Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Dick Foran and Ann Doran
VIOLENT ROAD (1958). Director: Howard W. Koch.

A runaway missile explodes in a small town, causing many deaths, necessitating the move of the local company that fired the missile to another location. Rocket fuel, which is comprised of many dangerous and acidic chemicals which can "burn a man alive," has to be transported over difficult terrain, and six men are chosen to be the drivers. These include George (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) whose family was lost in the blast; Frank (Dick Foran), who has a tragically bitter quarrel with his wife (Ann Doran) before leaving; Manuelo (Perry Lopez of The Steel Jungle), who needs the money from the trip to become an engineer; the world-weary Ben (Arthur Batanides); and Mitch (Brian Keith), a foot-loose adventurer without much of a past.  Ken Farley (Sean Garrison), the sixth driver, replaces his sad, drunken brother (John Dennis) when he's too hungover to drive. Along the way there are harrowing incidents, such as a runaway bus, brake failures, tumbling rocks, and acid spills, as well as flashbacks that tell us more about these individuals. Violent Road is clearly an unacknowledged rip-off of the far superior French film The Wages of Fear -- which was also remade as Sorcerer -- but it has its moments if taken on its own terms. One stand-out sequence is a tender and tragic moment between Frank and his wife, with an outstanding performance from Ann Doran [Meet John Doe]. Dick Foran is also excellent, and Keith also makes his mark, as does John Dennis in the early scenes. Sean Garrison also makes an impression as the handsome and cocky Kenny. If there's any problem with the movie it's that it seems to lack a real climax and ends much too abruptly. Peter Brown has a small but effective role as a marine, and Merry Anders is fine as a woman who picks Mitch up on the road.

Verdict: Not that explosive, and highly unoriginal, but tense and absorbing nonetheless. *** out of 4.

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