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Film

From Stockholm with Love, Robert Mitchum Anchors the Good-Looking 'Foreign Intrigue'

Foreign Intrigue is a continual pleasure to the eye, shot in various locales of mid-'50s Europe with creamy colors and elegant camera moves by Bertil Palmgren.


Foreign Intrigue

Director: Sheldon Reynolds
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Genevieve Page
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Year: 1956
USDVD release date: 2015-08-04

Foreign Intrigue is a fascinating curio for the connoisseur of cinematic byways. No classic, it's mainly a talky and derivative tale as generic as its title. Yet it's very well done: a continual pleasure to the eye, shot in various locales of mid-'50s Europe with creamy colors and elegant camera moves by Bertil Palmgren, always tilting upwards or downwards at its actors amid Maurice Petri's beautiful production design, edited with quaint and pretty transitional swipes, and at all times anchored by Robert Mitchum's cagey authority as he wanders the shadowy streets between dalliances with the decorative seductiveness of Ingrid Thulin and Geneviève Page as the good/bad female opposites in his life.

The opening sequence, set on a lavish Riviera estate, unfolds to the strains of a romantic "Foreign Intrigue Concerto" by Charles Norman. The aging lord of the manor (Jean Galland) brings a red carnation inside and promptly has a heart attack in his library. His press agent, Dave Bishop (Robert Mitchum), discovers the dying man and, out of curiosity and cussedness, embarks on a trail across Europe to learn the secrets of his employer's fortune and mysterious past, which may have something to do with blackmailing wealthy industrialists.

The ungrieving widow (Page), who frankly admits being purchased as another possession, pursues her own agenda while Bishop travels to Vienna and Stockholm, where he meets another beauty (Thulin, billed as Tulean) who engages in a long dialogue about her lack of sophistication. That scene with Bishop is typical of the movie: the dialogue isn't snappy but it's smart, and except for a few inserted closeups, it's presented in one quietly stylish master shot that dollies into the terrace and follows them down to the yard.

Although it eventually makes sense, the story unfolds as a complicated puzzle that requires Bishop (a chess piece?) to jump across Europe and cross paths with many shady pawns in search of hidden kings and queens. Composer Paul Durand uses a jaunty, mocking, woodblock theme that implies an attempt to evoke the teasing zither oddity of The Third Man. The plot more closely resembles Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin (and therefore Citizen Kane ), the labyrinthine uncovering of a dead tycoon's past.

This intelligent affair is written, produced and directed by Sheldon Reynolds, an American TV producer based in Europe. He created and produced Foreign Intrigue as a four-season syndicated series, with this movie as a follow-up based on the show. It has brief appearances by three characters from the series: Vienna journalist Tony Forrest (associate producer John Padovano) and two employes of that city's Hotel Frontier (the backdrop for the show's final season), the aged concierge Starky (John Starck) and bartender Dodo (Gilbert Robin). These recurring characters were so minor that they aren't listed in the standard TV reference books for this series; none of the show's major regulars appear in the film.

While both series and movie were shot in many different locales, Reynolds' base was Stockholm, with the result that much of the crew and cast are Swedish and many are associated with Ingmar Bergman. An example is Thulin, who appeared as various characters in several episodes of the series and stars in the film. Also in the picture are Frédéric O'Brady, Eugene Deckers, Inga Tidblad and Lauritz Falk as suspicious characters, with Georges Hubert and Frederick Schreicker as fussy old plot devices that get the ball rolling, Lily Kann as a stoic blind housekeeper, and Milo Sperber as an efficient bureaucrat.

Although it could stand a full-blown restoration it won't receive, this Blu-ray print often looks rich and delicious, while the trailer is comparatively worn and pale.

6

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