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USA/United Kingdom 1963
Directed by
John Huston
99 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The List Of Adrian Messenger

In what is a retro old school detective mystery George C. Scott plays Anthony Gethryn, a former British MI5 agent who is asked by his friend, Adrian Messenger (John Merivale), a famous writer, to investigate the whereabouts of the people on a list without giving him the reason why he should do so. It soon becomes apparent to Gethryn that dirty deeds are the order of the day and when Messenger is killed (in a particularly draconian way) he sets out to unravel the mystery.

Based on a novel by Philip MacDonald and written by Anthony Veiller the tilm is a passably entertaining affair although the gimmick which is its main appeal has considerably dated. This is apparent very early in the piece when we are shown that a character who looks like he has dipped his face in pancake batter is not only the killer (only we, the audience, know that) but Kirk Douglas. The rest of the film concerns the heavily made-up Douglas donning a series of disguises to knock off his victims with the doughty Gethryn on his tail.

The early reveal of Douglas is a mistake as, the cat having fled, we are left with little to engage except Gethryn’s sleuthing which is in any case largely done for him off-screen. The film is padded out with satirizing the English upper-class in the form of the stuffy old, hunt-mad Marquis of Gleneyre (Clive Brook) it ending with a coda revealing the A-list stars who had cameos - Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Frank Sinatra but as the makeup is so schonky it is hardly much of a treat (no amount of make-up could disguise Robert Mitchum’s ugly mug) even allowing for the fact that contemporary audiences may have been more persuaded.

FYI: An inverted version of the main conceit was done to much better effect in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).




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