Thursday 28 April 2022

Movie Review: The Angry Hills (1959)

A muddled mess of a World War Two movie, The Angry Hills enjoys good locations in Greece but lacks focus, engagement, and vigour.

The setting is 1941, with the German army occupying the Greek countryside and on the verge of entering Athens. American military reporter Mike Morrison (Robert Mitchum) arrives in Athens and is immediately approached by a Dr. Stergion, who provides a list of names of prominent Greeks who may be willing to collaborate with the Allies. Mike is tasked with delivering the list to British intelligence.

He is initially reluctant to get involved, but is soon pursued by Conrad Heisler (Stanley Baker) of the German SS, who is aided by Greek collaborator Tassos (Theodore Bikel). Mike is wounded but escapes to the countryside, where he joins partisans resisting the Germans and falls in love with Eleftheria (Gia Scala). A return to Athens beckons, where Mike will connect with Lisa Kyriakides (Elisabeth Müller), a Greek woman playing a dangerous game on both sides of the war.

About two thirds of the way into The Angry Hills, Robert Mitchum's Mike Morrison returns to Athens and remarks he is back where he started from. It's a fair comment and an apt description of a film that promises much, loops lazily, and achieves little. Somewhere between the undisciplined writing, gap-happy editing, and studio interventions, whatever merits initially resided in the loose adaptation of a Leon Uris novel were comprehensively lost.

Writer A. I. Bezzerides and director Robert Aldrich never grab a hold of the material, and Mitchum responds in kind with a disinterested performance, not helped by Mike Morrison actually doing very little throughout the movie. He is carried along by the initiative of others, with objectives meandering from memorizing a pure MacGuffin of a list to (incompetently) assisting the Greek resistance, evading capture through the wilderness, falling in love with Eleftheria, and then getting entangled in the drama of the late-appearing Lisa and a couple of kids who don't say a word but are suddenly deemed essential to the climax.

Aldrich threatens to salvage proceedings with one good foot chase scene featuring excellent use of shadows, stairs, and dark alleyways. But otherwise none of the elements fit into a cohesive narrative, and different characters rotate in and out with a bewildering sense that they are in different movies. Stanley Baker's Conrad Heiser is eloquent but toothless, collaborator Tassos is somewhere between a sweaty buffon and a dangerous torturer, and really late in this adventure, Sebastian Cabot shows up as the undefined Chesney with a full-on channeling of Sydney Greenstreet. Meanwhile, Mike does not miss a beat smooching first with Eleftheria then with Lisa, because he really has nothing else to contribute.

A European version features the shock of a topless singer/dancer entertaining Morrison and his grieving military colleague at an Athenian nightclub, but not even gratuitous nudity can save these moribund hills.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.