25 February 2005 | django-1
Republic Pictures' answer to CASABLANCA, with Arlen and Ralston, instead of Bogart and Bergman
I'm not one of those people who has memorized CASABLANCA or who watch it once a year. It was a good b-movie, but there are thousands of other films I need to see, so I've moved on, and I'm not in the least bothered that STORM OVER LISBON is basically Republic Pictures' low-budget echo of CASABLANCA, with Richard Arlen and Vera Ralston echoing Bogart and Bergman (after all, I can hear Republic president,and husband of Vera Ralston, Herbert Yates saying, "Bergman is a mysterious European with a seductive accent, so is Vera! This is a great vehicle for her."). The plot here is somewhat different, but there's no question that this film would not even exist without CASABLANCA. There's a lot of tension created in STORM OVER LISBON, and it's well-acted by Arlen, Robert Livingston, Erich Von Stroheim, Otto Kruger, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Republic regulars Kenne Duncan and Roy Barcroft reprising their heavy roles, but this time instead of working for an evil town boss in a western, they are working for shady club owner Von Stroheim. There's a well-staged dance sequence featuring Ms. Ralston, and after hearing for decades how bad she is, I was surprised at how bad she WASN'T. This was only her second dramatic film (I'm not counting her first two films, vehicles for her ice-skating prowess), and the script wisely does not give her many lines even though she is IN a lot of the film. The lack of dialogue helps to create a mysterious, seductive quality about Ms. Ralston, so whatever she DOES say we listen to and we apply a layer of mystery to. I don't know if her English is phonetic or not, but after having seen films starring Madonna, Tara Reid, Roseanne, and Milla Jovovich, I have no complaints about Vera Ralston. Richard Arlen is always a comforting presence in a film--his gruff, virile persona is one we want to empathize with, and he has a natural quality that makes him believable. A story of spies and intrigue and back-stabbing and desperation in the Lisbon of World War II, STORM OVER LISBON is a successful b-espionage film that is a great way to kill 70 minutes on a rainy day.