A Film Noir Classic
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 02/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ken Annakin is one of the most widely traveled international directors in cinema annals, journeying to every continent to accept the kinds of creative challenges daring filmmakers, in the ranks of which he definitely resides, thrive upon. Among his celebrated triumphs are "The Longest Day," in which he directed the most difficult battle scenes of Darryl F. Zanuck's classic, "Swiss Family Robinson," one of the industry's all-time grossers,and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," a brilliant spoof containing some of the most inventive scenes in aviation filmmaking, for which he and co-scenarist Jack Davies received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay."Across the Bridge," a great British film shot in Spain, on its 1957 release was heralded as a suspense classic along the lines of Carol Reed's "The Third Man" eight years earlier. Reed led the early chorus of praise for a film unique in its presentation that traces the degradation of a haughty, corrupt, and thoroughly arrogant international financier who sees his world of opulence destroyed piece by piece when, after being alerted that Scotland Yard is pursuing him on fraud charges, travels from New York to Texas and, ultimately, Mexico to elude authorities. Adapted from a Graham Greene story, the same celebrated British author who wrote the screenplay for "The Third Man," Annakin aided scenarists John Stafford and Guy Elmes in their effort to convert a short story into a full-fledged drama concentrating on the psychology of greed interspersed with the theme of alienation.When Rod Steiger, who catapulted to international stardom portraying the hunted international financier, arrives in Mexico, he learns that Bernard Lee of Scotland Yard is nipping at his heels. International law temporarily prevents Lee from crossing the American border in Texas to apprehend the fugitive businessman, so Steiger plots to put more distance between himself and Lee. Standing in the way is local police chief Noel Willman, who frustrates Steiger repeatedly by spurning his offers to bribe his way out of town. Willman, who achieves sadistic delight by watching the once powerful, now helpless Steiger squirm, plays his trump card ruthlessly, compelling his victim to remain where he is, unable to secure passage out of town and frustrated by Lee from crossing into Texas.The film scales a psychological crescendo when the once potent and arrogant international financier is reduced to sleeping in dusty culverts under the stars, with one friend left to him in the world. For once his money is of no benefit. Steiger's lone friend is a dog named Dolores, acquired as he was leaving the train in Texas after knocking its owner unconscious and stealing his identity. The identity switch ultimately backfires when Steiger learns that his victim, played by Bill Nagy, is wanted for the murder of the provincial governor of the border region to which Steiger has retreated in putting distance between himself and Scotland Yard.While initially praised as a brilliantly conceived and executed suspense film, with subsequent development of the field of film noir "Across the Bridge" has secured a position of leading recognition as one of the greatest British productions in that genre, a worthy successor to Carol Reed's "The Third Man" eight years earlier. It it one of those rare films that totally captures emotions while seizing the imagination, with Rod Steiger achieving milestone dramatic results."
An unjustly negected classic
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Across the Bridge has one of those titles that makes it sound like an Arthur Miller play but is actually based on one of Graham Greene's guilt-wracked stories. And it's a corker, with a great premise that reminds you that before he moved on to guilt, infidelity and Catholicism, Greene wrote cracking pulp thrillers like A Gun for Sale. Rod Steiger is powerful and shady financier Carl Schaffner, on the run from the British police in America and trying to cross the border into Mexico before he can be extradited. So he does what any one of us would do - kills another person who looks vaguely similar to steal his Mexican passport and travel unhindered on that. Naturally, things go wrong. He finds himself saddled with the dead man's dog. The dead man turns out to be a killer wanted by the Mexican police. And the dead man turns out not to be dead. And that's not the least of it, as the unexpected plot twists mount while Schaffner starts to look like the least corrupt person in the film compared to the strokes Noel Willman's patiently greedy Mexican police chief and Bernard Lee's determined but less than ethical Scotland Yard man are willing to pull to either get his money or lure him across the bridge...
Ken Annakin's film may be shot on location in Spain, but it has a resolutely British studio look to both its photography and its interior work (as well as its rather over-emphatic James Bernard score) - you can take the British out of Britain but not the Britishness out of their films, it seems. Not that that's a complaint: indeed, it gives the film a strange texture that you don't naturally associate with this kind of material that adds to its anonymously professional uniqueness. Steiger's performance is at once theatrical (while contained enough not to descend into the ham of later roles) yet convincing - and the existence of similar fraudsters like Robert Maxwell only adds to the credibility. But more than that, as he is stripped of everything, he attains a genuine heroic quality. That it manifests itself in an almost pathetic act to repay the only soul in the world that does not betray him only makes this shambling, ungainly figure all the more tragic. And who can blame him - one look into Dolores' eyes and you'd do the same."