Monday, February 15, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Flight to Hong Kong (1956)

This is a week for movies with "flight" in the title! This weekend I watched ARCTIC FLIGHT (1952) and now I've seen FLIGHT TO HONG KONG (1956).

I was inspired to choose FLIGHT TO HONG KONG as it was produced by Rory Calhoun and Victor Orsatti's Rorvic Productions. Last week I watched Rorvic's very enjoyable Rory Calhoun Western, DOMINO KID (1957), and I've also previously seen Rorvic's THE HIRED GUN (1957) and APACHE TERRITORY (1958).

FLIGHT TO HONG KONG is quite different from the other Rorvic films. First, as one might guess from the title, it's not a Western!

More significantly, Calhoun's FLIGHT TO HONG KONG character, Tony Dumont, can at best be described as an antihero. Tony's a mobster; I initially hoped he was an undercover agent, but as he got in deeper and deeper, with blood on his hands, it became clear that not only was his character a genuine crook, but that his story wasn't likely to have a happy ending.

Tony's also got a roving eye for the ladies, taking up with Pamela (Barbara Rush), an elegant best-selling author, rather than being true to his loyal longtime girlfriend Jean (Dolores Donlon, who was then Mrs. Victor Orsatti offscreen). Tony's passion for Pamela is part of what inspires him to try to break free of the mob, and while his elaborate plans are initially successful, happiness still eludes him.

Tony ultimately returns to Jean and his godmother, Mama Lin (Soo Yong), but the mob is hot on his tail...

The movie is well done for its type, with a good cast of heavies including Timothy Carey, Werner Klemperer, and Paul Picerni. Location shooting in Hong Kong, San Francisco and elsewhere, mixed with just a few back projections, gives the movie an authenticity and certain level of class.

Calhoun's ability to straddle both dark and light characters makes him effective as Tony, who can turn from nice guy charmer to brutally intimidating in the blink of an eye. He's well matched by Rush as the brittle Pam, who's attracted to Tony, but maybe not enough for a lifetime. Donlon is sympathetic as the long-suffering Jean.

It's a fairly engrossing 88 minutes which keeps the viewer wondering how it will all end; if ultimately it seems somewhat futile, I did enjoy Tony taking a different sort of "ride" than I expected in the last scene.

FLIGHT TO HONG KONG was produced and directed by Joseph M. Newman, who had previously headed up excellent crime films such as ABANDONED (1949) and 711 OCEAN DRIVE (1950).

FLIGHT TO HONG KONG was filmed in black and white by Ellis Carter. It was distributed by United Artists.

FLIGHT TO HONG KONG does not appear to be available on DVD or other formats. However, it can currently be streamed on Amazon Instant Video; it's free to Amazon Prime subscribers.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Very elusive film, Laura. I've never seen it but I'd love to! From Rory Calhoun's career peak. This week I (re)watched 'FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER' where his central character is not a particularly nice guy at all, especially his rough treatment of women. I think he was quite an under-rated actor.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I sure hope this will come out on DVD at some point so you can see it, Jerry! It's worth a look even if not a favorite for me.

Good point re Rory and FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER -- he didn't shy away from playing mean (if redeemable) characters and brings varied, complex shadings to his roles. I agree regarding his being underrated.

Best wishes,

4:03 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Films like this aren't a favorite of mine either... I'll sometimes watch them just to see the actors, but I recall that I gave this one a miss back when I had a chance to see it on Amazon Prime. Sounds like it wasn't a decision I'll regret; thanks for the review!

2:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're welcome, Mary! I was glad to see another of Rory Calhoun's performances but although fairly well done it's on the lower end for me in terms of enjoyment, due to the storyline.

Best wishes,

11:59 PM  

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