Starting off the month of “Noir-vember,” we have the 1957 film Five Steps To Danger, starring Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pickled Pink (1965)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
A drunk invites the Pink Panther into his home, but they have to avoid his wife, who threatens to throw any of her husband’s “friends” out of the house. Not as original a cartoon, with the drunk and his wife having speaking roles. The gags seem a little too familiar, taking away from the fun. Definitely a lesser Pink Panther cartoon, but, considering it was early on, with them still trying to figure out what to do, it can be forgiven.
And Now For The Main Feature…
John Emmett (Sterling Hayden) is on his vacation when his car breaks down. When towed to a garage, he finds out that it will take too long to repair, and sells the car. There, he meets another traveler, Ann Nicholson (Ruth Roman), who offers him a ride if he will help her drive to Santa Fe, to which he agrees. However, at a diner, he meets Helen Bethke (Jeanne Cooper), a nurse who claims that Ann has had a mental breakdown. She says Ann is being encouraged to take a trip by her psychiatrist, Dr. Simmons (Werner Klemperer), and asks John to go with her, which he still agrees to do. The trip becomes more interesting, however, when two sheriffs pull John and Ann over and try to arrest them for a murder in Los Angeles supposedly committed by Ann. They get away, but John becomes suspicious of Ann and her rush to get to Santa Fe. So she tells him she had been sent by a friend of her brother’s to bring some information about guided missiles to an old family friend, Dr. Reinhardt Kissel, and she had discovered he was in Santa Fe. John decides to come along with her anyway, although when they come to a college that they had heard that Dr. Kissel was teaching at, they learn from Dean Brant (Richard Gaines) that he wasn’t there at all! So John takes Ann to a hotel, where he leaves her with Dr. Simmons and her nurse before moving on to the fishing lodge he had a reservation at. However, Dr. Simmons believes Ann needs to be put in a sanitarium, and makes arrangements to do so (although Ann escapes before she can be taken there). Meanwhile, CIA agent Kirk Patrick (Charles Davis) comes to John and tells him that Dr. Kissel is working for them at a nearby government testing facility. After the CIA agent leaves, Ann shows up. Figuring out that they love each other, they decide to get married and then go to the government facility to see Dr. Kissel. However, Ann determines that the man working there as Dr. Kissel is an imposter, and she tells CIA agent Kirk Patrick. But can they catch all the undercover Soviet agents?
I will admit, Five Steps To Danger, which is based on the Donald Hamilton story The Steel Mirror, barely qualifies as noir. It has hints of it, don’t get me wrong, but it also feels like more of a combination of Cold War-era spy thrillers and Gaslight. Admittedly, I wouldn’t say that the gaslighting that goes on here is anywehere near as good as what happens in that classic film, nor is it necessarily that good of a spy thriller. But, I blame that mostly on the script, which wanders around a little too much. I think the actors do a decent job with what they are given, especially Werner Klemperer (and boy, after having seen him for years on the TV series Hogan’s Heroes, it sure feels weird seeing him actually playing a competent, smart character). It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it has enough good points to it that it is a movie I would recommend giving a try!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Five Steps To Danger (1957)
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. According to the disc case, this movie was restored from the original camera negative. I will definitely say that this transfer looks pretty darn good! Sure, there are a few specks and dirt here and there, but they are minor at best, and do not take away from an otherwise good-looking release. So for its transfer alone, this is the best way to see the movie!
Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Great Day In The Morning (1956) – Ruth Roman
Crime Of Passion (1957) – Sterling Hayden