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Across The Bridge
cast: Rod Steiger, Bernard Lee, David Knight, Marla Landi, and Noel Willman

director: Ken Annakin

99 minutes (PG) 1957 widescreen ratio 16:9
Carlton DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Thomas Cropper
The rather eccentric acting style of Rod Steiger, drilled into him by the method school, which involved working himself up into a frenzy in order to throw himself into the role, may have perplexed his supporting cast of mainly British thespians, but it seems to work. Odious, obnoxious and sporting a nauseous Teutonic accent his monstrous creation of Karl Schafner is possibly the finest of his career.
   He is helped in no small way by the strong, forthright and simple direction of Ken Annakin who unfurls the plot quickly and efficiently step by step. When Schafner discovers that Scotland Yard is investigating his business dealings he hops onto a train to Mexico only to find that the story breaks while he's in transit. To avoid the authorities that could be waiting for him at his destination, he gets a passenger drunk and steals his identity only to find that he's got a little bit more into the bargain. First, there's the man's pet dog, Dolores, who follows him everywhere and then there's the man himself, a wanted politic killer in Mexico. If there was one person he'd have wanted to be less than himself south of the border, then this might be the man.
   The central problem of the plot is that it needs us to be rooting for the villain. Schafner has nothing that might make us like him - he shows no remorse for his actions and is prepared to go to any lengths to avoid capture - yet we are supposed to want him to escape at the end. That the film succeeds in this is down to the efforts of Dolores the faithful dog that tracks him throughout the film. She is perhaps the one purely innocent character in the whole movie and it is in attempting to save the dog - the one selfless act of his life - that eventually brings his downfall. Dolores the dog steals the show and for a while, after the movie, was a minor celebrity in her own right - a fine example of our love for pets in the movies.
   But aside from the dog, the supporting cast mined predominantly from English theatre help to enrich the film's body and style. From Bernard Lee's earnest Inspector Herron to the laconic and mildly corrupt Mexican chief of police played by Noel Willman it's a rich tapestry that keeps you hooked throughout. Steiger is fantastic, the script is warm without ever becoming over sentimental and the characters are deep, complex and enthralling.
NEXT

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