“Tell her they may soon be leaving us — leaving us for a long, long journey.”
A man (Leslie Banks) vacationing in Switzerland with his wife (Edna Best) and teenage daughter (Nova Pilbeam) becomes privy to knowledge about an assassination plot, and must rescue his kidnapped daughter from the clutches of the plot’s ringleader (Peter Lorre).
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this early version of Hitchcock’s 1956 remake is rated more” highly by many, but ultimately isn’t quite “as enjoyable” as its later counterpart. Yet it remains an economic little thriller which “blends droll wit and suspense”, and has plenty to recommend in its own right, including exciting sequences staged “in intriguing settings”, and an interesting mix of “refined continental types with sleazy, though educated East Europeans (like Peter Lorre’s strange-looking, memorable villain)”. While I agree with Peary that the 1956 version is ultimately the more enjoyable of the two, certain elements of this earlier film work better — namely the setting of the opening sequences in Switzerland rather than Morocco (I prefer Banks’ urbane Brit to Stewart’s “ugly American”), and the fact that Banks’ wife (Best) is a savvy sharpshooter rather than a ’50s housewife.
As Peary notes, however, 15-year-old Pilbeam (lovely as the central protagonist in Hitchcock’s The Young and Innocent, released three years later) “looks much too old for her part” — her age and gender imply the threat of something more egregious happening to her when she’s kidnapped, but these potential threats are simply ignored in the script. Peary describes the “climactic shootout” — in which Best uses her shooting skills to rescue Pilbeam, much like Day uses her singing skills to rescue Olsen — as something “straight out of American gangster films”, but it drags on for too long; much more rewarding is the earlier Albert Hall assassination sequence (with many shots duplicated in the 1956 version).
NB: This was Lorre’s first English-speaking role; accounts differ on whether he learned the language within three months, or recited most of his lines phonetically, but he does a remarkably polished job, and remains one of the film’s creepy highlights.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Peter Lorre as Abbott
- An exciting, fast-paced plot
Yes, simply as one of Hitchcock’s better early thrillers — and “his most commercially successful” British film.