Directly in the wake of his Oscar-winning comeback in From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra took on the role of a psychopathic hit man in this taut, low-budget film noir. The choice shows how interested Sinatra was in serio... more »us acting during the mid- to late '50s; there's nothing remotely likable about this angular, neurotic assassin. He's in the small town of Suddenly to kill the president, who is passing through on a quick train stop. Sinatra makes hostages of a local family and sheriff Sterling Hayden, and the film is basically a countdown to the president's arrival, with Sinatra's patter getting loonier as the day goes on. Aside from the interest of Sinatra's performance (very focused and downright perverse at times), and the film's place in the American noir tradition, Suddenly is uncannily prophetic on the subject of assassination. It's clear that the killer is doing it for the fame as well as the money, a theme that would crop up in later confessions of real-life killers or would-be killers. Perhaps the 1954 film was too prophetic; like Sinatra's Manchurian Candidate, this movie was pulled from circulation for years after the JFK assassination. According to Kitty Kelley's bio of Sinatra, Lee Harvey Oswald saw this film a few days before he took rifle in hand. Now in the public domain, Suddenly is generally available in cheap, scratchy prints. --Robert Horton« less
Matt B. from GETZVILLE, NY Reviewed on 1/31/2013...
Tagline: A cold-blooded thriller!
A young widow lives with her eight-year-old son and her father-in-law in the sleepy SoCal burg of Suddenly. Because she lost her husband in the Korean conflict, she forbids her son from playing with guns and joining the Cub Scouts. Her father-in-law, an ex-Secret Service operative, speaks out against over-protecting the boy, arguing that if he doesn’t develop strength of mind, he will be unable to take his turn in fighting cruelty, hatred, and tyranny and contribute to making the Declaration of Independence stick. The village sheriff has romantic designs on the widow, but hurts his case when he buys the boy a cap pistol. A crisis occurs that tests the mettle of all the characters.
The script is just okay, setting up the paper-thin characters. Frank Sinatra puts in a convincing performance, here just as suitably larger than life as his Maggio in From Here to Eternity. I don’t know why he ended up in the rather low-budget noir movie, but these things happen. Nancy Gates, who appeared with Sinatra in Some Came Running, is okay as the pacifist widow. The sheriff is played by large Irishman Sterling Hayden, best remembered probably as the mad general in Dr. Strangelove. Also good was James Gleason as the father-in-law, mainly because he gets off some cool Americanisms like, “shucks to you,” “tan your hide,” and “hurt like blazes.”
I suppose a viewer could label this movie a late 1950s artifact. We could identify themes of defending the country against domestic terrorists, the motivations of betrayal and violence, and the importance in family values of realistic male control of pacifistic females. We could also see the movie as simply a thriller that compresses four hours of action into a tight 75-minute movie.
Oswald Goes to Mayberry
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this movie at the Chicago Art Institute about 10 years ago double-billed with "The Manchurian Candidate." The latter movie is one of the great films of all time, and by far Sinatra's best. "Suddenly" is something quite different. Sinatra's performance here is outstanding. He is thoroughly believable and engrossing as the Oswald-like John Barron. Given this performance, it is rather surprising to me that most of the other actors' acting is so terrible and flat. The non-Sinatra scene dialogue seems like it was written by a b-level 50's t.v. writing team - on the level of "The Adventures of Superman" or "The Lone Ranger." But the scenes with Sinatra are very well written and carried out, particularly the interchanges between Sterling Hayden and Sinatra (which really make up the core of the film, the rest is just filler). In fact, these scenes are so good, I forgive the rest of the film while remaining amazed how bad the rest is.I do want to reiterate one warning made by some of the other reviewer's of this particular DVD version (Madacy Entertainment). The price is hard to fight with, but the film copy they transferred to the DVD was very poor quality. The sound is often very poor (the non-Sinatra scene dialogue sounds very much like it was dubbed in latter), and there are awkward jumps in the film itself, i.e., where it looks like the film either broke and was spliced together rather half-hazzardly, or the sprockets skipped or something. Unfortunately, one of these skips comes during one of the best scenes where Sinatra is talking about how "he hates crowds, and used to dream about that crowd". It seems no one at the company making this DVD bothered to watch it while the transfer to DVD was occurring. Perhaps one of the other DVD versions has a better print, but in lieu of knowing that, my advice would be to videotape the movie next time it is on AMC or TMC - they seem to have better prints of it."
"I'm not a traitor, I won a silver star"
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 10/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Frank Sinatra is riveting as a cold-hearted hit man obsessed with his spurious war record, who traps a family in their house, along with a few others that get caught in his net, as he plots to assassinate the president, who is making a stop in Suddenly, California, on his way to Los Angeles. It's a great character study, and Sinatra pulls it off flawlessly, making this a taut thriller, with a quiet, folksy beginning that turns into a nightmare. Sinatra followed his Oscar Award winning performance in "From Here to Eternity" with this film, which unfortunately hasn't been seen much, and one of the reasons is Sinatra himself; he was horrified to know that Lee Harvey Oswald had watched "Suddenly" shortly before the Kennedy assassination, and requested the film be pulled from distribution.
Co-starring Sterling Hayden who is excellent as Sheriff Tod Shaw, it has well paced direction by Lewis Allen, a crisp script by Richard Sale, and a score by David Raskin. There have been other films with this type of hostage scenario like the '55 Humphrey Bogart "Desperate Hours" and its 1990 remake, and this is up there with the best. My DVD copy is of the inexpensive variety, a little blurry with imperfect audio (distributed by VINA) but is still fascinating viewing. Filmed almost entirely in one room, it holds one's attention, mostly due to Sinatra's superb performance. Total running time is 75 minutes. "
Sinatra is the bad guy, Hayden is the hero
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of two Frank Sinatra movies that dealt with assasination. The other was "Manchurian Candidate." In this one Frank is the bad guy. Sterling Hayden shows no signs of the future characters he will play in major films of the 60s and 70s (Dr. Strangelove, Godfather). Hayden is just the hick town by-the-book sheriff with the Barney Fifeish assistant. This is not a great movie but it moves along nicely and never gets boring. It has some good "what if" situations. It also has wonderful footage of old cars and trains. This would make a good double feature with "Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" because one film pushes the pro gun totin' policy, and one is opposed to the use of weapons. It may surprise you which is which. This is not the best movie of the 1950s but the issues raised are still out there. Tom Willett"
Excellent Sinatra performance
Carlotta | Alexandria, VA | 07/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've only seen the b/w version and it's an excellent film. Sinatra is chilling as a heartless assassin -- it's hard to remember he's really a beloved crooner. He's a very good actor and it's surprising that this film isn't better known. Moreover, the movie raises issues that are still relevant: mysterious forces behind presidential assassinations, what can ordinary citizens do in the face of evil? what should mothers do when their kids want to play with guns? It's also a reminder of a day when most American men had served in the military or were familiar with guns. It's a snapshot of a small town America that existed 50 years ago but is now vanishing."
Steph | Seattle, WA | 12/03/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this as "new & remastered" as advertised and this DVD actualluy arrived unwrapped and in an obviously used dvd container. The lable on the cover and dvd are self printed, looks like a home job. Not what i expected when i was promised something "new" and "digitaly remastered". Kind of embarrasing to give as a gift like I had intended. it looks home-made, is not wrapped in plastic and sealed. And despite the other reviews I'm seeing mine would not play in my new dvd player. The picture was fuzzy & largely pixilated. If you plan to purchase this I hope you have better luck than I did!"