TEN SECONDS TO HELL (director/writer: Robert Aldrich; screenwriters: Teddi Sherman/from the novel “The Phoenix” byLawrence P. Bachmann; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Henry Richardson; music: Kenneth V. Jones; cast: Jack Palance (Erik Koertner), Jeff Chandler (Karl Wirtz), Martine Carol (Margot Hofer), Robert Cornthwaite (Franz Loeffler), Virginia Baker (Frau Bauer), Richard Wattis (Major Haven), Wes Addy (Wolfgang Sulke), Nancy Lee (Ruth Sulke), Dave Willock (Peter Tillig), Jimmy Goodwin (Hans Globke); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Carreras; United Artists/Hammer Films; 1959-UK/USA)
“A downbeat so-so off-beat message suspense WWII dramathat never explodes and remains mostly tedious.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A downbeat so-so off-beat message suspense WWII drama that never explodes and remains mostly tedious. It’s weakly co-written by director Robert Aldrich (“Kiss Me Deadly”/”Vera Cruz”/” The Flight of the Phoenix”)with Teddi Sherman. It’s adapted from the novel “The Phoenix” byLawrence P. Bachmann. To make things go from bad to worse, the studio edited about 40 minutes out of the film–thereby it lacked whatever Aldrich was reaching for in this unfortunate project.
In post-war Berlin six recent returning German POW’s in a British prison camp, who were squad members of a bomb disposal unit because they were in disfavor with the Nazis, volunteer to work for the Allies in ridding the city of unexploded bombs. The dangerous job rewards the men with good pay and housing and extra ration cards. The men volunteer to do it for three months, and are under the command of a British Major Haven (Richard Wattis) and Frau Bauer (Virginia Baker) is their kindly liaison officer. As a wager suggested by the mercenary Karl Wirtz (Jeff Chandler), the men make a pact to place half their earnings in a joint fund and the last man surviving during the period collects the money or if there’s more than one survivor they will share.
The story focuses on the two dominant personalities, the idealistic brave unofficial leader Erik Koertner (Jack Palance) and his rival the ‘me first’ survivalist Karl Wirtz.The rivals also battle to win the love of their attractive widowed landlady Margot Hofer (Martine Carol), a French woman married to a German soldier who died in the African desert. The rivals clash over philosophical differences, as the four other demolition experts — Hans Globke (Jimmy Goodwin), Peter Tillig (Dave Willock), Wolfgang Sulke (Wes Addy), Franz Loeffler (Robert Cornthwaite) — are unlucky in the bombs assigned and one by one get blown to bits. Tension builds to see which of the rivals survives.
The message is that out of destruction there’s hope to rebuild.
The b/w film was shot in 32 days on location in Berlin and finished in Berlin’s UFA studio.
REVIEWED ON 11/7/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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