Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Walk a Tightrope (1964)
Having a bad day at work is something that happens to everyone. Even hired killers like Carl Lutcher (Dan Duryea). Lutcher is having a really bad day. It was such a simple job but now it’s blown up in his face. It’s not just that things did not go quite as expected - things took an absolutely bewildering turn.
Lutcher is not the only one who is bewildered. It seems that everyone involved is confused and disturbed. Including the victim’s widow. Everyone is adamant about what happened but no-one’s story agrees with anyone else’s and no-one’s story makes sense.
As soon as we start to think that one of the people involved is telling a pretty plausible story something happens to plunge us into doubt again.
We also see the seeds of suspicion starting to plant themselves in the minds of various characters, and there’s a growing sense of paranoia.
These were the days when producers of low-budget British movies liked to use imported has-been American stars whose careers were sufficiently on the downward slope that they would work for peanuts. Surprisingly it’s something that more often than not worked very well, since those superannuated Hollywood stars were often very fine actors. In this case we have Dan Duryea whose career was severely in the doldrums. Duryea was however a great actor and at a time when he was grateful for any work this was an excellent part that suited him down to the ground. He makes the most of it. Duryea was always marvellous at playing mean nasty manipulative characters who were also slightly pathetic. By the time he made this one the years were visibly starting to catch up with him and that adds a certain poignancy to his performance. Carl Lutcher is contemptible but he’s such a sorry loser we almost feel sorry for him.
Richard Leech does a good job as the best friend who’s as ambiguous as all the other characters. Special mention should be made of Shirley Cameron’s touching performance as Lutcher’s devoted girlfriend Maisie.
Network’s Region 2 DVD is barebones but the anamorphic transfer is lovely. The movie was shot in black-and-white and it looks terrific.
Walk a Tightrope is a well above average murder mystery with a cleverly constructed plot and fine performances. Highly recommended and if you’re a Dan Duryea fan it’s obviously a must-see.