Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Bribe (1949)

Robert Taylor plays a federal agent following stolen U.S. military plane engines to South America in THE BRIBE.

I wasn't expecting a great deal from THE BRIBE, as some of the reviews I'd read beforehand were only so-so, but I enjoyed it a great deal. Taylor is joined by a powerhouse cast of Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price in this steamy film noir, beautifully shot in crisp black and white by Joseph Ruttenberg. The film is somewhat slow but absorbing, and builds to a truly spectacular finale.

Agent Rigby (Taylor) suspects Hintten (John Hodiak), Carwood (Price), or Bealer (Laughton) may all be part of the ring of thieves he's after. Rigby also contends with his powerful attraction to Hintten's wife, Elizabeth (Gardner). Elizabeth wants to leave her husband for Rigby, but is she on the level, or a femme fatale who's up to her neck in crime?

Taylor made a couple excellent noirs in the post-war years, including HIGH WALL (1947). He does a fine job as the beleaguered agent struggling to solve both the crime and his personal life in the midst of a nasty heat wave.

Gardner makes a stunning entrance singing the sultry "Situation Wanted," wearing an absolutely killer black gown by Irene. Gardner's vocal was dubbed by Eileen Wilson, who also served as Gardner's singing voice in THE HUCKSTERS (1947) and ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (1948). In 1949 Wilson also dubbed Dorothy Patrick singing "Through a Long and Sleepness Night" in COME TO THE STABLE. Wilson's voice is a great match for Gardner, and the song stays with you long after the movie has finished.

Gardner is very appealing as the conflicted, beautiful Elizabeth. Other than a drunk scene, Hodiak is wasted in a small role as Elizabeth's scheming husband, who has a potentially fatal heart condition. Price's role is also relatively small, but he's appropriately nasty, bumping off supporting characters wherever he goes. Laughton makes the most of his screen time as the sweaty little man with bad feet who plays one character against another.

The final shootout takes place in the midst of a huge fireworks display during a fiesta. The contrast of the fireworks with the shadowy characters in their midst is the ultimate in film noir style. The movie is worth watching if only for this scene, but there's much more to it than that.

I suspect some of the second-unit photography was done around Catalina. The harbor scenes were probably shot at Lake Metro on the MGM backlot.

The supporting cast includes Samuel S. Hinds, John Hoyt, Tito Renaldo, and Martin Garralaga.

THE BRIBE was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and runs 98 minutes. The score is by Miklos Rozsa; "Situation Wanted" was composed by Nacio Herb Brown and William Katz.

THE BRIBE is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. Although I'm glad it's available, this movie really deserves a release with a commentary track and extras as part of the Warner Noir series; it's a shame it was relegated to the Archive. It does not appear to have had a VHS release.

Frank's Movie Log and dfordoom also discovered much to like in the film. And Carrie has a couple nice shots of the fireworks shootout.

The trailer can be seen here.

THE BRIBE provides excellent entertainment, particularly for fans of film noir or the cast. It's an underrated film worth checking out.


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