Monday, July 13, 2009

Lee Marvin is being mean again

Our next selection is the little-seen movie A Life in the Balance, airing at 7:30 AM ET tomorrow on the Fox Movie Channel. Given its cast, you'd think it would be more remembered than it is, but such are the vagaries of time.

Ricardo Montalban plays a widower in Mexico City struggling to raise his young son. He only works intermittently, and as a result, money is always a problem, and the neighbors want to take custody of the son because they can take better care of him. However, Montalban knows a woman who owes him a bit of money, and he goes to her apartment to collect it. Unfortunately for him, the woman winds up dead, the victim of a serial killer -- and Montalban was the last person seen with the woman, so he's the natural suspect for the police. In fact, at the time of the murder, Montalban was at a pawn shop buying a guitar for his son, where he met the lovely Anne Bancroft. He was on his way to a local night spot, where he was going to meet his son again, and takes Bancroft there with him, so at least he's got an eventual alibi.

The son, on his way to meet his father, happens to see the real murderer, Lee Marvin. Unfortunately, Marvin sees the kid, and kidnaps him. Worse, Marvin is perhaps even more psychotic here than he was in The Big Heat. Eventually, the police decide to use Montalban as bait to find the real killer....

The movie isn't bad, although truth be told, it's not great, either. Everybody is competent, and yet it feels like something is missing. A big plus, however, is the location shooting; the movie was made in Mexico City, and the locations are more than suitably ramshackle. But perhaps the lack of anything special is why the movie isn't so well-remembered, and why it's never been released to DVD. Still, it deserves a viewing.

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