Set in Greece and Commie Albania (the latter role played by Spain), Van Johnson is a boat captain and cynical soldier of fortune (!) hired by a French woman (Martine Carol) to smuggle her into Albania so that she can organise the rescue of her imprisoned political prisoner brother (Who is blind, of course). A group of Albanian refugee children are also in need of rescuing (once again, of course), much to surly Johnson’s annoyance. Herbert Lom turns up as an amorous, gregarious Albanian bandit roped into helping them out, though his main concern is taking the French girl for himself. A young Sean Connery plays Johnson’s frequently drunk and volatile first mate.
Surprisingly lousy C-movie from director Terence Young (“Dr. No”, “From Russia With Love”) and screenwriter Robert Carson (“A Star is Born”, “Beau Geste”, “Western Union”) features a decent cast, but goes nowhere for far too long. By the time lively Herbert Lom shows up he doesn’t have to do a whole helluva lot to steal it, and he’s welcome to it.
Lead actor Van Johnson is merely OK, and surprisingly charmless. It’s not an ideal role for him, something better suited to Robert Mitchum, Robert Taylor, or a latter day Clark Gable. Hell, Richard Widmark would’ve been perfect. Johnson is a fine actor, but he ain’t no Richard Widmark, that’s for damn sure. He does bring a bit of cynicism to the part, just not much masculinity or toughness. Martine Carol has a hot body, but is otherwise a bland actress and a run-of-the-mill 60s era European beauty (She was a rather sad woman it seems, who died in her 40s of a heart attack). Talented character actor Anthony M. Dawson (“Dr. No”) is wasted in a throwaway part as a villainous security officer, and he seems dubbed to me, too.
The scenery and Muir Mathieson (“Genevieve”, “21 Days”, “In Which We Serve”, “Henry V”) music score stand out (some sources credit Humphrey Searle for some reason, but the opening credits say Muir Mathieson), but the film evaporates before your very eyes. Interesting casting of pre-James Bond (and pre-Playboy interview) Sean Connery as a drunken, lecherous thug, though. Real interesting indeed. The film itself is slow, tedious, and perhaps deserves to be forgotten.