(director: Ken Annakin; screenwriters: from the novel by Graham Greene/Guy Elmes/Denis Freeman; cinematographer: Reg Wyer; editor: Alfred Roome; music: James Bernard; cast: Rod Steiger (Carl Schaffner), Bernard Lee (Detective Inspector Hadden), David Knight (Johnny), Marla Landi (Mary), Noel Willman (Police Chief), Bill Nagy (Paul Scarff), Eric Pohlmann (Police Sergeant), Alan Gifford (Cooper), Ingeborg Wells (Mrs. Scarff), Faith Brook (Kay), Stanley Maxted (Milton), Marianne Deeming (Anna), Stanley Maxted (Milton); Runtime: 103; Carlton DVD; 1957-UK)

“An overlooked black-and-white thriller that’s based on a Graham Greene novel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ken Annakin (“Trio”/”Value For Money”/”Holiday Camp”) directs this low-budget gem, an overlooked black-and-white thriller that’s based on a Graham Greene novel. The psychological drama was superbly written by Guy Elmes and Denis Freeman, and it was filmed in England and Spain. Rod Steiger gives one of his greatest performances, as he portrays a scheming arrogant man who suffers a downfall and finds himself as an outcast in a foreign town and his only friend is a cocker spaniel who he becomes attached to when he’s reduced to living like a homeless person and that his one act of kindness (or showing his human side) will lead to his demise. The film plays out as a gripping character study of a once influential tycoon suffering from mental and physical decay but trying to survive anyway he can as things unravel and he’s caught in a trap that he put himself in by outsmarting himself.

Unscrupulous German-born American international financier Carl Schaffner (Rod Steiger) has his London office raided by Scotland Yard while he’s in New York. The haughty financier faces a ten-year jail term for cooking the books and absconding with $3 million in company funds, and decides to flee to Mexico. While on the train to Mexico he learns through the newspapers that the police have warned the border police to be on the lookout for him. When a fellow passenger, Paul Scarff (Bill Nagy), joins him in his private compartment for drinks, Carl poisons his lookalike and throws his body off the train. He then disguises himself as Scarff and steals his passport. Stopping off at a border town, he poses as Scarff and even possesses his dog Dolores. Carl plans to use the victim’s passport to enter Mexico, and then revert back to his own identity to clear a lot of dough out of a Mexico City bank. At the dusty border town Carl learns that the badly injured Scarff miraculously survived and is staying at his motel and that he’s wanted by the Mexican police for assassinating a governor. This setback changes Carl’s plans, nevertheless he uses as dupes an impoverished American couple (David Knight and Marla Landi) to reach the Mexican border town of Catrina. However, once there he meets the following obstacles: his passport is held as he’s blackmailed by the greedy chief of police (Bernard Lee), faces ostracism by the locals when it’s learned he betrayed their now dead folk hero political assassin, and is forced to live in the street under a bridge because no local would accept his money. Also, the persistent and impatient Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Hadden (Bernard Lee) has arrived in Catrina and is putting pressure on the crooked chief of police to send Carl across the border before the three-month extradition process takes effect.

One never cares what happens to such a rotten soul as Carl, but his plight is captivating even if all the details of his adventure are far from convincing. Things remain tense even when some of the plot devices seem to be stretches.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”