Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Wings of Danger (1953)

Another night, and time to try out another of the Hammer Noir films! Having enjoyed TERROR STREET (1953) last evening, tonight I watched the 73-minute WINGS OF DANGER (1953) starring Zachary Scott.

In this film shot in the UK, Scott plays Richard "Van" Van Ness, an American employee of a British airline. Van's friend Nick (Robert Beatty) insists on flying in bad weather and his plane disappears.

Van and his girlfriend, Nick's sister Avril (Naomi Chance), both suspect Nick was involved in smuggling. Inspector Maxwell (Colin Tapley) wonders if Van is involved as well. Van tries to solve the mystery of Nick's disappearance and clear his own name, and airline boss Spencer (Arthur Lane) and Spencer's girlfriend Alexia (Kay Kendall) seem to be involved...

I found WINGS OF DANGER quite enjoyable. Like the other Hammer films I've seen to date, I find something cozy and appealing about these films, not least as they have such an authentic sense of place; along those lines, I also enjoy the aspect that an American has made himself so at home in a place I love to visit. I also especially liked that Zachary Scott's character has some moments of wonderfully snarky humor, which made me laugh out loud.

Also like the other Hammer films, the plot doesn't always make perfect sense, but I enjoyed the ride anyway. The film's main flaw is the unexplained subplot about Van being subject to unexpected blackouts, and the related abrupt ending. So why does Van keep flying, anyway? He seems a responsible sort, and surely he must realize that if he's "scraped out of someone's backyard" someday, as he puts it, he might take out innocent people at the same time.

Van refuses to marry his girlfriend because of this malady, and instead of seeking a cure or a way to cope with it, he's oddly fatalistic. At the end, he seems about to jump into a plane, presumably prepared to go ahead and just crack up due to his unexplained blackouts; then the film changes course at the last moment. It's all a little odd.

In fact, his sparring relationship with Inspector Maxwell is a bit strange, too, given that Van's really on the up and up. However, I simply forgave the plot weaknesses and, as I mentioned, enjoyed the ride. So far these Hammer movies are for me the equivalent of curling up with a novel on a rainy afternoon, a pleasant way to pass the time.

WINGS OF DANGER was based on a novel titled DEAD ON COURSE, which was also the U.S. title of the film. (The print I watched used the British title.) It was directed by Terence Fisher.

The supporting cast includes Diane Cilento, who was later Mrs. Sean Connery for a number of years.

The movie is available on DVD as part of the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Vol. 4 from VCI. The other film on the disc is TERROR STREET (1953) starring Dan Duryea.

For more on this film, Sergio has reviewed it at Tipping My Fedora.

Previously reviewed Hammer Noir titles: Cesar Romero in SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952), George Brent in MAN BAIT (1952), and Dan Duryea in TERROR STREET (1953).

19 Comments:

Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Enjoying these posts on the Hammer noirs. I've not seen them yet, but you've peaked my interest.

5:12 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I think your review makes this film seems just terrible -- which I am sure it is despite the possibility of warm, charitable feelings for the past.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jacqueline, since you share my interest in how the movies reflect places in time I suspect you would enjoy these too -- they're nice snapshots of postwar London. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

9:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane,

It's a shame my review was unappealing (grin), I like to be frank if a movie has flaws so viewers won't approach it unawares, but I considered it an enjoyable and well-spent hour and fifteen minutes or so.

One thing I've learned is never to be certain about a film until I actually see it. :) If a film appeals to me enough to try it out in the first place, I find that in the vast majority of cases I will find things to appreciate, even in the films which aren't top-drawer. Such was the case with WINGS OF DANGER. Wisecracking Zachary Scott in England worked for me!

Best wishes,
Laura

9:34 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I don't see how anyone can assume a film is terrible from reading a review, no matter what the reviewer says about it or thought about it.

Sorry, but that's just beyond the pale. Laura indicates what she perceived as flaws but as she has said again, she enjoyed it anyway. I felt, reading her review, that I would enjoy it.

Few films are perfect. Many great films have flaws. As the year began I got back to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS--not the most even achievement really and it would be easy to criticize some things about it, but taken as a whole it comes together into being a brilliant, and indeed unusually adventurous and highly individual movie.

In any event, I just don't believe it is ever right to pass judgement on a movie one has not seen, no matter what it is. There are filmmakers whose films I no longer go to because I have disliked them so much and have strong feelings about them, but no matter what I feeling might be in store for me in one of their unseen movies, I do not feel I can have any real opinion of it and I don't.

Full disclosure--last year Laura and I watched the obscure GUILTY BYSTANDER together on a film noir festival in Hollywood and walked out agreeing that Zachary Scott is a wonderful actor and sometimes--like in that movie--awesomely great.

11:10 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura, what I read in your column was that you found merit and charm in the cast and little sense in the script. So, the players were there for something better that wasn't offered. I especially, by the way, like Naomi Chance in all that I've seen her do. It is unfortunate she did not manage to be good in anything that deserved her presence.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake,

Thanks for your thoughts! That's a good way to put it -- I kind of know what's more likely to appeal to me in the first place, but until it unspools you just don't really know.

Also enjoyed your perspective on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS which I tend to agree with. Maybe not my favorite storyline ever, but I love it nonetheless -- many great moments and the finale never fails to blow me away. Every time I see it I'm filled with amazement that so many creative talents came together and put it on screen.

Seeing GUILTY BYSTANDER is a special memory. I find Scott a very compelling actor and as you described, he can be "awesomely great." Love that.

I need to check Scott out in THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, keep hearing good things about it.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, I think it's fair that the cast was better than portions of their material, but it wasn't terrible. You just had to be willing to overlook some aspects of the story, as was also the case with Dan Duryea in TERROR STREET. Both films provided me with enjoyable entertainment and indeed, have caused me to want to delve further into the Hammer/Lippert noirs of the '50s.

This was Naomi Chance's first film; I don't believe I've seen her in anything else, but I expect to see her in THE GAMBLER AND THE LADY (1952) with Dane Clark before too long. I see she is also in THE SAINT'S GIRL FRIDAY (1953).

Best wishes,
Laura

11:33 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Re The Saint's Girl Friday, which I have seen and is always disappointing and
mechanical, but Naomi Chance, and some of the other cast members are better than what they have accepted to do professionally... I have seen most of the Hammer-Lippert films and am negative about all with the exception of Man Bait, which is at least consistent and intelligent. Oh, and other than Zachary Scott being in it, Guilty Bystander doesn't warrant inclusion. I also happen to think it pretty good.

12:56 PM  
Blogger KC said...

I'm intrigued by the thought of Kay Kendall in a noir. One of these days I'm going to have to start working through the Hammer noirs myself!

1:49 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

KC, I think of Kay Kendall as a comedienne (i.e., THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE), as that's been my exposure to her so far, so it was interesting to see her in sort of a femme fatale role! I'd be very interested to hear what you think of the Hammer noir series.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:53 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Oh dear! My previous attempt to comment did not go through,
this process is VERY complicated for a Luddite like yours truly.
Anyway here goes again,....it's nice to see some Naomi Chance
fans out there. According to her bio on imdb her friends thought
that she lacked the ambition to make it big in films.
Another goodie with Naomi is DANGEROUS VOYAGE (aka TERROR SHIP)
DANGEROUS VOYAGE is slight to be sure but rather diverting.
Innocent American in England,William Lundigan finds himself in
all sorts of trouble when he finds the boat he has hired was
used to smuggle atom-bomb components.
Nice location filming on various charming English and French coastal resorts. I would love to see what those locations look
like today. Lundigan in his only UK film no doubt was glad of
the French diversion as well.

5:27 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

If Barry Lane wants to see an "intelligent" Hammer Noir
he should check out the remarkable CLOUDBURST;out as
an MGM MOD.
With a script based on a story by real life wartime cryptographer Leo Marks (PEEPING TOM) CLOUDBURST is a
remarkable film by anyone's standards; in fact it's the
"Citizen Kane" of Hammer Brit Noir.

5:31 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

John Knight re Cloudburst. I have seen it, and more-or-less agree that it is perfectly all right. The first half, until Elizabeth Allan's death, works well. Thereafter, in my view, it slows down to a crawl.

8:24 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Sorry, John. That is, of course, Elizabeth Sellars, who is still with us. And without becoming an international star, managed to make her considerable presence felt in whatever she did.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John! Sorry not to answer quickly, been running all around town the last couple days. :)

DANGEROUS VOYAGE sounds like my kind of movie -- William Lundigan! I wish some of these movies weren't so hard to find!

I LOL re the "CITIZEN KANE of Hammer Brit Noir." That is a great line. I happened to notice CLOUDBURST recently among the listings available to stream on Amazon Prime and didn't realize it was a Hammer noir. I've bookmarked it for future viewing! Thanks much for the feedback on that one from you and Barrylane.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:53 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I am probably too late in leaving another comment here but I just wanted to add my cent's worth re Zachary Scott.
He is best known, I guess, for non-sympathetic roles in films such as "Mildred Pierce" and a snarling gunsel against the "other" Scott in "Colt.45". But, is anyone familiar with his debut film role in "The Southerner" in 1945??
Scott showed a quiet, sensitive side to him that is most affecting. Maybe it was the work of director Jean Renoir that coaxed that wonderful performance out of him.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Never too late, Jerry! :) I'm glad you mentioned THE SOUTHERNER, I have the VCI DVD of that film on my shelf but haven't watched it yet. That's a goal for 2014! Thanks so much for reminding me of it.

Incidentally, if memory serves I believe THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS preceded it? That's another Scott film I definitely need to see.

His wild performance in COLT .45 was something else!!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:18 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

You are quite right, of course, Laura. "Mask Of Dimitrios" was his debut.
Do please let me know your thoughts when you do manage to get around to "The Southerner". Such a rewarding film, I think.

7:53 AM  

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