20 July 2002 | telegonus
Slick Vic, Snortin' Lee Plus Ernest Borgnine and His Pitchfork
This is a dizzyingly silly fifties crime pic, very watchable, with some capable actors in small roles. Some of the behind-the-scenes people have done some fine work elsewhere, notably director Richard Fleischer and screenwriter Sid Boehm. There's a touch of The Asphalt Jungle in the caper aspect, while Victor Mature's businessman-father-who-didn't-serve-in the-war is out of Stanley Kramer or maybe Studio One. Richard Egan tries ever so hard to bring conviction, and does, to his flashy role of a rich boy alcoholic weakling, but doesn't have the chops to pull the part off. (I can imagine someone like Richard Baeshart might have done better, and even got an Oscar nod had been been cast.) The bad guys, a sinister-looking but bland Steve McNally, a menacing Lee Marvin, and a sometimes jovial J. Carrol Naish, do decent work. The small-town that provides the background for the crime is populated by such hick types as Sylvia Sidney and Tommy Noonan. Nothing about this movie is credible. Everything takes place in a Hollywood-manufactured world, not in itself a bad thing except that the picture makes a serious stab at realism, which is a fatal aesthetic flaw, since the story would have worked better on a smaller scale, in black and white, or on a bigger, more artificial one. The slice-of-life character study part of the picture suggests a small-town Executive Suite, while the examination of the hypocrisies and oddities of Middle America evoke the yet-to-be-made Picnic. There's deja vu all over the place in this one, though to the best of my knowledge Ernest Borgnine had never played an Amish farmer before.