The Angry Hills

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THE ANGRY HILLS—-interesting if muddled adventure drama, set in 1941 Greece, as Yank correspondent Robert Mitchum tries to get secret info out of the country, past the Nazis and their collaborators. He’s helped by guerrillas from the villages.

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Typical Mitchum stuff, and director Robert Aldrich provides brooding atmosphere and some decent action, backed by fine art direction, sharp b&w cinematography  (some great shadow effects captured by Stephen Dade) and good sound. The 105 minute package, based on a book by Leon Uris, is a foray into an overlooked theater of the fight against Hitler, but it’s hampered by uneven plot strings that go in too many directions. One ‘miraculous escape’ scene is badly handled.

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Several stronger sequences generally make up for the lulls, and there are two really first rate villains courtesy of Stanley Baker and Theodore Bikel.  Baker plays a cool, intelligent Nazi killer on Bob’s trail, Bikel his brutish helper, a Greek traitor. Their Mutt & Jeff teaming is fairly chilling.

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Shot on location in and around Athens, the film cost $1,190,000 but only took in $1,285,000.  Mitchum was indifferent (as usual), but Aldrich was keenly upset, mostly with the cuts made by the producer, but also with the star: the two could not find common ground. An expert at handling demanding personalities (Marvin, Palance, Lancaster, Davis & Crawford) he was at a loss this time, citing “an inability to find any personal or creative or even emotional routes to discover whatever it is to be discovered to make Robert Mitchum function as an actor.”  For the star, the script had no charm, so he walked through and concentrated on enjoying Greek tavernas with his co-stars.  According to Mitchum biographer Lee Server, in his superior, no-punches-pulled, anecdote-rich “Baby, I Don’t Care” Mitchum and Baker had a drinking challenge that lasted a Herculean 74 hours. Bob beat the Welsh challenger, who no doubt endured no end of razzing from fellow countrymen & world-class pint-pounders Richard Burton and Hugh Griffith.

From 1959, with Gia Scala, Elisabeth Muller, Donald Wolfit, Kieron Moore, Sebastian Cabot, Marius Goring and Jocelyn Lane.

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