Sunday, August 9, 2009

An underrated Cary Grant movie

If you didn't like Once Upon a Time, perhaps you might enjoy the little-seen Crisis instead; it's airing at midnight ET tonight (that's 11:00 PM tonight in the Central Time Zone).

Grant plays an American brain surgeon who happens to be on what he hopes will be a quiet vacation in an unnamed Latin American country with his new wife. However, this being the Latin America of 1950, there's quite a bit of unrest, as the country is ruled by a military strongman (José Ferrer), whose dictatorial rule is opposed by a group of rebels (led by Gilbert Roland). Grant would prefer to avoid the political intrigue, but fate has something else in store for him.

Ferrer is sick, with what is apparently a brain tumor. Needless to say, there's only one doctor in all the land who can operate on the dictator, and that just happens to be Grant the visiting gringo. So, Ferrer more or less kidnaps Grant and his wife, and tells Grant he won't let the two of them go until Grant agrees to perform the operation. Grant, for his part, has multiple internal conflices. First, Ferrer is a thoroughly dislikeable man. Also, there's the possibility that if he does perform the operation, that he'll become a target for the rebels himself. And, it's not as though the operation is going to be a routine affair: with the rebels closing in, Ferrer doesn't want to check into a hospital as that would pose a security risk and show a weakness which would embolden the rebels. On the other hand, there's that pesky little Hippocratic Oath telling Grant to do no harm. Eventually, Grant persuades Ferrer to let his wife go, although we know she's going to wind up kidnapped by the rebels....

Crisis is a fascinating little movie, and one that is thought-provoking, too. In fact, it doesn't really take any sides; by the end of the movie, we can see why Ferrer and Roland each think his side is in the right and, why each of them thinks the other side is in the wrong. There are no saints here, not even Grant, who if anything just wants to get the hell out of the situation he's in. Most of the performances are above-average, too. Grant gets the opportunity to shine in one of his all-too-infrequent straight dramatic roles, the ones which showed just how good an actor he could be. Ferrer and Roland are also good, although perhaps the second best performance comes from Signe Hasso, who plays Ferrer's wife, and is quite reminiscent of Evita Perón.

Crisis doesn't seem to have been released to DVD, which is a big shame.

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