Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All of the suspense, none of the drunken anti-Semitic rants

TCM is showing Ransom! early tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM ET. No, not the Mel Gibson movie from the late 1990s, but the original Glenn Ford version from 40 years before that.

Glenn Ford stars as the father of a stereotypical 1950s father: a well-off business man with a trophy wife (Donna Reed), servants, and a young son. Unfortunately for him, his life is about to be turned upside-down when that son doesn't come home from school one day. The kid has been kidnapped, and soon enough, Ford gets a ransom message: the kidnappers want a cool half million dollars. This is the 1950s, when America had not yet been so desensitized to such crime, although the beginnings of that show up in this movie. There's the usual question of whether to pay the kidnappers the ransom, or to refuse, and run the risk of the victim being killed. (Of course, there's also the risk that you pay the ransom, and the kidnappers kill the victim anyway.) Ford soon finds the new media camping at his doorstep, led by newspaperman Leslie Nielsen in one of his earliest movies, and eventually decides to use that new media to his advantage, going on TV to taunt the kidnappers, telling them that he'll never pay the ransom, and hunt them to the ends of the earth if they kill his son.

Ransom is a jarring movie. Unlike a movie such as D.O.A., there's never any examination of why this nice little family should be a victim; instead, it's presented more as random violence that could happen to almost anybody. Nowadays, we all expect the 24-hour-a-day news media to be hounding the put-upon victims of crime, but 50 years ago, nobody could really be prepared for it, despite any number of Hollywood movies from that era dealing with the subject (see also Ace in the Hole). Glenn Ford is excellent as always; and Nielsen isn't bad, as he hadn't had any time to become the acting parody we've seen ever since Airplane!. Donna Reed is underused, though; unlike Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much, she spends much of the time in the background instead of taking part in the effort to find the kid. Also in the cast is Juano Hernandez as the servant, who had recently worked with Ford in the excellent Trial. The only problem the movie has is the ending, which comes across as the writers not having any idea how to wrap up the plot.

Sadly, this version of Ransom! doesn't seem to have been released to DVD.

No comments: