Friday, 8 February 2013

FEBRUARY 7, 2013

033 THE BIG LEAGUER  (1953) Directed by Robert Aldrich. **
034 WORLD FOR RANSOM (1954) Directed by Robert Aldrich *

It is fascinating to see the first efforts of favourite directors and it has taken me a long time to catch up with these - the first two movies directed by the admirable Robert Aldrich. Both are fascinating for very different reasons. THE BIG LEAGUER, his first film as a director after a distinguished career as an assistant to many famous directors, is a real oddity. It looks like a promotional film for the New York Giants baseball team and is set in their boot camp where the potential of young college players are tried out. Edward G. Robinson is the tough old coach who has to lick the 18 year olds into shape and give them a team spirit. The kids are a mixed bunch of comedians, rebels and loners. What is fascinating about the film is that is is almost a precursor to Aldrich's latter mammoth hit THE DIRTY DOZEN (sans the violence of course) with Robinson in the role taken in the later film by Lee Marvin. The "kids" include Richard Jaeckel (who was later in THE DIRTY DOZEN) and William Campbell (who was in Corman's DOZEN inspired SECRET INVASION).
The film is nicely done and very watchable in a cliched, easy going way, even if you know nothing about baseball.

Less entertaining but more of a curiousity is WORLD FOR RANSOM. Dan Duryea plays an ex-pat American living in post-war Singapore who gets mixed up in the kidnapping of a nuclear scientist. As well as Duryea the cast includes such former luminaries as Patrick Knowles, Douglas Dumbrille, Reginald Denny and Nigel Bruce and if you look closely you might spot English actor Patrick Allen in a small role as an army wireless operator. I can't think of any film where I've seen a cast looking so totally bored with the roles they are playing with Duryea, Dumbrille and Denny looking like they'd rather be somewhere else. The script and dialogue are dire and the photography is poor. Aldrich's direction strives for a film noirish atmosphere and their are some nice compositions although the film has too much stacked against it to make it memorable.

World for Ransom

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