Review: ‘Shoot First’

Eric Ambler's screenplay of the Geoffrey Household novel, A Rough Shoot, has Joel McCrea stumbling into the role of a British counter-spy, aiding Herbert Lom, a real cloak-and-dagger character, and his boss (Roland Culver), of the British secret service. Foreign agents, they've learned, plan to fly in a spy on McCrea's farm, and McCrea, his wife (Evelyn Keyes) and Lom greet the plane and smuggle off the spy, posing as his English confederates.

Eric Ambler’s screenplay of the Geoffrey Household novel, A Rough Shoot, has Joel McCrea stumbling into the role of a British counter-spy, aiding Herbert Lom, a real cloak-and-dagger character, and his boss (Roland Culver), of the British secret service. Foreign agents, they’ve learned, plan to fly in a spy on McCrea’s farm, and McCrea, his wife (Evelyn Keyes) and Lom greet the plane and smuggle off the spy, posing as his English confederates.

Plan is to get to London, have him meet his contact and then arrest the pair. But the real agents, led by Marius Goring, along with the police, who want McCrea on suspicion of murder, make a chase out of it that doesn’t let up in suspense until the last minute.

McCrea is excellent as the colonel forced by circumstances into the counterplot, and Keyes is appealing and believable as his wife. Lom scores as the swash-buckling counterspy, making a completely engaging character out of what’s intended as a caricature. Goring scores as the fanatic foreign agent, and Karl Stepanek is excellent as his brutal sidekick.

Robert Parrish’s inventive direction keeps the story moving at a rapid pace.

Shoot First

UK

Production

United Artists. Director Robert Parrish; Producer Raymond Stross; Screenplay Eric Ambler; Camera Stan Parey; Editor Russell Lloyd; Music Hans May; Art Director Ivan King

Crew

(B&W) Extract of a review from 1953. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Joel McCrea Evelyn Keyes Herbert Lom Roland Culver Marius Goring Frank Lawton
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