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

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Unholy Alliance: James Mason and Danielle Darrieux

5 FINGERS (1952). Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Based on a true story, 5 Fingers looks at the secret "career" of Ulysses Diello (James Mason) who is valet for the British ambassador in Turkey, a neutral country, during WW2. Diello had originally been valet for the late husband of the Countess Anna Stavisky (Danielle Darrieux of Madame de), who has become friends with the ambassador and is the "impoverished widow of a pro-German count." Diello wants to make a lot of money and doesn't care how he gets it, so he steals top secret papers from the ambassador's safe and sells them to the Germans. He enlists the countess' aid and she agrees -- for a price. Still, the countess may still see Diello as a servant, even if she is attracted to him... Michael Rennie [Phone Call from a Stranger] is a British Intelligence agent who takes over the security for the embassy, but it sure takes a hell of a long time for anyone to change the combination to the safe. In spite of that, 5 Fingers is absorbing and very well acted, with Mason giving another terrific performance; Darrieux is also on the money. Mankiewicz is no Hitchcock, and does little to maximum the story's considerable suspense, but the movie is still effective enough in spite of it; Bernard Herrmann's musical score certainly helps. There are ironic developments and an interesting climax.

Verdict: Mason at his slimiest. ***.

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