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Time passer with eerie end sequence
on 17 August 2014
Ignorant American reporter Joel McCrea (John Jones) is given the pseudonym Huntley Haverstock and sent on a mission to Amsterdam to get a story about politician Albert Bassermann (Van Meer) and obtain some news about the impending war in Europe. Well, he certainly gets involved. Can he live to tell what he knows?
The film is a little too long, and the first half an hour is pretty boring. We then get some tense scenes, starting with a shooting. At last, some suspense. Unfortunately, the realism of the film is sloppy at this point. For example the victim's killer would have been caught about 20 times over. Also, the killer's getaway car would not just have disappeared like that on a large empty road, given that the pursuers had the car in sight. Another instance of stupidity occurs at this point in that the bad guys don't seem to be looking out for the car that has been chasing them. These villains are cretinously stupid not to have someone pick up that McCrea is snooping around the windmill. He stands out like a sore thumb.
Another memorable section sees hitman Edmund Gwenn (Rowley) bide his time and attempt his murderous instructions on McCrea. He has a couple of goes. And while these are suspenseful, Gwenn plays for comedy so it's never quite effective. And that's a problem with this film, there is far too much light-heartedness (eg, the Latvian bloke) which takes away any real danger.
George Sanders (ffolliott) turns up after the first boring half an hour that wasn't necessary and immediately becomes the best of the cast. In fact, the lead man McCrea completely disappears from the proceedings after about two thirds of the film and we follow Sanders as he unravels and solves the whole mystery. By himself. McCrea wasn't needed - Sanders even already knew about wealthy aristocratic Herbert Marshall (Fisher).
The film does have two other memorable sequences. The first is the sea of umbrellas as the assassin makes his getaway - very creative. The other is what elevates this film to the score I have given it - namely, the whole plane crash episode. I found this particularly eerie given the current explanation of what happened to that Air Malaysia plane recently. The one that just disappeared. There is real footage of the view that the pilots would have had as the plane dives towards the sea. We then get the water pouring in and a frightening aftermath. Maybe the passengers were already dead come the impact in the real life situation. Still, it made me think and go all sombre about it.
Unfortunately, this film lacks something. Oh yeah, Hitchcock is easy to spot in this one, so keep an eye out near the beginning.