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  • Low-budget but suspenseful Cold War yarn, with Sterling Hayden & Ruth Roman. Hayden is gruff John Emit, whose car breaks down in California on his road to nowhere (supposedly en route to visit his folks in Texas). The suspiciously friendly Ann Nicholson (Roman) offers Emit a lift, as long as he'll drive some. She's going to New Mexico.

    Along the way, her psychiatrist (the future Col. Klink, Werner Klemperer) & his nurse pop up; with sundry likewise suspicious characters: cops, a university dean, CIA, FBI (Ken "Festus" Curtis), & hired killers. Ann's carrying missile secrets, which are carved into a ladies' mirror. There's a fine sudden twist to the showdown with the guy for whom the missile secrets are meant.

    For a low-budget thriller, the acting's surprisingly low-key. Hayden does restrained bewilderment very well: quite contrary to his lead role in "The Killing," a couple years before. Roman is also restrained in her role as a suspected spy, with secrets of her own culled from both sides of the globe. As our Dad used to say, "A goody to see again!"
  • Entertaining chase drama with a cold war twist. Ruth Roman, one of the more under appreciated actresses of the fifties, gives an excellent portrait of a woman pursued. Intelligent and capable with an underlying edge of hysteria since she's never completely sure of what's happening. Made just as the Cold War was starting to really make an impact on public consciousness the film uses that to it's advantage.

    The requisite romantic subplot is the weakest part of the story but part of that is due to having that stolid block of wood Sterling Hayden in the lead. A stronger actor would have made this even better.

    A minor spy film but one that keeps the tension taut and is strengthened by the strong work of its leading lady.
  • Let's get this out of the way. IMDb and the film itself do not credit a young Jack Elam as the thug Harry, who fails to do away with the principal characters. One of the spies later refers to him as "Harry". Elam looks almost ruggedly handsome here, not the messy, bugeyed, snaggletoothed psychotic he often portrayed in later years.

    The real problem with this noirish road film is that the script is severely weakened from the plot and dialog of the novel "The Steel Mirror" by Donald Hamilton. The original novel had a very intricate plot that included psychological amnesia, guilt as a result of betrayal of resistance fighters in France in World WAr II, more fleshed out characters and motivations, etc. Kessler, the producer, director, and screenwriter failed to make anything of his material leaving the actors trying to salvage a dull script. Had this film been done by one of the noir specialists of the 40s it probably would have been a different film. If you can hunt down Hamilton's original version it is a fine read. I salute Sterling Hayden, Ruth Roman, and Werner Klemperer for their efforts.
  • Do you remember "the thirty-nine steps"?Do you remember Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll chained together by handcuffs ?Sterling Hayden and Ruth Roman (who was in Hitchcock's "strangers on a train") have the same misadventure;besides,the doctor and the nurse who "take care" of Mrs Nicholson recall Claude Rains and his mother poisoning Ingrid Bergman in "notorious".It goes without saying that "5 paces to danger" is Hitchcockesque to the core.The plot is bizarre but the two leads make a good pairing and the film ,which begins as a road movie ,then features an almost irrelevant flashback in Germany to continue as a spy thriller ,is rather entertaining.Best scene comes at the end when they visit the so called Kessel in the base: we feel something odd in the air and the bag is a good trick.
  • This excerpt from one of the comments cracked me up:

    "Sterling Hayden plays John and Ruth Roman is Ann. While they were adequate, I couldn't help but wonder what the movie would have been like with Gary Cooper and Suzanne Pleshette, as the leads very much resembled these two known actors."

    They would have only been 40 years apart in age and Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden were certainly better known when this movie was made than Suzanne Pleshette!!! Sterling Hayden is his gallant best here and Ruth Roman is wonderful as the damsel in distress. And for us retro clothes horses, wears a great wardrobe!

    Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink from "Hogan's Heroes") takes us dangerously close the the edge of camp, but again, this is before that role...but it does lend a sense of unintentional hilarity to those of us who remember that TV show.
  • Sterling Hayden, a guy stuck in the middle of the desert with a broken down car, agrees to help drive Ruth Roman, a nervous woman in a hurry, to Santa Fe. In doing so, he takes the first of FIVE STEPS TO DANGER.

    A lot of movies made in the 40s and 50s, intentionally or not, end up celebrating the glories of the American Road, presumably because filming on the highway was cheaper and easier than building a set. This one, featuring views of mid 50s cars, gas stations, roadside dives, vacation lodges and hotel lobbies, is better than most at showing the real look of roadside America, 1955. Additionally, for the first half of the movie, the plot is pretty good, too, as the filmmaker does a decent job of sowing doubt as to whether female lead Ruth Roman is just a gal with a case of nerves, or a dangerous femme fatale. Unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of B films, the premise is better than the execution, and the ultimate implausibility and banality of the goings on makes the second half of the film less interesting. But the rather good start to the movie will probably keep you interested enough to stay to the end, where all is explained by the good-hearted CIA agent.

    If you are a sucker for midcentury cool or low budget crime dramas, this one is for you. But don't expect a brilliant ending, or a good performance from Werner (Col. Clink) Klemperer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Contains Spoilers ***** 5 Steps to Danger opens with John (Sterling Hayden) being towed into a repair shop, where he meets Ann (Ruth Roman). They quickly decide to ride together to Santa Fe, but the trip gets more and more odd when they meet up with some of Ann's old friends along the along the way. After a few of these strange meetings, John realizes he's caught up in something bigger and more dangerous than he planned... Keep an eye out for Werner Klemperer -- here, he's Doctor Simmons, but we all know him from Hogans Heroes! The story moves along all right, lots of talking, and we're never really sure who is on the level and who is not. Hayden made tons of films in the 1950s, but this wasn't really one of the better ones. His acting was just fine, but the script is a little weak. Would two people who had just met about two days before get married, when one of them may or may not be in their right mind, caught up in some cold war, spy mystery, and on the run, not knowing where they are heading ?? I don't think so....(I know, it was part of their strategy to thwart her doctor.) Hayden has an interesting biography; acc to IMDb, he had been a spy himself, and actually had contact with communists in Yugoslavia, (which he admitted during the HUAC talks) so he himself had experience with the cold war. Some neat outdoor photography as they drive through the deserts and past the Joshua Trees and cactus. Screenplay, production, and direction by Henry Kesler, who had mostly done TV, and this is one of the few films he did. Original story written by Don Hamilton, who knew a thing or two about spies ... he had written the 26 Matt Helm novels, which were later made into TV movies and series. Hamilton even lived in Santa Fe for quite a while, which is where this film is set.
  • Another IMDb reviewer, dbdumonteil, made the key observation that this movie was reminiscent of Hitchcock-- about an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. It also has handcuffed characters ("39 Steps"), an evil doctor ("Spellbound"), and German scientists ("Notorious"). But this is a far cry from Hitchcock. In Henry S. Kesler's hands, I'm not even sure what the eponymous five steps to danger were.

    The idea isn't bad. The first scene is intriguing. The road scenes capture the American Southwest in the mid-1950s. And the performances are adequate, except for the many lawmen who are so rigid and expressionless, you'd think they'd be convincing, but no.

    But its minor attributes are overwhelmed by major problems: there is no memorable dialog; the plot is more convoluted than complex; the editing is atrocious (the chase scene with the gunsel is particularly inept); and the big final scene at the weapons lab is too little, too late.

    Kesler made three movies before he migrated to TV, where he directed only a few episodes of each of a handful of 1950s series, the most famous of which is "Highway Patrol." If you've seen "Highway Patrol," then you know that Kesler is strictly from the point-and-shoot school of film-making. There isn't an ounce of creativity in "Five Steps"-- nothing in the editing or camera-work that builds tension or rhythm, let alone pace.

    It deserves less than a 5 rating, but I've always admired the under-rated Ruth Roman; and it was fun to see Werner Klemperer, Jeanne Cooper ("Young and Restless"), and Ken Curtis ("Gunsmoke") in early roles; but in the final analysis, I can't give any Sterling Hayden picture less than a 5.
  • This is a clever directing job to make a film noir mystery into a good film.

    Film noir often stumbled from being too Hollywood, with heroes and heroines automatically acting creepy just for the sake of acting creepy.

    Here, we get the opposite. The best mysteries have the woman being the "woman of mystery", because that is part of being a woman, while being a man means having your mystery come out of your very straight forward approach.

    Sterling Hayden often acted gruff for the sake of acting gruff. A modern day guy who thought there was always a camera on him.

    But here he acts more like a believable man from the fifties, or any era before the twenty first century.

    He becomes the "everyman" who is introduced to a mysterious world, which involves espionage.

    The CIA and FBI are put in a likable light, which doesn't go over well with those who like the post 1965 cliché. Being 1957, this goes under the old cliché, which really wasn't around long enough to be a cliché. That's why such CIA and FBI characters are still fresh, and in the long run, more believable than the silly assassins of today.

    What helps here is a great atmosphere. We get some road, and not too much of the cars. We have a few pit stops, and changing scenery, which makes this flow very well.
  • "Five Steps to Danger" is a decent film from 1957, directed by Henry Kesler and starring Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden.

    Why do I think I must be going insane? All these comparisons to Hitchcock. Okay, the basic story is similar, but so are lots of stories. This movie was as much like a Hitchcock film as "The Sound of Music." Two people handcuffed together does not mean you can make a viable comparison.

    The story is interesting, but awkward. Ann (Roman) approaches John (Hayden) in a restaurant. He has just sold his car, which can't be fixed easily, and her car is being serviced. She is in a hurry to get to New Mexico and asks if, for a ride, he will help with the driving so she can get there faster by having him drive at night. He agrees. Well, we live in different times today, but I wouldn't have even talked to this guy much less offer him a ride. Too many true crime shows, I guess.

    At one point Hayden is approached by a nurse, who explains that Roman has just been discharged from a mental facility and is being monitored by her and her doctor. The nurse is played by the late Jeanne Cooper, Mrs. Chancellor on The Young and the Restless. She is nearly unrecognizable, she's so young.

    Eventually it's revealed that Roman, who was in Berlin and lost family during the war, is supposed to deliver a transcript to a family friend working in the U.S., Dr. Fritz Kissel. She has just located him at a university. The university denies he's ever been there, and Everyone wants to stop her from finding him.

    I found this film talky, low on action, low on suspense, and the dialogue and pace awkward. Ruth Roman was very good. I've never been a fan of Sterling Hayden's, but he was okay here.

    So-so.
  • I don't know who wrote the tag line, but there is no terror here. And she was no seductress, only a lady on a mission, and a gang of baddies after her. Then along came John...

    Ann is a woman who desperately needs to get to Sante Fe. John is on vacation and with his car out of commission agrees to help Ann drive. John's a nice enough guy, and soon finds out that there is more to Ann than meets the eye. There are cops, CIA, FBI, switched identifies, and a plot full of twists and turns.

    Sterling Hayden plays John and Ruth Roman is Ann. While they were adequate, I couldn't help but wonder what the movie would have been like with Gary Cooper and Suzanne Pleshette, as the leads very much resembled these two known actors.

    Definitely late night movie fare, but nothing spectacular. The plot had its intriguing moments--you will want to stay awake for the ending. Never mind the stiff acting and the stereotypical government men, the lead actors carried it well enough. Look for Colonel Klink from Hogan's Hereos as the doctor.
  • In 5 Steps To Danger, Ruth Roman finds a stranded Sterling Hayden out in a desert truck stop and she asks him to be a relief driver. She has to get to Santa Fe on a mission. And what a mission which Hayden only finds out later. She's got some hidden information on a missile guidance system for those brand new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that the Defense Department is developing.

    But a dead CIA agent back in Los Angeles and the pursuit of her doctor Werner Klemperer threatens to throw one real big crimp in her plans to deliver said information to an an exiled Werner Von Braun type scientist that she knows from childhood. Poor Hayden is caught up in all of this, but he's falling in love and so is Roman.

    This one cheaply put together cold war espionage film and I will say it gives some kind of explanation why Roman hasn't a trace of German accent. Not a good one, but an attempt at one.

    Certain elements of the 39 Steps and other Hitchcock classics are incorporated here. But believe me 5 Steps to Danger is 34 steps removed from Hitchcock.
  • gavin694227 July 2015
    When his car breaks down during a trip from Los Angeles to Texas, John Emmett (Sterling Hayden) meets another motorist, Ann Nicholson (Ruth Roman), who offers him a lift. He learns that she is running away from her physician, Dr. Simmons (Werner Klemperer), and the police, who want to question her about a murdered Central Intelligence Agent in Los Angeles.

    Werner Klemperer? The CIA? Murder? Oh yes. While this is not one of those big budget thrillers or spy stories, it is not a bad one. You like independent film, do you not? Well, this is what it looked like in the 1950s, when you worked outside the studio system.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For the first twenty minutes or so of watching this film, I was quite engrossed in the story - both leads, Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden, giving good performances throughout.

    And then, gradually, as if someone else had taken over the script, the story becomes silly, and it begins when these two cops pull them over - these officers are so incompetent it's comical. Perhaps the director wanted to give us some light relief!

    These two bastions of law and order, follow standard police procedure, leaving their keys in the ignition! then cop "A" manages, somehow, to get thrown off the roadside into a ditch by Ruth Roman! so what does cop "B" do faced with an assault on a fellow officer? get out his gun? stay a safe distance from the assailants? radio for assistance? No, he rushes at Ruth Roman, grapples with her - positioning himself helpfully at the edge of the ditch, his partner has just fallen into, so that Sterling can shove him in also.

    Now despite the silliness of this scene I was, foolishly, still prepared to fully enjoy the rest of the film - "After all" I told myself "lots of very good, even great films, cut corners to keep the story moving".

    From this scene onwards the storyline turned into "The Thirty-nine Steps" - Ruth and Sterling handcuffed together, vital secret to be delivered, East German agents, and respectable, upright citizens who are really spies.

    I didn't mind this so much, but when both the CIA and the FBI got involved, why on earth didn't they get take possession of said, secret document? I know they wanted to "out" the spies, but couldn't they have done this afterwards. Perhaps some other IMDb reviewer has the answer, but it's beyond me.

    There were many other flaws in this film - the two leads getting married after two days - as other reviewers here, have mentioned, but I won't list them all. This had potential to be a good film, but it just turns into a complicated mess.

    I am giving it a generous 5 out of ten, mostly for Ruth Roman who, despite a good performance, can't save this film.
  • Poorly directed, poorly staged, and veers into propagandist self-parody, it nevertheless works because of the two leads. Sterling Hayden is fantastic as the everyman drifter, and manages to make the occasionally ham-handed script sound authentic. This is a kind of American-character type study that sets the American everyman as more of a puzzle-solver than an ass-kicker, though both are in evidence. Ruth Roman is somewhat off-putting and passionless, but it's the kind of performance that keeps you guessing and makes you wonder about her. Whether or not that was intentional is debatable. Their relationship is also off-putting, but has a strange resonance, if only because of Hayden's droopy-lipped deadpan.

    The somewhat stiff supporting cast, except maybe for Cooper, gives the impression that this is army-issue "What To Do" type stuff for a Cold War audience. And I'm sure there was some of that kind of thinking behind it. The all-seeing Deus-Ex-Machina of the espionage machine is very heavy.

    I wonder about people who think that the absence of suspense in a movie like this is a weakness. I suppose if you were expecting thrilling suspense or some kind of a mindless noir-caper style of movie you would be sorely disappointed. The at-times blocky and then wildly uncontrolled staging make it very difficult to sustain a consistent tone, and the director doesn't appear to want to pay attention to any kind of thematic imagery. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this makes the threat posed by the story seem more artlessly plausible, and the tension created revolves around psychological issues rather than mortal ones. If any attention had been paid to the implications of this idea, it might be a better movie. As it is, it's mostly entertaining and highly watchable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read through the other reviews and was shocked that one of the reviewers compared this film favorably to a Hitchcock film and another gave it a 9. While I could see some parallels to "The 39 Steps", apart from that there isn't anything Hitchcockian about it...it's just a badly written espionage film.

    Nice-guy Sterling Hayden is traveling cross-country when his car falls apart. He is soon met by a lady (a poorly cast Ruth Roman) who asks if he'll accompany her to Santa Fe--helping her drive in order to get there faster. On the way, and this is goofy, cops try to take Roman into custody. So what would you do in this situation? Yep, slug the cops and run like mad!! Hayden doesn't even know this lady, yet he does this?! While these cops did act a big like jerks, why didn't they then go directly to the nearest police station AFTER they crossed the state line only minutes later?! This is especially puzzling when she tells Sterling about her past and how she might be mixed up in some sort of espionage. Any SANE person would immediately go to the police, FBI or CIA--not keep pressing on to Santa Fe! This sort of brainless writing continues throughout the film (such as Hayden then marrying this lady he barely knows) and it irritated the life out of me that the film was so poorly written. Frankly, both Roman and Hayden deserved better material than this and I was annoyed that I wasted my time on this silly film. With a little re-write, it would have been a dandy film. As it was, it's a boring and silly mess. Comparing this to Hitchcock is like comparing a Cracker Jack prize to the Hope Diamond!!

    The only positive thing this confusing film has going for it is seeing Werner Klemperer playing an evil guy--that was a bit cool.