional principality), played by
Stewart Granger. Granger's wife is Nadia Gray, a former lover of Ryan.
Gray has a heavy accent, not always decipherable. Granger rules a
peasant land. In his household is a peasant steward played by George
Coulouris, whose daughter, Katherine Woodville, has been Granger's
mistress for several years. Gray knows this but Coulouris does not.
Woodville's step-brother has some essential photocopies of Granger's
personal letters to deliver to Ryan before he can publish the story.
As in many noir films, there is just enough violent and/or criminal action to draw one into the story which then focuses heavily on the machinations and conflicts of the characters. A bout of further violence often comes in the latter part of the picture as it does here. The violence is well-motivated in this case, not gratuitous.
Granger knows everything going on in his fiefdom and he pulls all the strings. He's an experienced and master politician who knows how to frame, snare, control and manipulate. He plans and plots to frustrate Ryan's publication hopes. He is debonair but ruthless. He provides a complete aristocratic and paternalistic philosophy to rationalize what he does, in contrast to the naive American moralizing of Ryan whom he treats as an inferior lacking in understanding of his position, people and land. Crusading New World meets corrupt and devious Old World. Ryan has never stopped loving Gray, and she still wants him as well.
Marius Goring puts in an appearance as a British agent intent on stopping Ryan from publishing as this will negatively affect British interests.
Ryan at first seems ahead of the game, but he's no match for Granger on his home turf. The charming Granger ties Ryan up in knots, in order to get the photostats that Ryan needs. This includes framing Ryan and then taking custody of him on a well-guarded island from which Ryan cannot escape.
Ryan is sure of Gray before becoming unsure, partly because she doesn't fully support his drive to publish and ruin Granger even if she wants to leave him, being fed up with his love affairs. Is she a femme fatale or is she a wife in distress?
The story and direction from the British Don Chaffey are European, not American in nature. There is a kind of engulfing of the protagonist by the surrounding forces and deviousness of Granger. Clearcut heroic actions are not evident, although Ryan attempts to ward off the dangers by being honest and sticking to his objective. Correspondingly, the story becomes talky and seems to be running into blind alleys. Ryan is something like Joseph Cotten facing Orson Welles in "The Third Man". A haze of ambiguity descends over Ryan's quest as he meets with frustration. His defeat looms ahead of him and it is far from clear if he will ever publish the story.
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