WHITE TOWER, THE
(director: Ted Tetzlaff; screenwriters: from the book The White Tower by James Ramsey Ullman/Paul Jarrico; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; music: Roy Webb; cast: Glenn Ford (Martin Ordway), Alida Valli (Carla Alton), Claude Rains (Paul DeLambre), Oscar Homolka (Andreas), Cedric Hardwicke (Nicholas Radcliffe), Lloyd Bridges (Mr. Hein), June Clayworth (Mme. Astrid Delambre), Lotte Stein (Frau Andreas), Fred Essler (Knubel), Edith Angold (Frau Knubel); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sid Rogell; RKO Radio Pictures; 1950)
“Basically just another mountain climbing pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Basically just another mountain climbing pic, except this one is loaded with Freudian interpretations for its six archetypal climbers who each have their own reason for wanting to reach the top. The 5 men and 1 woman from different countries set out to climb the mountain called the White Tower, which has never been climbed before. The action is shot on location at the French Alp’s Mont Blanc; the Technicolor version (the one to see) is wonderfully lush. Ted Tetzlaff took over the directing duties when Edward Dmytrk was blacklisted. Paul Jarrico, later to be blacklisted, adapted his screenplay from James Ramsey Ullman’s novel.
The diversified ill-suited international mountain climbers meet by accident at an inn at the foot of the White Tower, where they informally plan the climb to the top of the White Tower. Since the treacherously steep mountain can’t be climbed alone–they must get between 4- 6 climbers to ensure the best possible chance of succeeding. Carla Alton (Alida Valli), an Italian and avid anti-Fascist, is anxious to reach the top to fulfill the dreams of her beloved mountain climbing father who died trying to climb to the top, and she becomes the leader of this expedition. Her guide is gruff Swiss peasant Andreas (Oscar Homolka), who feels it’s his obligation to use his skills to help the climbers reach their goal. Nicholas Radcliffe (Cedric Hardwicke) is an elderly Brit geologist who tags along to possibly discover new forms of flora and fauna. Blond, blue-eyed Aryan poster boy Hein (Lloyd Bridges) is a former Nazi, who climbs to show the Nazi superiority and prove that it takes ‘will power’ to conquer the mountain. Paul DeLambre (Claude Rains) is a dissolute French writer, suffering from alcoholism and writer’s block, who uses the mountain to prove his worth to himself and his disappointed wife. Martin Ordway (Glenn Ford) is an American ex-bombardier pilot and currently an architect, who was shot down during the war at the mountain site and has now come back to pay his respects to the mountain. He is reluctant to commit to the climb but goes along because he falls for Carla. Martin’s the only one not obsessed with reaching the top, but the actor who was obsessed in Gilda with Rita Hayworth will soon become obsessed with reaching the top to show the Teuton Superman that anything he can do the Yank can do better. The fun is watching who falls first from these lofty heights and who succeeds.
This symbolic melodrama was not helped by the stiff acting despite the talented cast, nevertheless it remained entertaining because of its fine action sequences. Hollywood casting has the Canadian Ford playing an American, the American Bridges playing a German, the Austrian Homolka playing a Swiss, and the Brit Rains playing a Frenchman. Valli, who appeared as Orson Welles’s lady friend in The Third Man, is rightfully cast as an Italian, while the Brit Hardwicke also remains true to his national identity.
REVIEWED ON 11/26/2004 GRADE: B-