An intriguing, flawed psychological thriller with a fine Fra
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/10/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Man on the Eiffel Tower is an odd failure of a movie. It's disjointed, has no sympathetic characters except Inspector Maigret and his cops, features an overbearing music score and relies heavily on scenic Paris to maintain interest. What I find intriguing is the work of the three lead actors, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone and Burgess Meredith, especially Tone. The story itself picks up steam in the last half, and the final chase through the iron structure of the Eiffel Tower is fascinating and suspenseful. While elements of the plot are discussed below, everything is known to the viewer within the first 15 minutes.
It's Paris in the late Forties. A young man (Robert Hutton), with his wife (Patricia Roc) and his girl friend (Jean Wallace), is overheard in a bar bemoaning how long it will most likely take before his rich aunt dies and he will inherit a great deal of money. A few days later the aunt is stabbed to death. It's clear that the nephew and the man who overheard his conversation made an agreement. By chance a poor sharpener of knives, Joseph Huertin (Burgess Meredith), almost blind even when he is wearing his thick eyeglasses, burgled the mansion the same night of the killing. He discovered the bodies (the aunt's maid had been killed, too), bloodied his hands and met the murderer, whom he could not recognize. Huertin is caught, but police inspector Jules Maigret doesn't believe he did it. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Maigret and a former medical student, a clever, often charming psychopath named Johan Radek (Franchot Tone). As one of his former professors tells Maigret, "Radek had a remarkable flair for sensing the weaknesses of others." Maigret slowly lays traps for Radek, and Radek taunts and leads Maigret on. The climax is the chase up the Eiffel Tower, with Radek climbing through the iron superstructure, followed by Huertin, with Maigret ascending by the cable-pulled passenger car.
The city of Paris plays an important role in this movie. It was shot on location, and the film is stuffed with visions of the city, from the Cafe Les Deux Maggots, reputed to be the oldest cafe in the city, where much of the plot bubbles, to the elegant Hotel George V, from the Champs-Elyses to the Seine to narrow streets and rooftops. It's a fascinating look at the city, made even more appealing now by the absence of crushing traffic. The interior of the Eiffel Tower becomes an iron maze of trusses, beams and open stair steps.
Laughton plays Maigret as perhaps too avuncular, but his Maigret is just as clever and shrewd as the original. Meredith's role as the nearly blind Huertin is probably less sympathetic than was intended. The character is simply too dull-witted to feel much empathy toward. Tone, on the other hand, plays Radek with great unbalanced charm. He buys Maigret lunch one afternoon at the restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower to preen in his cleverness. Tone manages to combine ego, menace and hysteria in one long monologue directed at Maigret. Franchot Tone has always seemed to me to be an underrated actor. He was a star in the Thirties but slipped steadily down throughout the Forties. His private life was often messy. Still, he could do more with less than most actors and was always, in my view, well worth watching.
The first half of the movie is contrived and disjointed, with Radek barely appearing. When a tense plot point looks as if it's going to be developed, more often that not an excuse for one more scenic chase through Paris arises. The second half of the movie, however, starts to cook. The duel between Radek and Maigret takes over, Maigret sets his traps and Radek's ego leads him to dangerously underestimate Maigret. The last 20 minutes are worth waiting for.
The film must have been a labor of love that didn't work out. Franchot Tone was the co-producer with Irving Allen, who was set to direct. He started filming, then Laughton demanded that Allen be replaced by Burgess Meredith, who then had Laughton direct the scenes in which Meredith appeared. After the movie failed at the box office, Allen bought the rights and buried the film for years. While The Man on the Eiffel Tower is not a successful film, it has much to enjoy."
Very glad that I bought it!
Kurt A. Johnson | North-Central Illinois, USA | 02/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Bill Kirby (played by Robert Hutton) muses out loud that he would gladly pay someone a million francs to murder his rich aunt, he little realizes that someone has overheard and accepts the offer. Soon, events take on a life of their own, as the aunt is murdered and a fall guy (Burgess Meredith) is set up to take the blame. However, Inspector Jules Maigret (Charles Laughton) is on the case, and he soon realizes that he will have to dig deep to get to the bottom of this case...and he does!
In 1950, actor Burgess Meredith directed this, his one and only movie. This movie is a film adaptation of Georges Simenon's A Battle of Nerves, and is quite interesting. Veteran actor Charles Laughton makes a very interesting Maigret, and the story is quite gripping. I enjoyed the scenes of post-WW2 Paris, and loved the movie.
On the down-side, this movie definitely shows its age. There are skips in the movie, marking lost pieces of film, and the color is washed out and in terrible need of remastering. But, that said, this is an interesting movie, and a great detective story (but, alas, no mystery, you quickly find out who the real murderer was).
I would highly recommend this movie to all fans of Charles Laughton, Commissaire Maigret, or of great old movies. I loved this movie, and am very glad that I bought it!
"Hello, you here again? The over-stuffed bloodhound, my frie
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 11/16/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie's okay. Adapted from Georges Simenon's 1931 novel L'HOMME DE LA TOUR EIFFEL (a.k.a. A BATTLE OF NERVES), THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER is a 1949 would-be psychological thriller and police procedural which has some bits of merit but mostly chugs along at its own tedious pace. Hence, the mood evoked isn't as much atmospheric as it is muddled, and it felt like a gang of birthdays had elapsed before I got thru watching this one. Not even the curious excesses of Charles Laughton could hike up my interest level.
If there's one thing this movie taught me, it's to never trust a man who consumes caviar sandwiches and vodka. That's just weird. When a shiftless playboy, having a nice tryst in a crowded cafe with both his wife and his mistress, casually remarks that he'd give a million francs to have his filthy-rich aunt murdered, someone overhears and takes him up on the offer. Now, in the wake of the murders of two women (I guess the maid was a freebie), a meek knife-sharpener becomes implicated, and, later, the playboy, as well. In steps Inspector Jules Maigret, embodied to sluggish, mannered effect by Laughton. And the cat & mouse games begin, between him and the clever murderer, who thinks himself untouchable. As Maigret eventually asks the killer: "Am I following you or are you following me?"
Inspector Jules Maigret has had a bounty of television appearances, spanning decades and featuring various actors taking on the role. Apparently, Maigret has also had some good success in cinema, worldwide. But you couldn't tell it by THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER, which is forgettable. Although it contains elements of Strangers on a Train (Two-Disc Special Edition), this film isn't as good. And, make no mistake, it's not Alfred Hitchcock at the helm of this one.
Two of the three principals muck it up. Charles Laughton makes for a dull Maigret, who, as written by Simenon, is somewhat of a plodding, procedural character anyway. Burgess Meredith has also been in better form. Here, I couldn't find it in me to feel anything other than exasperation for his timid, bossed-around, often manipulated character. By the way, according to the dvd jacket, producer Irving Allen originally was the film's director but that Charles Laughton so didn't dig his work that he threatened to walk out unless Burgess Meredith take over directing. So the final product credits Meredith with his first and only directing gig. The job that he does demonstrates why in his career he's only directed one movie.
Not too many things enliven this film. There's the tourist-friendly Paris cityscape, of course, which is showcased relentlessly throughout the film, and markedly thru several chase scenes (The pursuit up the Eiffel Tower happens to be riveting stuff). The film wasn't kidding when it listed the City of Lights as a supporting character in the opening credits. I quite liked Franchot Tone's bravado as he baits the chubby Police Inspector. The best scenes, in fact, happen when Laughton and Tone interact, and credit mostly goes to Tone's disturbed idiosyncracies for keeping it interesting. And - we're really digging into the sofa's recesses now - it's also demonstrated how descending in an elevator can count as a victory of sorts.
This film, originally shot with the Ansco Reversal process and restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, does come in muted colors, but mostly dominated by sepia tones. There are still brief scratches on the print, and the initial leg of the car chase near the end is lighted so dimly I couldn't make out much of anything. Other than that, I really have no complaints about how the film looks. Believe me, I've seen a prior dvd version of this film, and that print was quite horrible.
See this for Franchot Tone's bent performance and, of course, for the City of Lights. Try not to focus on how badly you want to slap around that aggravating knife sharpener, because that's mean."
Robert H. Garcia | la | 04/15/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Stay far, far away from this horrible transfer to dvd. EIFFEL TOWER is one of those glorious thrillers directed by Burgess Meredith that needs an updated transfer. This dvd simply sucks. If you have memories of the original--skip this version. It seems to be either a transfer from a bad old vhs or one of the earlier cable channels. Don't bite. Keep your memories of the original and wait for someone to fully appreciate how fine this thriller was and is. I find it odd that amazon even allowed this version to find its way into customer hands. Boo Hiss. The tendency is to go with versions of these old films/public domain--that are more expensive than the cheepies. Not knowing what these other versions look like--DO NOT BUY THIS VERSION. Remember JUNGLE BOOK? One of the better versions was a steal at $7.95. Meaning--you take your chances."