“Sounds like the usual M.O.: tourists — reputable travelers — being used as innocent smugglers.”
Police detectives investigate a heroin-smuggling scheme in San Francisco.
Don Siegel’s little-seen crime drama remains a taut, gritty thriller which deserves wider viewing. After a rather creaky beginning (in which the nature of the crime — surreptitious smuggling of heroin in unsuspecting passengers’ luggage — is established), things quickly become exciting, as we watch two psychopathic “middlemen” (Eli Wallach and Robert Keith) slyly rounding up their bounty at any cost. More often than not, this involves killing the passenger, if or when he discovers that something is awry — a task done with cold-hearted smoothness by Wallach, while creepy Keith waits nearby ready to document the poor sucker’s “final words” in his notebook. Siegel handles his multiple action scenes with finesse, and makes good use of on-location shooting in San Francisco; indeed, many locales no longer exist, thus making this an invaluable time-capsule glimpse of The City in the late 1950s.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Eli Wallach as “Dancer”, the psychopathic middleman
- Robert Keith as Dancer’s less violent — but equally tenacious — partner
- Richard Jaeckel as the duo’s cocky young getaway driver
- Creatively shot murder sequences
- Excellent use of San Francisco locales
- A truly exciting final car chase
No, but fans of Siegel’s work will undoubtedly want to seek it out.