Ken Annakin is one of the most widely traveled international directors in cinema annals, journeying to every continent to accept the kinds of creative challenges daring filmmakers, in the ranks of which he definitely resides, thrive upon. Among his celebrated triumphs are "The Longest Day," in which he directed the most difficult battle scenes of Darryl F. Zanuck's classic, "Swiss Family Robinson," one of the industry's all-time grossers,and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," a brilliant spoof containing some of the most inventive scenes in aviation filmmaking, for which he and co-scenarist Jack Davies received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. "Across the Bridge," a great British film shot in Spain, on its 1957 release was heralded as a suspense classic along the lines of Carol Reed's "The Third Man" eight years earlier. Reed led the early chorus of praise for a film unique in its presentation that traces the degradation of a haughty, corrupt, and thoroughly arrogant international financier who sees his world of opulence destroyed piece by piece when, after being alerted that Scotland Yard is pursuing him on fraud charges, travels from New York to Texas and, ultimately, Mexico to elude authorities. Adapted from a Graham Greene story, the same celebrated British author who wrote the screenplay for "The Third Man," Annakin aided scenarists John Stafford and Guy Elmes in their effort to convert a short story into a full-fledged drama concentrating on the psychology of greed interspersed with the theme of alienation. When Rod Steiger, who catapulted to international stardom portraying the hunted international financier, arrives in Mexico, he learns that Bernard Lee of Scotland Yard is nipping at his heels.Read more ›
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Interesting expansion of a Graham Greene short story. A millionaire embezzler tries to steal another man's identity and escape to Mexico.
Rod Steiger is terrific in the lead and boldly unafraid to be unsympathetic. There's a solid noir feeling to the story, themes and especially the cinematography. There's a good deal of tension, too.
On the other hand, the whole story depends on not just one but two whopping coincidences, along with a couple of those 'why doesn't the character just...?' moments, which hurt the overall effectiveness of the film. The score is a bit over the top too.
But, for any faults it's still a well made, thinking person's thriller, worth seeking out if you're a fan of the genre or the elements.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Film Noir ClassicFeb. 28 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
Ken Annakin is one of the most widely traveled international directors in cinema annals, journeying to every continent to accept the kinds of creative challenges daring filmmakers, in the ranks of which he definitely resides, thrive upon. Among his celebrated triumphs are "The Longest Day," in which he directed the most difficult battle scenes of Darryl F. Zanuck's classic, "Swiss Family Robinson," one of the industry's all-time grossers,and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," a brilliant spoof containing some of the most inventive scenes in aviation filmmaking, for which he and co-scenarist Jack Davies received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. "Across the Bridge," a great British film shot in Spain, on its 1957 release was heralded as a suspense classic along the lines of Carol Reed's "The Third Man" eight years earlier. Reed led the early chorus of praise for a film unique in its presentation that traces the degradation of a haughty, corrupt, and thoroughly arrogant international financier who sees his world of opulence destroyed piece by piece when, after being alerted that Scotland Yard is pursuing him on fraud charges, travels from New York to Texas and, ultimately, Mexico to elude authorities. Adapted from a Graham Greene story, the same celebrated British author who wrote the screenplay for "The Third Man," Annakin aided scenarists John Stafford and Guy Elmes in their effort to convert a short story into a full-fledged drama concentrating on the psychology of greed interspersed with the theme of alienation. When Rod Steiger, who catapulted to international stardom portraying the hunted international financier, arrives in Mexico, he learns that Bernard Lee of Scotland Yard is nipping at his heels. International law temporarily prevents Lee from crossing the American border in Texas to apprehend the fugitive businessman, so Steiger plots to put more distance between himself and Lee. Standing in the way is local police chief Noel Willman, who frustrates Steiger repeatedly by spurning his offers to bribe his way out of town. Willman, who achieves sadistic delight by watching the once powerful, now helpless Steiger squirm, plays his trump card ruthlessly, compelling his victim to remain where he is, unable to secure passage out of town and frustrated by Lee from crossing into Texas. The film scales a psychological crescendo when the once potent and arrogant international financier is reduced to sleeping in dusty culverts under the stars, with one friend left to him in the world. For once his money is of no benefit. Steiger's lone friend is a dog named Dolores, acquired as he was leaving the train in Texas after knocking its owner unconscious and stealing his identity. The identity switch ultimately backfires when Steiger learns that his victim, played by Bill Nagy, is wanted for the murder of the provincial governor of the border region to which Steiger has retreated in putting distance between himself and Scotland Yard. While initially praised as a brilliantly conceived and executed suspense film, with subsequent development of the field of film noir "Across the Bridge" has secured a position of leading recognition as one of the greatest British productions in that genre, a worthy successor to Carol Reed's "The Third Man" eight years earlier. It it one of those rare films that totally captures emotions while seizing the imagination, with Rod Steiger achieving milestone dramatic results.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An unjustly negected classicNov. 5 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Across the Bridge has one of those titles that makes it sound like an Arthur Miller play but is actually based on one of Graham Greene's guilt-wracked stories. And it's a corker, with a great premise that reminds you that before he moved on to guilt, infidelity and Catholicism, Greene wrote cracking pulp thrillers like A Gun for Sale. Rod Steiger is powerful and shady financier Carl Schaffner, on the run from the British police in America and trying to cross the border into Mexico before he can be extradited. So he does what any one of us would do - kills another person who looks vaguely similar to steal his Mexican passport and travel unhindered on that. Naturally, things go wrong. He finds himself saddled with the dead man's dog. The dead man turns out to be a killer wanted by the Mexican police. And the dead man turns out not to be dead. And that's not the least of it, as the unexpected plot twists mount while Schaffner starts to look like the least corrupt person in the film compared to the strokes Noel Willman's patiently greedy Mexican police chief and Bernard Lee's determined but less than ethical Scotland Yard man are willing to pull to either get his money or lure him across the bridge...
Ken Annakin's film may be shot on location in Spain, but it has a resolutely British studio look to both its photography and its interior work (as well as its rather over-emphatic James Bernard score) - you can take the British out of Britain but not the Britishness out of their films, it seems. Not that that's a complaint: indeed, it gives the film a strange texture that you don't naturally associate with this kind of material that adds to its anonymously professional uniqueness. Steiger's performance is at once theatrical (while contained enough not to descend into the ham of later roles) yet convincing - and the existence of similar fraudsters like Robert Maxwell only adds to the credibility. But more than that, as he is stripped of everything, he attains a genuine heroic quality. That it manifests itself in an almost pathetic act to repay the only soul in the world that does not betray him only makes this shambling, ungainly figure all the more tragic. And who can blame him - one look into Dolores' eyes and you'd do the same.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
How to Impress your Cinephile FriendsJune 30 2012
Gerard D. Launay
- Published on Amazon.com
If your friend - the film buff - tries to overwhelm you with his or her knowledge of some obscure classic, ask him or her to offer an opinion about "Across the Bridge." Don't be surprised if the film expert suddenly goes blank and says that he or she is unaware of the film, so why is it so impressive. But make no mistake, this is a terrific classic - and a thinking person's movie.
One of the 20th century's best method actors - Rod Steiger - felt that, along with "The Pawnbroker", this was his finest film. Explain to your film buff that just like "The Third Man", this British film is based on a short story of Graham Greene. Tell him or her that the film directors and critics in Britain were deeply impressed with the movie at the time it was initially screened and thought it was one of the best "Rank" production in years. But most of all, form your own opinion of the merits of the movie.
Time and Place? 1956, New York City. The story involves an international businessman who discovers that Scotland Yard is investigating his involvement in a major financial scandal and loss of funds. Thinking he is one step ahead of everyone, the businessman has already prepared for this eventuality. Carl Schaffner (Rod Steiger) has stashed away one million dollars in Mexico in the event he needs to run; therefore he quickly and calmly boards a train to go across the border. There is more than a little hint that Carl Schaffner may not even be the capitalist's real name and that in Germany he was a former Nazi officer.
On the train, Schaffner accidentally meets an American - Paul Scarff (Bill Nagy) - who is planning to meet his wife. Unlike Carl Schaffner...Mr. Scarff has a Mexican passport. So Schaffner gets Mr. Scarff unconscious with alcohol and drugs, and viciously pushes him out of the train...all to assume his identity. Later on, he discovers the explosive fact that Mr. Scarff himself is a fugitive. Scarff is being sought in Mexico for political assassination. Worse than that, there is a big price on his head.
When Carl Schaffner - posing as Mr. Scarff - arrives in Mexico, his driver reports him to the authorities so as to obtain the ransom. Now Scarff/Schaffner has to persuade the Mexican police that he is a lawbreaker, yes, but just the ruthless business capitalist....not the killer.
There are many twists and turns in this story, including the fact that Carl Schaffner is stuck with Paul Scarff's dog, an animal which initially rejects him. In Mexico the authorities toy with Schaffner and reduce him to poverty. The Mexican police captain played by Noel Willman - whose experience is as a Shakespearean actor - gives an immense performance. Ostensibly polite, he creates a net of terror for Carl Schaffner. It is the captain's silences that have the most power.
The experience is life-changing for Carl Schaffner. A lot of credit goes to the film director in creating situations where even the audience can sympathize with the misfortunes befalling this reprehensible man. And yes, the ending is a stunner..it will last in your mind forever.
I simply cannot say enough good things about this film - I believe it is close to the quality of some of the best film noirs and even of Hitchcock's oevre. Every minute of the film is pregnant with suspense. True, the cinematography is adequate, not extraordinary. The dialogue contains no intriguing crackling lines as in, let's say, "Double Indemnity" or "Sunset Blvd". Nevertheless... at all times the characters turn out to be quite believable. In this film more than one man is "on the take", but there are definitely individuals of integrity...even some small goodness in Carl Schaffner.
A thriller that is so much more than that!June 3 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
I first got turned onto Rod Steiger's films when I read this article years ago about the most underserving Lead Actor Oscar wins and Steiger's 1967 win for `In the Heat of the Night' was ranked in the top ten. They were griping about him beating out Newman in particular, and so I decided to give the film a watch, and while I found it good (not great) I must say that Steiger was exceptional in the film. Whether he deserved to beat Newman is certainly debatable (I personally sway between the two on many days) but to say he was one of the most undeserving was ridiculous. So, with that performance engraved in my mind, I wanted more.
I have yet to be disappointed!
`Across the Bridge' is a little seen yet largely lauded (by those who have seen it) thriller from 1957 where Steiger plays a corporate exec named Carl, on the run from the FEDS after he's caught embezzling money. On a train to Mexico he runs across a man allegedly returning home to his wife and child and so, seeing his opportunity, Carl attempts to kill the man and steal his identity. What he uncovers after getting off the train is that this man was a wanted man and he is now having to hide his new identity. Things only get more complicated when the man thought dead turns up and the Mexican police get whiff of it all, and once both sides start crowding in on Carl his options become limited.
Beautifully played, `Across the Bridge' is a bundle of suspense that allows the star, Steiger, to dig deep and deliver a tour-de-force performance that is above and beyond what I expected. Cycling the man's selfishness and cold hearted soul and then corroding that with his eventual exhaustion, conscience and loneliness (his downfall is heartbreaking), Steiger creates a man we can all relate with and rally for and against simultaneously. Annakin's directorial efforts are crisp and add layers of realism to every frame, and the film marvelously attacks its subject with gusto.
It's hard to come by, but if you come by it I highly recommend giving it a spin!
Dog daysMarch 9 2015
- Published on Amazon.com
Across the Bridge is one of those b&w films from the past which is based on a short story by Graham Greene,which has been augmented with other characters,fleshing out the back story,and has been ignited by a considerable performance from leading actor, Rod Steiger,who turns up the intensity.This is really good and stands up to scrutiny.Steiger is on the run from the law in England for criminal embezzlement and heads down to Mexico.He is rich and has taken over another man's identity(and his dog)but soon finds that man is wanted for $100,000 and is a killer.This recalls Antonioni's The Passenger,in some of its themes.
In Mexico the Police chief harasses him and takes his passport, making it clear he can't cross the Bridge that leads to America,so he has him tailed,stops his telegrams and movements or hands them over to a detective from Scotland Yard(Bernard Lee).Steiger has a mean presence and is confounded in every way,even sent up by the local street kids. He's in a one horse Mexican town,the gringo,who can't get himself a room,once his landlady's found out how his grassing on his `double'got him killed, so he has to sleep rough on the streets.The man whose identity he stole had a dog who latches onto him,despite his contempt for the mutt.Yet the dog saves him from a scorpion,while he's out sleeping in the sun on a dusty road.Other people are after the reward for the killer's capture.Is it him?
Greene's Mexico is like a burnished stage set at the fag-end of the world. Steiger plays the fugitive with no friends with a sweaty grandeur.Loved the dog. Quite a find as I only just saw it in 2015.