novel by Eric Ambler.
George Raft plays American salesman Joe Barton, who travels to neutral Turkey during WWII. A pretty woman (Osa Massen) on a train gives him an envelope which she says contains securities which represent the last of her family's money. She's worried they'll be taken if she's searched by the Nazis and asks Joe to carry them since an American won't be searched.
The woman ends up dead, the envelope ends up stolen, and Joe may not be exactly who he says. It's also a good bet the envelope didn't contain securities!
Joe immediately becomes entangled with all sorts of shady characters. Sydney Greenstreet plays an extremely nasty Nazi, while Peter Lorre and Brenda Marshall play a Russian brother and sister who are spies. That same year, incidentally, Lorre and Marshall played a married couple in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943).
Turhan Bey, who passed away last fall at the age of 90, plays a young Turkish man who comes to Joe's aid. The sequence where he enters the film is one of the best in the movie.
Raoul Walsh directs with verve; the energetic direction and the performances of Greenstreet, Lorre, and Bey are what make the film as enjoyable as it is. Lorre is particularly entertaining as a quirky Russian. Try as I might, I just can't warm up to Raft, who is adequate but gives one of his typically flat performances.
Brenda Marshall looks lovely but her lines of dialogue can probably be counted on two hands. Most of the time she simply watches Raft and Lorre engaging in conversation.
The movie is entertaining, has a nice sense of mood and some exciting sequences, but ultimately one is left with the feeling that it could have been quite a bit better. Aside from giving Brenda Marshall an actual character to play, rather than simply having her decorate the screen, I think it especially would have helped if the film had been cast with a more personable leading man. I just don't find much depth or range of emotion in Raft's performance. He was quite popular in his day so perhaps others see something in him that just doesn't work for me.
Eric Ambler's book, also known as UNCOMMON DANGER, was adapted for the screen by W.R. Burnett, who was himself a novelist as well as a screenwriter. As is sometimes the case with spy movies, the plot of this 80-minute film gets a bit murky, but that isn't too much of a problem compared to the other issues cited above.
This movie has been released in a remastered edition by the Warner Archive. BACKGROUND TO DANGER was also released on VHS in 1998.
BACKGROUND TO DANGER can be seen on Turner Classic Movies; the trailer is here.