Saturday, 13 June 2020

Movie Review: Foreign Intrigue (1956)


A mystery set in Europe, Foreign Intrigue labours towards defining a purpose then just quits.

In his French Riviera mansion, reclusive millionaire Victor Danemore dies of a heart attack. His press agent Dave Bishop (Robert Mitchum) receives a deluge of inquiries on whether the dead tycoon had any final words, including from Danemore's trophy wife Dominique (Geneviève Page), a pesky tourist (Eugene Deckers), and life insurance agent Spring (Frédéric O'Brady).

Bishop travels to Vienna to meet Danemore's lawyer Mannheim, who possesses instructions to be opened only in case of suspicious death. Bishop also visits a seedy neighbourhood frequented by Danemore, where a blind housekeeper directs him to Sweden and a man called Lindquist. In Stockholm Bishop learns Lindquist is dead, but meets and falls in love with his daughter Brita (Ingrid Thulin). Gradually, Bishop is ensnared in the threads of a secretive blackmail plot.

Featuring exotic European locations and Robert Mitchum in top form playing to his lackadaisical strengths, Foreign Intrigue establishes the foundations of a good puzzle: what was the dirty secret behind Mr. Danemore's enormous wealth.

But writer, producer and director Sheldon Reynolds, on a rare foray outside his television comfort zone, creates what may pass as a television pilot but fails as a feature film. After Bishop works his way from France to Austria then Sweden and back to Vienna, the plot is just starting to take shape when the end credits roll. A poor argument can be made that the truncation is part of the intrigue, but it's more likely a case of ideas, money or time running out, and the end product is unbalanced and unsatisfying.

Despite the inherent weakness of the material, good moments do survive between the large plot holes. Reynolds aces the trenchcoat and alleyways look, and both the nighttime and daytime scenes are gorgeously filmed. The romance between Bishop and Brita reaches an impressive sizzle in a hurry. And the early scenes establishing the riddle of a dead rich man mourned by exactly no one but attracting plenty of snooping are pregnant with promise.

By the time Foreign Intrigue explains what it's all about, the action is reduced to men sitting around in a circle describing important past and present events involving other men, Reynolds choosing abstract verbosity instead of visuals. What happens next may have been potentially exciting, but it's not part of this movie.






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