DVD: Foreign Intrigue (1955)

July 22, 2017 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label:  KL Studio Classics / Unobstructed View (Canada)

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  August 4, 2015

Genre:  Suspense / Espionage

Synopsis: A legal representative and fix-it man discovers foreign interests are more than curious about his recently deceased boss.

Special Features:  Theatrical Trailer.




A genuine curio for mystery and Robert Mitchum fans, Foreign Intrigue actually has its roots in a successful syndicated mystery TV series created by Sheldon Reynolds, who handled writing, directing, and producing chores. During its 1951-1955 run, FI earned several Emmy nominations and was initially filmed throughout Sweden before production locales included Austria and other European locations.

As a series, FI followed the sleuthing of foreign correspondents as they uncover spies and other mysterious happenings, and Reynolds may have though his concept might fly as a film franchise. Both primary leads and love interests changed over the show’s run, but the character of Tony Forrest (John Padovano) remained for the long haul, and had a small supporting role in the 1956 feature film which Reynolds designed as a franchise pilot, but with significant changes to the lead character.

With co-writers Harold Jack Bloom (The Naked Spur) and Gene Levitt, Reynolds crafted a neat premise: after the sudden death of a wealthy philanthropist, assistant Dave Bishop (Mitchum) discovers his former employer’s past goes back a paltry 7 years; everything that came before is a complete blank page.

Dave hops from the south of France to Stockholm, Sweden, and later Vienna, Austria, where he uncovered more weirdness and realized several figures are following his movements as he uncovers small tidbits which contradict the philanthropist’s impeccable reputation. People bearing important information die, widow Dominique (Genevieve Page) isn’t as nice as she seems, and a blind housekeeper sends Dave into the arms of Brita (Ingrid Thulin / Tulean), daughter of an industrialist who had some connection with the dead philanthropist’s past dealings.

From the Dutch camera angles and recurring main theme it’s clear Reynolds was aiming for a production that evoked a bit of Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), and for its first half FI manages to keep viewers firmly hooked, offering crumbs of clues and plenty of shifting alliances between Dave and Dominique and his new shadow Spring (Frederic O’Brady), a polite yet persistent figure who rescinds his employer’s order to kill Dave for a while.

The big reveal comes in the form of a long dialogue exchange, after which the story heads quickly for an abrupt finale, setting up the never produced sequel in which Dave and Spring disappear in a dark pathway as they start their hunt for a trio of men tied to Dave’s former employer.

FI is more than a little convoluted, and had the franchise succeeded, there’s no doubt following entries would’ve been a bit leaner since we know why Dave’s taken on this mission, but even as a feature film, this is a very strange production.

Mitchum is great playing a fairly eloquent, debonair sleuth, handling dangerous characters like Cary Grant, yet fighting back because, well, he’s Robert Mitchum. Page is fine as a mild femme fatale, and she does bear a suspicious resemblance to Third Man’s Alida Valli, whereas Thulin is a classic love interest, falling overnight for the stranger she meets at her doorstep, never fearing he might be a latent serial killer. O’Brady is fun as the short, bald, sophisticated private eye who seems ready to turn on Dave if the wind changes direction, and Padovano is reliable as Dave’s old and trusted buddy.

Most of the interiors are obvious sets, but there’s some generous use of French, Austrian, and Swedish locations, which look gorgeous in the film’s Eastmancolor pastels, but the widescreen framing is very tight, suggesting Reynolds had cinematographer Paul Durand shoot full frame for TV, and had theatrical prints matted to a slightly tighter 1.78:1. As a director, Reynold’s selection of shots and the editing of scenes are very peculiar; it’s not that there are bad cuts, but odd choices, holding on lesser reaction shots that take away from performances, especially Mitchum’s.

The regular use of tight, massive close-ups also suggests Reynolds crafted the film for TV sale or to launch a new series, should a theatrical series fall flat. There are more than a few sustained gaps between fades, suggesting the film was structured for ad breaks, if not a two-part airing to launch a new show.

In addition to retaining the prior TV show’s cinematographer Bertil Palmgren, Reynolds also brought composer Paul Durand, who either scored a few specific scenes or wrote about 15-20 mins. of mood cues, because most of what’s heard goes completely against the grain of scenes. Reynolds tracks the same pulsing lounge track throughout the film, a convention from TV where chopped up stock cues were plastered over scenes to give slow material more oomph, but the recycling of lounge cues is especially grating in the finale. There’s a strong sense Durand may never have seen the film – just the script, because so much of the score seems suited for a steamy romance mystery set in the Belgian Congo than the lands of IKEA and sausages. MGM’s 1956 10” LP contains 4 cues which may well be all that was written and heard in the final film.

KINO’s DVD features a clean transfer from an okay print, which has some wear & tear but features stable colours. The heavy grain suggests a surviving matted print made from a negative that may have stemmed from a full screen interpositive, or just substandard film stock. The mono mix is nicely balanced, and there’s good dynamic range that flatters Durand’s bass-friendly lounge cues. The included trailer sells the film as heavy on action and romance, but also packs in shots that spoil the finale a bit.

Reynolds seemed to have scaled back his activities after the film’s release, going back to writing episodic TV (plus co-writing the special Sophia Loren in Rome). In 1979 he produced the series Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson for Swedish TV, and his remaining feature film credits are as writer-director of the German spy spoof Killer’s Carnival / Gern hab’ ich die Frauen gekillt (1966), and the private eye drama Assignment Kill (filmed in 1966 but released in 1968).



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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