LASHED TOGETHER BY THE SAME SIN AND THE SAME SECRET!
Can a couple keep important secrets from Communist spies?
Can a couple keep important secrets from Communist spies?
Five Steps to Danger, Red invisible, Le miroir au secret, Abwehr greift ein
Sure, it's totally nuts, but frankly 5 Steps to Danger is one of the better films that I've seen on TCM's Noir Alley in recent times. It’s sort of like The 39 Steps plus Detour multiplied by Cold War intrigue, which is particularly amusing since The 39 Steps star Madeleine Carroll was once married to 5 Steps to Danger's iconic noir leading man, Sterling Hayden. I'm not exactly Hayden's biggest fan, but I think he does very well here as a vacationing Everyman who crosses paths with Ruth Roman, a woman driving to Santa Fe with a remarkable story to tell: she's a German immigrant whose parents died during the war, her brother was murdered when he was picked up…
If one can get over the weirdness of seeing Sterling Hayden and Ruth Roman as innocent, good eggs, 5 Steps to Danger is still, well, pretty difficult to buy.
It's the kind of Cold War movie in which everything is fraught with danger, but which also only works if its main characters are entirely credulous no matter what happens, and no matter the situation. While virtually every "the commies are already here!" narrative, both cinematically and politically, requires a degree of naiveté to be effective, since Ruth Roman's character is actively involved in transporting secret information that she smuggled out of Germany, her wide-eyed assumption that everyone has her best intentions at heart seems ill-advised at best.
It's also the…
A simple film without much of note, but Sterling Hayden did earnestly propose marriage to Ruth Roman at one point to protect her (cute!) and he radiated strong reassuring tall man energy.
"I'm hunting for a man."
"Well, I guess, maybe men are always in season, huh?"
Ruth Roman AND Sterling Hayden 😍😍😍 casting just for me, I'm sure.
Within my favorite genre, I have a real predilection for the subset of noirs in which characters pick each other up inside making-ends-meet roadside diners along dark desert Los Angeles highways and figuratively and literally handcuff themselves to one another.
Upon hitting the road shortly thereafter, seeds of mistrust are sewn with every passing mile, and the pair soon find themselves in enough trouble that they're having to evade the law by switching cars while thinking fast at playing mounting odds coming at them from every angle.
The instant ease and slow-pull attraction between Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden is more compelling than the conspiracy they find themselves caught up in, but if like me, you're always on the lookout for something with echoes of Detour and Shack Out on 101, this more than does the job.
About as low energy as it's possible for a "spy thriller" to be. Zzzzzzzz.
Although the narrative is almost farcically convoluted, there are enjoyable elements in 5 Steps to Danger. Before the plotting gets unhinged, there's an appealing noir solidity to the set-up (woman with car offers man without car a lift - but she has a secret!!!). We visit a lot of interesting places along the way (I'd love to stay in Pruitt's Lodge), and the supporting cast are quite characterful.
Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden are what keeps the movie watchable, however. Even when events get entirely beyond the realm of comprehension, their star power (Hayden, in particular, is effortlessly delightful here) always manages to save the day.
"You know, this is the screwiest story I ever heard."
I really liked the beginning of this film, but then it keeps twisting into something I didn't care for at all.
Starts out somewhat like the set-up of DETOUR & then devolves into a fairly complex, illogical plot of murder, international intrigue & missiles. While there are definitely the ingredients for a competent noir here, they are poorly mixed & executed.
Lots of endless chatting in cars & hotel rooms, with very little action.
The draw here for me was noir pro, Kubrick ensemble player (& future GODFATHER alum) Sterling Hayden.
Ruth Roman is pretty uninspiring as the damsel in distress here, failing to engage the viewer in feelings for her or rooting for her success.
Otherwise, it was entertaining to see a non-Colonel Klink performance from Werner Klemperer.
We get a too quick, too neat, too tidy of a conclusion.
And what an atrocious title…
Despite Eddie Muller's little pokes at this film I absolutely loved it. In part because it's stylistically a perfect B-Noir, in part because Sterling Hayden makes everything better, and in part because it appeals to my rebellion against malevolent paternalism.
Anyone who has suffered from illness that is hard to diagnose, like auto-immune conditions, can attest to how individuals know more about the state of their bodies than doctors do. So imagine a society in which doctors had as much power as law enforcement over individual lives.
That is the power that doctors had in America until the mid-20th century. State institutions were dominant and people ranging from schizophrenics to women with "hysteria" could be committed without recourse for extended…
Sterling Hayden is awesome. He's just a guy out on a fishing trip when his car breaks down and dame gives him a ride. Complications ensue, such as: Is she insane? Is she a murderer? Is someone trying to kill her? Is she involved in some kind of government secrets? If so, which government?
A lot of trouble for a free car ride. It's not "5 steps to danger," Hayden stepped right in it.
As a bonus, Colonel Klink is in it.
It's like two movies in one. The film starts like a road film noir in the vein of "Detour" before becoming a Cold War thriller. Stars Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden play well off each other, and the bad guys (Werner Klemperer - best known as Col. Klink on "Hogan's Heroes" - and Richard Gaines) strike just the right note of stuffy disdain: not so much evil as arrogant, which works well here. If you ever met a doctor too interested in himself to listen to you, then you know Klemperer’s character. Nice supporting turn from Richard Gaines (the Insurance Executive in "Double Indemnity") as a duplicitous dean is so politely unhelpful as to seem maddeningly sinister.
The plot borrows heavily from "The 39 Steps," at one point the leads find themselves handcuffed together, and ir probably too dependent n coincidence. Still, it's always fun to watch Hayden in a noir.