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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

HOUSE OF SECRETS (1956)

Michael Craig and Barbara Bates
HOUSE OF SECRETS (aka Triple Deception/1956). Director: Guy Green.

"He's too smug to live."

Sailor Larry Ellis (Michael Craig) is drafted by the Criminal Investigation Association (CIA)  -- "international cops," as Larry puts it -- when it develops that he bears a striking resemblance to a deceased criminal named Steve Chancellor. Coached by his superiors, he infiltrates a gang who plan to release scads of counterfeit cash into the world's economy. Ellis' job is to find out who the real ringleader is and stop the plot. Chancellor's girlfriend, Judy (Barbara Bates), is actually an undercover agent, and there's another woman in Chancellor's life, Diane (Julia Arnell) who is the niece of the dragon lady conspirator, Madame Ballu (Brenda de Banzie of The Man Who Knew Too Much). Julius (Gerard Oury) and Anton (Anton Diffring) round out the gang, but there's an unknown traitor in the CIA who is Ellis' most dangerous adversary. This pre-Bond film comes off more like a spy thriller than a crime drama, and is not badly done. Craig, who is swaggering, rakish and sexy throughout, would actually not have made a bad 007, as he loves up the women and engages in fisticuffs with equal aplomb. There's a lively dressing room knife-fight, some decent slug-fests, and an exciting climax on a plane with a bomb on it. I had always thought that Craig suppressed his British accent in certain films, such as Mysterious Island, but his North American voice is his true one (having been raised in Canada) and he affects a British accent for such pictures as Doctor in Love. He and the other cast members are all quite good -- Anton Diffring [The Man Who Could Cheat Death] is rather wasted, however --  and the picture is fast-paced and entertaining.

Verdict: Craig would have made a fine Bond. ***.

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