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FIVE MILES TO MIDNIGHT (Couteau dans la plaie, Le)(director: Anatole Litvak; screenwriters: based on an idea by Andre Versini/Maurice Druon/Andre Versini/Peter Viertel/Hugh Wheeler; cinematographer: Henri Alekan; editor: Bert Bates; music: Jacques Loussier/Mikis Theodorakis; cast: Sophia Loren (Lisa Macklin), Anthony Perkins (Robert Macklin), Gig Young (David Barnes), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Alan Stewart), Yolande Turner (Barbara Ford), Tommy Norden (Johnny), Mathilde Casdesus (Concierge); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anatole Litvak/Louis Wipf; United Artists; 1962)
“The tawdry atmospheric “insurance fraud film” crashes along with its plane crash vics.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The tawdry atmospheric “insurance fraud film” crashes along with its plane crash vics. It’s overlong for its slight plot, contrived, stiffly acted and never more than mildly interesting. The unlikely pairing of the voluptuous, outgoing Sophia Loren and the nervous, dworky and boyish Anthony Perkins is ripe for a sex farce and not for such an overwrought melodrama. Director Anatole Litvak (“City for Conquest”/”Sorry, Wrong Number”/”The Snake Pit”) never lifts it off the ground, though he works hard to sneak in a few suspenseful moments. It’s based on an idea by Andre Versini and written by Maurice Druon, Andre Versini, Peter Viertel and Hugh Wheeler.

American ex-Air Force man and current businessman Bob Macklin (Anthony Perkins) married the impoverished Italian-born Lisa (Sophia Loren) and lives with the sexy lady in Paris. Bob’s jealousy and immaturity irks Lisa, who tells him she’s planning to file for a divorce before his plane departs on a business trip for Casablanca. The next day she learns that her husband’s plane has crashed and all 57 aboard are presumed dead. The day after a slightly injured Bob reappears in her apartment and relates how he was fortunate to be blown through the escape hatch just before the crash. No one realizes that he’s the lone survivor, as he made it back to Paris on the sly. Bob schemes that Lisa collect the $120,000 in insurance he took out at the airport. She only agrees when the obnoxious and slap-happy Bob agrees he will disappear from her life once he has the money. Lisa goes through filing for the insurance money while Bob remains secretly in her pad. At the same time, Lisa becomes romantically involved with American newspaperman David Barnes (Gig Young). With the money in hand, Lisa drives Bob to the Belgian border. En route the weasel changes his tune and now insists she must remain with him or he will turn her over to the authorities for insurance fraud. Well, this calls for drastic action and Lisa, in an ironical conclusion, proves she’s up to driving a hard bargain.

The second melodrama teaming Loren and Perkins was not a critical success. But seeing these opposites together had curiosity value; also the film’s smart Parisian locations, the pleasing set design by Alexander Trauner and the moody music score by Mikis Theodorakis made it watchable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”