Expanding their television show "China Smith" into a feature film, director Aldrich and star Duryea turned in a taut, exciting, and ultimately grim little film noir. Duryea plays a WW II veteran turned private eye who is based in mysterious Singapore. One day a former lover, Carr, hires
Duryea to extricate her husband from the criminal activities he has become ensnared in. The husband, Knowles, has fallen in with Lockhart, a powerful black marketeer who wants to kidnap a prominent nuclear physicist, Shields, and hold him for ransom to the highest bidder, be it capitalist or
communist. Knowles poses as an Army officer and meets Shields at the airport. The scientist, believing Knowles to be his escort, falls into the trap and is abducted. One of Duryea's informants spots the kidnaping and takes a picture of Knowles and Shields together. The next day the informant turns
up dead and incriminating evidence is found in Duryea's hotel room. When police inspector Dumbrille confronts Duryea with the evidence, the private eye knocks the cop cold and hides out at Carr's place. Duryea surmises that the scientist has been brought to a deserted jungle island and goes there
to find out. British intelligence agent Denny follows Duryea to the island, and the two eventually team up to find Lockhart, Knowles, and Shields. The men find the hideout and decide to take action. In the ensuing battle, Denny is wounded and Duryea finds himself in a room alone with the villains.
With Shields safely outside, Duryea tosses two grenades and ducks for cover. The explosion kills both Lockhart and Knowles, enabling Duryea to escape with Shields. Duryea regretfully informs Carr that he was unable to save her husband from the consequences of his criminal life, but hopes he can
renew his relationship with her. In a shockingly vicious attack on Duryea, Carr slaps his face and informs him that she hates all men, finds them repellent, and that she only put up with Knowles because the relationship was purely platonic. Stunned by her rejection of him, Duryea leaves Carr and
wanders the streets of Singapore.
WORLD FOR RANSOM was shot in merely 10 days, on a budget of $90,000, with director Aldrich halting production to shoot TV commercials needed to raise money for post-production. In the film, Aldrich creates a bleak world where nothing is what it seems and everyone is trapped. The rather sensational
lesbian overtones in Carr's character were even more explicit in the original version of the film, which opened with a lesbian kiss. This, of course, was cut by the censors. Stylistically, Aldrich's visuals are superbly crafted, with the emphasis on enclosure. The camera set-ups and editing serve
to trap the characters in their scenes, refusing to give them room to maneuver. Another fascinating, skillful film from Aldrich, a master of film noir.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Expanding their television show "China Smith" into a feature film, director Aldrich and star Duryea turned in a taut, exciting, and ultimately grim little film noir. Duryea plays a WW II veteran turned private eye who is based in mysterious Singapore. One… (more)