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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even murderers tremble, 30 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
I have the French release (in English obviously) of this early 50s classic, worth buying for its title alone, 'Meme Les Assassins Tremblent.'
The film starts with a prison breakout by vicious and notorious cold blooded killer, Stephen McNally (brilliant in this) and his only prison friend Paul Kelly. Kelly's character is badly wounded in the breakout and this gradually becomes key to the plot.
The escapees meet up with mute fellow con 'Dummy' on the outside and whilst en route to a ghost town hideout pick up various hostages, including Jan Sterling and Alexis Smith.
Well known actor Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet) directs and skilfully ratchets up the tension, the impending nearby Atom Bomb test certainly helps in this.
Unexpected plot twists and the growing frictions and changing allegiances amongst the trapped, increasingly desperate group of goodies, baddies (Alexis Smith is yellow to the core) and 'inbetweenies', plus the skilled ensemble cast keep things on the boil throughout.
Also starring Richard Egan and Arthur Hunnicutt it's a top notch thriller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big man, he has Atom Bombs for breakfast!, 23 July 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
Split Second is directed by Dick Powell and written by William Bowers, Irving Wallace and Chester Erskine. It stars Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, Arthur Hunnicutt, Richard Egan, Paul Kelly, Robert Paige and Frank DeKova. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca.

Escaped convict Sam Hurley (McNally) is on the run with his wounded pal Bart Moore (Kelly) and henchman accomplice Dummy (DeKova). Carjacking two lots of hostages, Hurley takes them to a ghost town on an Atom Bomb test sight figuring it's the perfect place to hole up. But with Moore in need of medical help, the test bomb set to go off in the morning and tempers frayed within the group, something is going to have to give...

A taut and sweaty noir, Split Second taps into the 50s fear of the bomb and explodes the character dynamics Petrified Forest style. The premise is simple, once the character introductions are out the way, we wind our way to a bleak ghost town and stay in the company of a disparate group of people for the remainder of the film. As the clock ticks down, with the bomb set to be detonated on the town at 06.00, the various characters introduce their respective traits into the story. The tension mounts and the over-spills are often nervy, sleazy and poignant.

The makers don't soft soap the situations, but they do dangle shards of sympathy. As is the case with Hurley, who is a cold blooded killer, we know and witness this, but his back story is that of a war hero, he also has a deep affection for his injured older pal, somewhere along the line a good man lost his balance. Dottie Vale (Sterling) is a dancer, street wise and aware of how to play the situation, but sadness resides behind her waspish tongue. Kay Garven (Smith) is a lost cause, she will do anything and trample on anyone to save herself. One of the best sequences in the film finds Garven throwing herself at Hurley, the rest goes on behind closed doors, but we know what happens and it adds spice to what follows in the final third.

Not all of the characters work for dramatic impact, such as Hunnicutt's talkative miner who wanders in to the plot at the mid-point (it's amazing how easy everyone finds it to get into this supposedly secure military site!), but the dynamics work wonderfully well. Weaklings, heroes in waiting, the forlorn, the foolish or the borderline psychotic, they all make for a potent and spicy psychological stew. The suspense angle of the impending bomb detonation is water tight, as is the ebbing away of Bart Moore, directer Powell never resorts to cheap tactics or clichés to keep the noose tight, and we are constantly wondering just who, if anyone? Will survive the ordeal.

Once daylight disappears and we leave the scorching Mojave vistas behind, night time envelopes the ghost town and ace cinematographer Musuraca brings his atmospheric magic. Webb scores it with dramatic verve and the RKO effects team (headed by Harold Wellman) do sterling work to pull it all together without cheap and tacky baggage. Powell gets great performances out of McNally, Kelly, Sterling, Egan and Smith, while his ability to not let the logic holes dominate the narrative belies the fact that this was his first directing assignment.

From the ominous opening shot of two men fleeing over sun-baked mud flats, to the thrilling and darkly tinged denouement, Split Second is a coiled spring waiting to explode. 8/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Split Second (1953) ... Stephen McNally ... Dick Powell (Director) (2010)", 1 Feb 2011
By 
J. Lovins "Mr. Jim" (Missouri-USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
RKO Radio Pictures presents "SPLIT SECOND" (1953) (85 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Starring Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, Arthur Hunnicutt, Paul Kelly & Richard Egan -- Directed by Dick Powell

Actor Dick Powell made an impressive film debut with the taut atomic-age suspensor Split Second --- Convicts Stephen McNally, Paul Kelly and Frank DeKova escape to a ghost town in the Nevada desert --- Only it isn't exactly a ghost town, but a "dummy village" constructed for the purpose of A-bomb testing --- The criminals hold several hostages, including reporter Keith Andes, nightclub singer Jan Sterling, selfish socialite Alexis Smith, her doctor-husband Richard Egan and her newest boyfriend Robert Paige --- Andes suspects that the deserted town is at Ground Zero of the latest bomb test, but he can't convince the convicts until it's almost too late --- The best and most horrifying sequence occurs near the end, when the criminals, accompanied by the duplicitous Ms. Smith, discover that they're driving towards the A-bomb target instead of away from it.

Novelist Irving Wallace collaborated on the script of Split Second with Chester Erskine and William Bowers.

This started out as a "B-Film" that rates the "A Plus Film Noir" for rating, showing what could be done with the right chemistry of the director, cast and producer -- What more can an avid noir film collector ask for.

BIOS:
1. Dick Powell [Director]
Date of Birth: 14 November 1904, Mountain View, Arkansas
Date of Death: 2 January 1963, West Los Angeles, California

2. Stephen McNally
Date of Birth: 29 July 1913 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 4 June 1994 - Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 85 min on DVD ~ RKO Radiio Pictures ~ (04/21/2010)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, 1 Jun 2009
By 
This review is from: Split Second (1953) (DVD)
A journalist (Keith Andes) is moved assignment from covering an A-bomb testing to report on a story about 2 escaped prisoners (Stephen McNally & Paul Kelly). On his way out of the testing range, he picks up a female drifter (Jan Sterling) and is then hi-jacked by the escaped convicts and their getaway driver (Frank DeKova), along with a married lady (Alexis Smith) and her lover (Robert Paige) who the convicts have previously hi-jacked at a petrol station. The group, under the lead of McNally, head into an abandoned town which is due to be destroyed by the bomb (6.00am is detonation time). Kelly is injured and needs a doctor, so Smith's husband (Richard Egan) is summoned under threat. He joins the group that night along with a lone drifter (Arthur Hunnicutt) who is wandering around.

The film then follows the alliances, rivalries and love interests that are formed within the group as we wait for the doctor to fix Kelly and we count down the hours before the explosion. Will the convicts, under the ruthless leadership of McNally, kill everyone? Does McNally intend to save anyone by driving them out with him?......and then.......the authorities bring forward the detonation time to 5.00am and the 5 minute warning siren suddenly sets off...........

There are a couple of moments when credulity is stretched, eg, the ease with which everyone remains unnoticed within the forbidden zone despite coming across a road block, and Egan's arrival at night. We have been shown the thoroughness with which the military has evacuated the area and set up blocks preventing people from entering the area at the beginning of the film.....maybe the American military are a bit dumb..........but who cares.

Its a film about the tense situation that a group of strangers find themselves in and its well acted. A memorable film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of film noir, 27 May 2014
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This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
A dark tale of torture, fear and death. I saw this on tv in the late 60s, and it terrified me. Maybe this was too strong for a 11 year old to watch. But is was a film that stayed with me. The mystery of the box, the duplicity and evil of the baddies and the final scene where the sound of the evil in the box scared the wits out of me !
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American classic, 28 April 2014
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This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
Don't let the fact that this film is 60 years old. It has been remastered beautifully. Enjoy some great acting from some of Hollywood's best stars acting in a thriller that you just can't fault.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blast Of a Movie, 4 Aug 2013
By 
Paul Barrett (PENARTH, VALE OF GLAMORGAN, GB) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
A great black and white RKO toughie. Directed by Dick Powell with the under rated Stephen McNally. And the best moll of the 50s crime films Jan Sterling. And with an a-bomb blast for a closer.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thank you for your responce in sending item out, 13 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Split Second [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
very happy with dvd and your sevice
and will be pleased to tell my friends
and family
thank you once again
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Split Second [DVD] [1953]
Split Second [DVD] [1953] by Dick Powell (DVD - 2013)
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