MACAO (1952) 

[Get the Poster]

Robert Mitchum
Jane Russell
William Bendix
Thomas Gomez
Gloria Grahame
Brad Dexter
Edward Ashley

Josef von Sternberg


Mitchum Collection

Time: 81 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Action/Thriller

This is one of those films that would have long disappeared if it weren't for the pedigree of the cast and reputation of the director. Mitchum and Russell are thrown together yet again in a mysterious locale under dubious circumstances. Unfortunately, this time around the only thing that's remotely interesting is their burgeoning onscreen relationship. The plot seems to have been cobbled together from every other Film Noir/Action adventure of the time: Down on her luck luscious lounge singer randomly meets a mysterious, manly, yet kind-hearted stranger who may or may not be telling the truth about who he is. Lies and deception follow as the couple tries hard not to fall for each other or get killed by the nefarious forces running the island. The trouble is there's not enough mystery or bad behavior to be a true film noir – both of the lead characters are exactly who they say they are and neither has an ulterior motive for being in Macao – and since they're trapped on an island the action sequences aren't really heart pounding either. Once they get to Macao it's pretty clear where the plot is going.

Brad Dexter tries really hard to be dangerous as the film's villain, but he's mostly just an arrogant casino owner and thief who occasionally uses his hired help to commit murder. He's just out of his league in this cast, failing to leave much of an impression, which is a problem if you're the lead bad guy. Bendix gives a fun and clever performance as the detective who's trying to extradite Dexter back to New York. He shows up on Macao pretending to be an international salesman and he's convincing as both rube and cop. Of course, since we know a detective is on the island and we're actually TOLD it isn't Mitchum, it takes away the "surprise" when we "discover" that it's Bendix. There's a bit of suspense in the middle when he hires Mitchum to do his dirty work by suckering Dexter into a deal that will force him into international waters, but the outcome is fairly obvious with Mitchum being the star and all. His work does get him into a bit of hot water with Russell, which is cleverly handled and gives Gloria Grahame at least a few moments to shine. She doesn't have much to do here except look annoyed and pretty. Apparently, her desire to be cut of of the film was granted as much as they could without ruining the story flow altogether.

Neither Mitchum nor Russell will be remembered for their work here. They have enough star power and chemistry to hold your interest, but not to excite it. The dialogue has plenty of snap and crackle, giving the deja-vu story more sparkle than it deserves. Except for the opening, the set design makes it pretty clear that you're on a soundstage, though the final chase across a group of small scows anchored in the harbor makes the location seem a bit more genuine. If you want real adventure with your sexual chemistry, check out their first pairing in HIS KIND OF WOMAN, where you get a villain worth the name and enough intrigue to choke a horse. While not a film to be embarrassed by, there's not much to recommend it either.

"My fatal charm. Never misses. Except with the women."

home | reviews | actors | actresses | film heaven | all reviews