Review: ‘The List of Adrian Messenger’

Anthony Veiller's screenplay, based on a story by Philip MacDonald, is a kind of straight-laced version of Kind Hearts and Coronets. It is the story of a retired British Intelligence officer's efforts to nab a killer who has ingeniously murdered 11 men who represent obstacles to his goal - the acquisition of a huge fortune to which he will become heir as soon as he eliminates the 12th obstacle, the 12-year-old grandson of his aged uncle, the wealthy Marquis of Gleneyre.

Anthony Veiller’s screenplay, based on a story by Philip MacDonald, is a kind of straight-laced version of Kind Hearts and Coronets. It is the story of a retired British Intelligence officer’s efforts to nab a killer who has ingeniously murdered 11 men who represent obstacles to his goal – the acquisition of a huge fortune to which he will become heir as soon as he eliminates the 12th obstacle, the 12-year-old grandson of his aged uncle, the wealthy Marquis of Gleneyre.

The film hums along smoothly and captivatingly until the killer shows up at the estate of the Marquis. Here the story begins to fall apart. Since both Scotland Yard and our principal investigator (George C. Scott) are at this time fully aware of who and where their man is, and what he is up to, it is an incredibly contrived story distortion to suppose that they would let him roam about freely for several days.

An even more damaging miscue is the utilization of stars who are hidden behind facial disguises in fundamentally inconsequential roles. Of the five stars who ‘guest,’ Kirk Douglas has the major assignment and carries it off colorfully and credibly. The others are Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra. Only Mitchum is easily recognizable beneath the facial stickum.

Huston directs the film with style and flair. Credit is due makeup man Bud Westmore for his concealment of several of the most familiar faces of the 20th century.

The List of Adrian Messenger

Production

Universal. Director John Huston; Producer Edward Lewis; Screenplay Anthony Veiller; Camera Joe MacDonald, Ted Scaife; Editor Terry O. Morse; Music Jerry Goldsmith; Art Director Alexander Golitzen, Stephen Grimes, George Webb

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1963. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

George C. Scott Dana Wynter Clive Brook Gladys Cooper Herbert Marshall Jacques Roux
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