24 Hours to Kill off of Turner Classic Movies back in early February, and there it sat on the DVR for two-plus months. I watched five or 10 minutes and was intrigued, but something seemed a little odd. Maybe my gut was ahead of my brain in this case. It's got a couple redeeming features, but mostly....yeah, just bad.
Flying his commercial flight with a full crew and packed airliner, pilot Jamie Faulkner (Lex Barker) is forced to land in Beirut when the plane has engine troubles. He thinks it'll be a quick fix, but mechanics say otherwise. The plane is going to be grounded for 24 hours while the engines are worked on. One of the members of his crew, Norman 'Jonesy' Jones (Mickey Rooney), seems especially distressed at the news, hanging close to the crew as they head into Beirut. What's wrong? What isn't he telling them? He tells Faulkner over drinks that a friend of his robbed a crime syndicate in Beirut of a gold shipment, the syndicate blaming Jonesy for the theft. Is there more to his story? Maybe, but now Faulkner is forced to be on guard for one of the members of his crew while also seeing if he can find out the truth. The clock is ticking.
I typically like 1960s crime thrillers made in Europe and the Middle East. There's a certain low budget hidden away charm that comes from movies like this, movies that aren't readily available or even readily known in the U.S. When 'Kill' popped up on TCM's schedule, I was intrigued. From director Peter Bezencenet, 'Kill' has some potential but it goes nowhere. International intrigue with smuggling and a crime syndicate and all sorts of ulterior motives, nothing wrong there, but the execution just isn't there. The best thing going is the on-location shooting in Beirut, a bit of a time capsule to a city that would be torn apart by war in 1970s with the Lebanese Civil War. The Beirut backdrop provides some gorgeous, very cool locations to a story that unfortunately does not hold its own.
A Hollywood legend who started his career all the way back in the 1920s, Mickey Rooney passed away this April at the age of 93. There isn't much he didn't do over a career that spanned 10 decades. In the second half of his career, Rooney did his best to reinvent himself, taking darker, more sinister roles than the ones audiences had come to expect from him. This performance certainly qualifies, an airplane engineer who clearly isn't letting on to everything he knows. A bad guy is one thing, but a lousy character is another. Rooney does his best, but this is not a well-written character. It's basically a series of bluffs as Jonesey sees what he can get away with in dealing with both his friends among the crew and the syndicate trying to track him down. All he does is whine and moan, getting into one stupid situation after another. I'm a big Rooney fan, but this isn't his best moment.
So as mentioned, a lot of that has to do with the script. The on-location shooting in Beirut is a definite positive, but I'm also beginning to suspect maybe Lebanon had some financial backing to advertise their city. A script that should have been a more modern film noir simply falls short. It becomes light comedy as we hang out with Jamie's crew, including babely Louise (Helga Sommerfeld), who Jamie has some sort of relationship with (I'm thinking work mistress). There's also Tommy (Michael Medwin), a ladies man with a little black book who's ignoring the advances of similarly babely Franzi (France Anglade), another stewardess. Oh, and there's co-pilot Kurt (Wolfgang Lukschy) who's struggling with a gambling addiction of sorts. Who cares?!? Focus on the crime syndicate and all the underhanded, dastardly doings from the criminal underworld, not a travel guide for Beirut!
It's a 94-minute movie without much in the way of energy, just a series of scenes joined by tourist detours around the city. The ending doesn't pull any punches, but by then it's too late. I had checked out long before. If there's a minor positive, it's Walter Slezak in Bond-villain mode as Malouf, the mysterious bad guy in the syndicate who wears a Fez, has an imbecile enforcer who's a doctor, and a hot blonde limo driver. Other than that? Steer clear.
24 Hours to Kill (1965): */****