Ralph Meeker and Barbara Stanwyck in Jeopardy (dir. John Sturges, 1953).

Clean-cut all-American family Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, and Lee Aaker (Rusty from the Rin Tin Tin TV series) drive down to a secluded Mexican beach for a relaxing fishing vacation. Sullivan gets trapped under a fallen piling from the dilapidated pier, and Stanwyck must drive off to seek help getting him out before the tide comes in. ("Cuerdo is Mexican for rope!" he tells her as she rushes off.) The only help she can find is Ralph Meeker, a sociopath who has recently escaped from prison. He has no altruistic tendencies whatsoever, and at first is interested only in using her as a hostage and driver. Even once she manages to convince him that rescuing her husband would benefit him (new clothes, equipment, etc.), he makes it a hard bargain for her--and that, as you would expect, is where the Production Code imposes an almost annihilating vagueness on what should be the most psychologically intense part of the film. It's still an engaging thriller in a vein that anticipates Cape Fear, and anyone looking for old under-realized material to remake could do worse than to choose this.

No comments: