Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Movie Review: Flight To Tangier (1953)


A blundering action adventure, Flight To Tangier rumbles through the rigid turbulence of B-movie status despite a decent cast.

In Morocco, Tangier is an international city and a hub for unscrupulous activity. Black market pilot Hank Brady (John Pickard) is flying a single passenger with a briefcase full of money notes into the airport. Waiting for the flight are underworld criminals Danzer (Robert Douglas) and Goro (Marcel Dalio), who are in an uneasy partnership to trade in illegal weaponry. Also at the airport is Hank's buddy pilot Gil Walker (Jack Palance), who has a chequered military history, his girlfriend Nicki (Corinne Calvet), and mysterious American journalist Susan Lane (Joan Fontaine).

The plane crashes near the airport and is found to be empty, Hank and his passenger having bailed. Tangier police chief Colonel Weir (Jeff Morrow) starts to investigate, and Susan is revealed to be Hank's fiancee, while Nikki has divided loyalties. Soon Walker is accused of murder and forced to go on the run with Nicki and Susan, with the journalist having critical information about where Hank and the briefcase may be hiding. Danzer, Goro and their goons give chase, as do Weir's police troops.

An unnecessarily complicated plot is reduced to plenty of running around, as writer and director Charles Marquis Warren struggles to add quality to his own story. Filmed in Technicolor and 3D, the ambition to create a Cold War Casablanca echo is clear, and the context-setting opening scene at the airport is not bad. But most of Flight To Tangier consists of Walker manhandling Susan and Nicki as they run then drive this way then that, first inside the city then in the countryside, escaping from inept bad guys and incompetent police officers on their way to a rendevouz with Hank.

Despite the surrounding dangers Nicki and Susan engage in a claws-out American versus European womanly battle royale for Walker's attention. They remain dressed in showy gowns and high heels throughout, except for an interlude where Nicki disrobes to seduce her target at a wilderness lake. And when the shooting starts, the action scenes are laughably stiff and atrociously executed.

The illegal weapons trading behind all the chasing is explained in droplets, this being a film where the characters know all the answers but only reveal them verbally at the whims of the script. Eventually a half-baked Cold War conspiracy emerges featuring secret government agents and double-crossing, but with all the characters behaving with stiff irrationally the fundamentals crumble into a globby heap.

The climax achieves a peak of absurdity, the jaw-dropping imperative of one character walking into a bank on his own justifying a bloody street shootout that leaves Tangier littered with corpses. But the guy does walk into the bank on his own.

Joan Fontaine, Jack Palance and Corinne Calvet are all much better than this material, but here they are lost on the studio-bound dusty side-streets, caught with cheap tickets to the wrong destination.






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