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Thursday, September 22, 2011

ASSIGNMENT-PARIS (1952)

It’s a kick to see a film set in the Paris bureau of the old International Herald Tribune, the paper of choice for every American traveler in pre-internet days. But this reasonably sound East/West-Commie-Spy tale comes over like an assignment no one wanted. Even the title gets it wrong; it should be posted to Paris, assigned to Budapest. That’s where the previous Hungarian correspondent has gone missing and where Marta Toren (a largely forgotten Ingrid Bergman type) has just returned from, with hush-hush info on the anti-communist underground movement. And she wants to go right back. But it’s that hot new reporter, Dana Andrews, the smoothie making a play for her, who gets the dangerous gig from their suave editor George Sanders. Office politics? Sanders also likes the lovely Ms Toren. Did he give Andrews the job just to get rid of the competition? It’s a good set-up, and lenser Burnett Guffey makes the back streets of real Paris & fake Budapest pulse with foggy menace. But that’s as far as it goes. Robert Parrish megs in a flat, paceless style, and there’s zero European flavor in the plywood interiors. Worse, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, quickly growing as tired as Dana Andrews looks. He seems to be suffering from sleep depravation long before the Budapest Reds lock him up & work him over.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try Nunnally Johnson’s NIGHT PEOPLE/’54 for a similar Cold War thriller from this era. Greg Peck stars, but it’s Broderick Crawford, talking a mile a minute, and the early ‘Scope lensing that make it pop.

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