Shadow of Treason (1963) **

Tracking down forgotten B-pictures it’s easy to convince yourself you’re going to uncover an under-rated gem. Sadly, despite mixing film noir with espionage and a treasure hunt, this fails dismally at getting over the line.

And that’s a shame because the credits roll over a background of long shadows, recalling instantly to mind not a film noir trope but the later famed poster of The Wild Bunch (1969). And there’s an excellent repetitive theme by Martin Slavin (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), an interesting striptease involving a bear, and a superb chase sequence where the pursuer is in a wheelchair. Otherwise, it’s got such a convoluted storyline you wished someone could get on top of it sooner rather than dragging the audience from Trieste to Dubrovnik to Somaliland.

Femme fatale No 1 Anita West literally in a hole with John Bentley.

In his final movie British star John Bentley, who brought to life both Paul Temple and The Toff, plays Steve, a drifter of unspecified means, who saves cabaret singer/stripper Tina (Anita West) from  assassination. Hired by her as bodyguard/detective, he learns her father was a German spy who has left her a list of names and a map to hidden treasure and strangely enough she has been receiving regular anonymous donations of cash. It soon becomes obvious to Steve that blackmail is the source of this unexpected bounty. And that he is caught in the middle. Some people want to pay him off, others to kill him off.

It doesn’t help that he is seduced by both Tina and Nadia (Faten Hamamah), daughter of Litov (Vladimir Leib), one of those being blackmailed but now confined to a wheelchair.

Along with Mario (Ferdy Mayne) and Michel (John Gabriel) they are all soon convinced that the solution to all their problems will be joining Steve on a trip to Somaliland to find the hidden treasure, cash the father was reportedly carrying to pay his team of spies.

Femme fatale No 2 Faten Hammamah looking disgruntled. You could say the same about Bentley.

Usually, with any kind of picture involving hunting for treasure, the audience is invited to be baffled by various clues, but here none are offered and the audience simply remains baffled. Once in Africa, of course, the action hots up, courtesy of stock footage of stampeding elephants and a variety of dangerous animals and by the double-crossing that appears essential to such schemes. Eventually, they end up in a cave, where the only bit of treasure detecting actually takes place. Assume more double cross and you’re just about there.

Director George P. Breaksaton (The White Huntress, 1954) must take full responsibility for this mess since he was also the writer and producer. Apart from the various sequences previously mentioned, he has little idea of narrative drive or even narrative. None of the characters connect with each other and certainly not with the audience.

John Bentley does his best but that’s mostly down to frowning and grunting and trying to get a share of everyone’s spoils. He’s intended as some kind of James Bond lounge lizard given the movie begins simply because he follows an attractive woman in a nightclub. But he really has very thin material to work with. Neither of the femme fatales, Anita West (Shadow of Fear,1963) and Egyptian star Faten Hamamah, has enough in the smouldering department and if they did weren’t inclined to waste it on the likes of Steve.

Hardly a fitting end to Bentley’s career. More of a curiosity than an entertaining watch.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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