Friday, January 28, 2011

Movie review – “Ferry to Hong Kong” (1959) **

Orson Welles went on record complaining that this film ruined him as a leading man – but he’s really got no one to blame but himself, for he gives a truly dreadful performance here: bad fake nose, horrid accent, dumb character, mugging.

Welles said he was inspired to play comedy because this story had an essentially silly idea – it is a silly idea (about a man not allowed in Hong Kong or Macau and thus forced to live permanently on a ferry going back and forth between the two), but it doesn’t excuse Welles’ wacka-wacka acting. (NB the idea’s similar to that later used in The Terminal).
Better than Welles – although not by that much – is Curt Jurgens, as the international tourist stuck on the ferry. It’s the sort of role that would have been great for Welles ten years earlier –all cocked eyebrows and Harry Lime charm; but by now he was far too fat to be believably attractive to Sylvia Syms (Jurgens is a stretch as it is).

This is an odd sort of movie – lots of comic stuff, but also drama in that Jurgens is an alcoholic (so why does Syms buy him drinks?) and action in the last third when pirates take over the ferry. For some reason all these Chinese characters speak in American accents. The chief attraction is some impressive location photography.

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