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Fred F. Sears
Bill Haley and the Comets,
Ernie Freeman Combo
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A plane bound for Athens is forced to spend 24 hours in Beirut after an engine failure. A member of the crew gets mixed up in transporting stolen goods, which brings him to the attention of a ruthless smuggler. It falls to the pilot to protect his friend from the criminal and his gang. Written by
OK Beirut-set suspense film with Mickey Rooney and Lex Barker
An international co-production from the ubiquitous Harry Alan Towers, 24 HOURS TO KILL stars Lex Barker as an airline pilot whose plane, bound for Athens, has engine trouble and is forced to land in Beirut. The mechanics tell him they can have the plane repaired and ready to fly in 24 hours--the 24 hours "to kill" of the title. Mickey Rooney plays a member of the flight crew who, upon landing, is watched and followed by a number of people...and who acts quite suspiciously himself. The question of why Rooney is being followed and what he has done in the past to explain his being followed provides the suspense in the film. The script does not give the always-excellent Barker much particularity of character--he basically has to look handsome and act authoritative. His attitude toward the Rooney character changes throughout the film, and he is entangled in a relationship with a female member of the crew, so there are a few elements in the script that give the character some depth, but not enough. Mickey Rooney is given a far meatier role. Rooney is perfect as "Jonesy", affable on the surface, but complex underneath and with a BIG chip on his shoulder. There's not a lot of action in the film, and the few fight scenes are--as usual for Harry Alan Towers productions--unconvincingly staged. Although made in English, the film has the feel of any number of continental co-productions and an international cast. The ending can be viewed as either ironic or unsatisfying, but it certainly wasn't what I expected! There are a few interesting middle-eastern-looking shots that could either be location shooting or sleight-of-hand involving stock footage, but in any event the film does have a distinct middle-eastern flavor that keeps it from being generic or run of the mill. Overall, this is an entertaining b-movie worth watching for fans of Lex Barker (one of his last English-language starring roles) and for a colorful character role by Mickey Rooney (see PULP with Michael Caine sometime for another fine Rooney performance). If you have two free hours and want a standard-issue dose of b-movie international intrigue, it's worthwhile, but nothing worth seeking out.
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