DESPERATE SEARCH (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: Walter Doniger/novel by Arthur Mayse; cinematographer: Harold Lipstein; editor: Joseph Dervin; music: Rudolph G Kopp; cast: Howard Keel (Vince Heldon), Jane Greer (Julie heldon), Keenan Wynn (Brandy), Robert Burton (Wayne Langmuir), Patricia Medina (Nora Stead), Lee Aaker (Don Heldon), Jonathan Cott (Detective), Elaine Stewart (Stewardess), Linda Lowell (Janet Heldon); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Matthew Rapf; Warner Home Video; 1952)
“Exciting, taut action/adventure programmer about the rescue by a father of his two children, who are the sole survivors of an air crash.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of my favorite cult directors, always the artist, Joseph H. Lewis(“A Lady without Passport”/”Retreat, Hell!”/”7th Cavalry“), helms this exciting, taut action/adventure programmer about the rescue by a father of his two children, who are the sole survivors of an air crash. Lewis does his usual fine work with this black and white shot film despite a low-budget and only a routine story. It was made by MGM on its back lot, upon the urging of the director. The studio wanted to shoot on location. It’s based on the novel by Arthur Mayse, and is written by Walter Doniger.
Divorced charter pilot Vince Heldon (Howard Keel, noted musical star in his second dramatic role), a recovering alcoholic, and his second wife Julie (Jane Greer), reluctantly place his two youngsters, Don (Lee Aaker) and Janet (Linda Lowell), from his pilot ex-wife, Nora Stead (Patricia Medina), on a commercial flight leaving Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to follow the rules of the custody settlement over visitation rights.
When word reaches him about the plane crash in the Canadian wilderness, Vince takes his seaplane to the site with Julie. His hostile ex-wife Nora arrives at the search site on her charter plane. While the search exerts one kind of tension, the interactions among the trio forms another sort of tension. Nora tries to dissuade Vince from following his intuition and going to the site of a fire. The search is run by Wayne Langmuir (Robert Burton) of the transportation board, who says the fire is not on the lost plane’s route and will not allow it to be searched. Walter finally gives into Vince’s pleas and clears him to search at the fire. But it’s too foggy to see below. Meanwhile Nora searches where the transportation authorities allow her to, but she has to return to the base for mechanical repairs. Nora then vindictively commandeers Vince’s plane when she rats him out for breaking flying rules by flying over the limited mileage allowed for the month and he’s grounded. But the hero’s wife Julie shows balls and makes Nora ask Walter to allow Vince to fly over his hunch area. The trio fly there together, and spot the kids by a stream hiding from a cougar tailing them.
REVIEWED ON 1/12/2015 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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