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Calcutta

Posted by martinteller on November 3, 2012

“He was a nice kid.  Whoever did it ought to have his neck stretched.”

Neale Gordon (Alan Ladd) and Pedro Blake (William Bendix) are pilots working the route between Calcutta and Chungking.  They’re surprised to hear that their buddy Bill (John Whitney) is engaged.  They’re more surprised the next day to hear that he’s been strangled to death.  Gordon and Blake take it upon themselves to find out who did it, and uncover a smuggling ring.  But how does Bill’s beautiful fiancée Virginia (Gail Russell) fit in, and is Gordon making a mistake in falling for her?

I almost feel it’s unfair to judge this movie based on the lousy print I watched.  See that screenshot above?  That’s about as good as it gets.  It was often like watching a glob of gray smears moving across the screen, no detail at all.  But a murky transfer doesn’t do much to obscure the narrative, which in this case is very standard potboiler stuff.  Nothing that interesting is happening, plotwise.  It’s satisfying in the sense that it adds up, but there are no real surprises and it’s all pretty formulaic.

Ladd and Bendix are always strong presences, unfortunately we don’t get much of Bendix.  Ladd’s misogynistic streak is the most striking thing about his character, his distrust of women makes him a good companion for the laid back lounge singer Marina (a sultry performance by June Duprez) but out of his league with the more mysterious and intense Virginia.

The casting of Russell is a strange choice.  An actress with striking features but crippled by shyness and stage fright, Russell took to the bottle until she drank herself into a heart attack at age 36.  Her tentative, subdued performance makes her a less than ideal femme fatale, but a refreshingly unusual one.

Unfortunately there’s not much else of interest going on here.  There’s a fun appearance by Edith King, who comes off as something like a female version of Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca.  Little is made of the exotic locale except the usual Oriental clichés.  Might be worth checking out again if there’s ever a restored transfer, from what I could tell the photography seemed all right.  But the story and dialogue are lackluster and although the performances are fine, they don’t have much to sell.  Rating: Fair (63)

IMDb
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