A LADY WITHOUT PASSPORT(director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: Howard Dimsdale/Cyril Hume/from a story by Lawrence Taylor; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: Frederick Y. Smith; music: David Raskin; cast: Hedy Lamarr (Marianne Lorress), John Hodiak (Peter Karczag/aka Josef Gumbaugh), James Craig (Chief Frank Westlake), George Macready (Palinov), Steven Geray (Frenchman), Bruce Cowling (Archer Delby James), Nedrick Young (Harry Nordell), Steve Hill (Jack), Robert Osterloh (Lt. Lannahan), Trevor Bardette (Lt. Carfagno); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Samuel Marx; MGM; 1950)
“An interesting watch due to the strange effects of the visuals.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Joseph H. Lewis (“Gun Crazy“/”The Big Combo“) does his best to make this tightly told but uninspiring clichéd film noir work. But even though he adds zest and style by his solid visual directing effort, this low-budget Casablanca wannabe still lacks force. Though this is one of the much praised poverty row director’s poorer films, it still is an interesting watch due to the strange effects of the visuals and the surreal atmospheric location shots.
Marianne Lorress (Hedy Lamarr) is a concentration-camp survivor with a number tattoo on her arm (seemed hard to believe since she looked as well-fed and dolled-up as a Hollywood starlet) waiting for the American Immigration Department in Havana to give her permission to enter the United States–which is idealized as the land of milk and honey. The stunningly attractive refugee is stuck without a work-permit to support herself, and without money the lady with a shady past turns to a smuggler named Palinov (George Macready) to get her to America any way he can. Palinov runs a thriving business of smuggling illegal aliens and providing them with false papers for a thousand dollars a pop, but since Marianne is such a dish he makes other arrangements for the impoverished refugee to pay him back. U.S. Immigration agent Pete Karczag (John Hodiak) has been assigned by his boss, Chief Frank Westlake (James Craig), to go undercover in Havana and pose as a rich Hungarian refugee seeking illegal asylum in the States. The plan is to smoke out Palinov and grab all those involved in this sting operation.
The catch is that Pete’s ruse gets unmasked by Palinov’s henchmen. Also, Pete falls in love with the sexy Marianne and is unable to set her up as the patsy to get the big boss. But when she discovers he’s a copper, she deserts him out of anger and flies to the States with Palinov and his pilot partner James (Cowling). The immigration people are looking forward to having the smugglers land in the States where they can be arrested, because the Cuban government has its hands tied and can’t arrest them if they don’t break any Cuban laws.
When the private twin-engine plane carrying 8 illegals plus the pilot and Palinov is spotted in Jacksonville, Florida, when they land to refuel, the plane takes off without refueling as the pilot notices a worker of the airport grounds crew calling the police. Rather than risk arrest and face a murder charge on top of smuggling charges, the pilot crash-lands in the Florida everglades and the two criminals take only Marianne with them on a raft as they desert the others–during the escape Palinov kills one of the aliens who refused to get off the raft. Pete risks his life to go it alone through the dangerous terrain to track down the smugglers and rescue the woman he loves, as this saga comes to a fitting conclusion in a final shootout in the swampland.
REVIEWED ON 10/8/2003 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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