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SHOOT FIRST(director: Robert Parrish; screenwriters: Eric Ambler/from a novel “Rough Shoot” by Geoffrey Household; cinematographer: Stanley Pavey; editor: Russell LLoyd; cast: Joel McCrea (Lieut. Col. Robert Taine), Marius Goring (Hiart), Evelyn Keyes (Mrs. Taine), Herbert Lom (Sandorski), David Hurst (Lex), Roland Culver (Randall), Megs Jenkins (Mrs. Powell), Frank Lawton (Hassingham), Patricia Laffan (Magda), Karel Stepanek (Chauffeur) Laurence Naismith (Blossom), Denis Lehrer (Reimann); Runtime: 88; United Artists; 1953-UK)
“A good Joel McCrea flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A good Joel McCrea flick. It is suspenseful, entertaining, fast-paced, and tautly scripted by Eric Ambler from a novel by Geoffrey Household. A retired U.S. colonel, Bob Taine (Joel McCrea), living in Dorset, England, mistakenly thinks he shot a poacher named Reimann with buckshot — but the dead man is part of an Iron-Curtain spy network and was killed by them because he was a double-crosser.

Taine does not want to go to prison for this accidental killing, so he buries the body in the woods. This sparks a sinister chain of reactions. His foreign neighbors are spotted by him, as they were suspiciously looking for the body. Hiart (Marius Goring) and his chauffeur are living in wealthy landowner Hassingham’s house, and are conspiring behind the master’s drunken back with his German-born wife Magda to help spies get access in Great Britain.

A retired colonel in the Polish Army, now working for Mr. Randall (Culver) in the cloak-and-dagger War Department, Sandorski (Lom), meets Taine in the “shoot” area and tells him he knows all about Reimann (he was now going over to their side). The two decide to work together to get the spies but they are forced to tell Mrs. Taine (Keyes) about it, as she figures out something is up.

The German spies use beacons to help a plane mysteriously land at night in the “shoot” area, but Sandorski maneuvers the beacon lights so the plane lands where they get the German agent coming off the plane before Hiart does. He’s a scientist named Lex, who is carrying secret documents about the Atomic-bomb in a booby-trapped briefcase for a secret meeting in London.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.

They decide to take Lex to London and have Randall’s men follow him there, but the police come to arrest Taine for murdering Reimann when his body is found by a farmer’s dog. Randall orders the police to not interfere and the exciting climax takes place as the scientist meets the German agent in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Taine will be absolved of the murder charges when they find the bullet from Hiart’s rifle was the reason for Hiart’s death.

Herbert Lom steals the film, as he is delightfully in character with his odd Polish accent and his eccentric behavior.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”