Diplomatic Courier

DVD Review: Diplomatic Courier

In DVD's by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment recently debuted Fox Cinema Archives, a new manufacture-on-demand (MOD) series which will bring several hard to find films to DVD for the first time ever. The first wave of titles includes the 1952 spy thriller, Diplomatic Courier starring Tyrone Power, Patricia Neal, and Stephen McNally. Being a huge fan of both Power and Neal, I’ve had the film poster over my desk for several years, even though I only saw part of Diplomatic Courier on The Fox Movie Channel a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that Diplomatic Courier was finally going to be available on DVD.

Based on Peter Cheyney’s novel, Sinister Errand, things begin with a narrator (an uncredited Hugh Marlowe) extolling the virtues of dedicated government agencies. In short, it’s April 1950 and a short coded document originating in Romania needs to be delivered to a courier in Salzburg and transported back to America. Mike Kells (Power) is dispatched from the State Department to do the job. Unfortunately for Mike, he finds himself caught in a dangerous web of espionage when his contact Sam (James Millican), an old war buddy, is found dead on the railway line outside the city before he can hand off a critical document.

Diplomatic CourierThe circumstances surrounding Sam’s murder are murky. A series of strange cat-and-mouse games occurred on the train just before Sam’s death—the events involved a couple of heavies (one of whom is an uncredited Charles Bronson) and an unidentified blonde. Kells finds himself in a fix; his only lead, the blonde, who turns out to be a Czech refugee named Janine Betki (Hildegard Knef).whom he must track down in the Italian city of Trieste. In the midst of all of this, Mike has to deal with the amorous attentions of American socialite Joan Ross (Patricia Neal) who he met after falling asleep on her shoulder on the flight to Salzburg. What emerges is that both these women play a central role in the mystery. Can either one be trusted?

Directed by Hollywood veteran Henry Hathaway (Niagara, The Sons of Katie Elder) Diplomatic Courier reunited him with Tyrone Power, whom he had worked with in 1940’s Johnny Apollo. Hathaway keeps things moving along at a fairly brisk pace, with solid action scenes for a film shot in the early 1950’s. Shot on location in Trieste and other European locales, Hathaway’s direction is aided by the skillful camerawork of cinematographer Lucien Ballard.

By the early 1950’s, Tyrone Power had left the swashbuckling roles that made him famous behind, in favor of establishing a more varied portfolio. While Mike Kells feels a bit underdeveloped at times, Power does a fairly convincing job as a messenger caught in a web of potential deceit. Hildegard Knef taps into a nice combination of grit and determination in playing Janine Betki, while the always reliable Patricia Neal does the best she can with limited material, as Joan Ross. Other cast members include Stephen McNally as a U.S. Army colonel desperate to  recover the critical document and Karl Malden as an eager Army sergeant who serves as Mikes unofficial bodyguard.

Presented in 4:3 Full Frame, Fox Cinema Archives transfer isn’t bad for a film that is sixty years old. I’m not sure how much, if any, remastering was done here. Whites do occasionally blow out and darks occasionally bleed, but I only noticed three or four scratches during the 98 minute run time.

Audio is delivered via a standard mono soundtrack, which delivers clear dialogue throughout.

No special features are included.