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CRISIS(director/writer: Richard Brooks; screenwriter: story by George Tabori; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Robert J. Kern; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Cary Grant (Dr. Eugene Norland Ferguson), José Ferrer (Raoul Farrago), Paula Raymond (Helen Ferguson), Signe Hasso (Senora Isabel Farrago), Ramon Novarro (Col. Adragon), Gilbert Roland (Gonzales), Leon Ames (Sam Proctor), Antonio Moreno (Dr. Emilio Nierra), Pedro de Cordoba (Father Del Puento); Runtime: 96; MGM; 1950)
“A heavy-handed and dour political melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A heavy-handed and dour political melodrama. MGM’s head honcho Dore Schary’s called for some refined intellectual scripts to be produced by his studio, and this is the one they tried to palm off. Cary Grant is miscast as a brain surgeon, he looks more like a commodities trader sniffing out a good deal. This is Richard Brooks’ film debut as a director. The film felt more clinical than vibrant, and more forced than sincere. But it’s politically correct, and offers a nice and safe liberal message against both dictators and revolutionists. The story is fictitious, but the dictator resembles Argentina’s Juan Peron.

While vacationing in some unnamed South American country, Dr. Ferguson (Cary Grant) and his wife Helen (Paula Raymond) are trapped when a revolution suddenly erupts in the middle of a sporting event they are attending.

The country’s strong-arm dictator has a brain tumor and no doctor can be enticed from outside to do the operation and it is not safe for the dictator to travel. He is experiencing seizures, severe headaches, and loss of strength. So Dr. Ferguson is asked by the hotel manager to contact the dictator, which he refuses to do.

The upscale New York City doctor and his wife wish to go home immediately after experiencing a riot in the streets and, anyway, Helen would rather be doing some shopping along Madison Avenue. They rush to the airport but are stopped at a roadblock, and a mean-spirited Colonel (Ramon Novarro) forces them into a train going up to the mountain city where the ailing dictator, Raoul Farrago (Jose Ferrer), resides.

The dictator’s harpy wife, Isabel (Signe Hasso), convinces the doctor that it is his duty to save her husband’s life. When Ferguson examines the patient, he decides that the brain tumor must be operated on immediately or else the patient will die.

Dr. Ferguson meets a fellow American, Sam Proctor (Leon Ames), an oil man stationed here. He tells the doctor to not do the operation, it’s a no-win situation. If he fails the dictator’s henchmen will kill him, and if he succeeds the rebels will kill him.

When Sam takes the doctor and his wife out to a local nightclub, Ferguson’s introduced to the rebel leader Gonzalez (Gilbert Roland). He’s a ruthless man like the dictator, and warns the doctor that it’s best for all concerned if he allows the scalpel to slip during the procedure.

Ferguson intends to save the dictator’s life and quickly get out of the country. As a precaution, since the operation and treatment afterwards will take 5 days and the civil war is heating up, Ferguson gets the dictator’s soldiers to accompany Helen on train to leave the country. But she’s captured by the rebel soldiers and held hostage, as Gonzalez sends the doctor a note through a courier that if he doesn’t kill the dictator on the operating table his wife will die. But the messenger was a double-crosser who fails to deliver the note. Cary operates successfully unaware of the note, as it was intercepted by Isabel.

The film is filled with soapbox speeches against tyranny. It tries to show how both the rebels and the dictator have no trust in the people and in liberty, as both sides are ugly and brutal. It’s Hollywood’s idea of how a revolution looks.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”