Cry Danger, Pitfall and Murder, My Sweet. Then in the 50s he re-invented himself once again as a producer and director. His first movie as director was Split Second. His directing career (which included the classic war movie The Enemy Below) was cut short by his untimely death in 1963.
Split Second is an odd and interesting kind of hybrid thriller. The main plot is standard hardboiled crime movie fare. Convicted killer Sam Hurley (Stephen McNally) has broken out of prison along with Bart Moore (Paul Kelly). Moore has a bullet in him, courtesy of a prison guard, and he needs a doctor real bad. After meeting up with another hoodlum pal they hijack a car and they decide to take the two occupants of the car, Kay Garven (Alexis Smith) and Arthur Ashton (Robert Paige) with them as hostages.
There’s another interesting twist. Kay Garven is a married woman, but she isn’t married to Arthur Ashton. She might not be married to him but she sure does seem to be mighty friendly with him. She’s actually married to a doctor. This gives Sam Hurley a bright idea. He rings up Dr Garven (Richard Egan) and tells him to meet them at a spot he has chosen out in the desert where the doctor can patch up Bart Moore’s bullet wound. If he doesn’t turn up to the rendezvous Hurley will kill his wife. This will lead to another interesting plot twist.
One more character is added to the mix when grizzled old prospector Asa Tremaine (Athur Hunnicut) shows up.
It’s naturally a more than slightly tense atmosphere at the hideout and to make things more complicated Kay Garven suddenly decides that she thinks bad boys like Sam Hurley are incredibly sexy.
Everyone is getting jumpy and the hostages are wondering whether Sam Hurley has any intention of allowing them to leave the place alive. So they start thinking about their options. Those options are very very limited but if they don’t do something their prospects are even grimmer. It now becomes a psychological thriller as we find out just how these people will behave under extreme stress. Some will behave bravely. Some will behave foolishly. Some will behave cynically. Some will behave very badly indeed.
Given the setup, with an atomic bomb about to explode, the challenge was to make the ending exciting enough to justify the buildup. That challenge is met very effectively and very neatly.
Odeon Entertainment’s all-region DVD is barebones (apart from a trailer) but it’s cheap and it provides a very good transfer. The film has also been released in the Warner Archive made-on-demand series.
Split Second is a bit of an oddity and its claims to being film noir are a little shaky but it’s a nifty little movie and it’s highly recommended.