Wedged between Rod Steiger’s Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1954 for On The Waterfront and his Best Actor nomination in the Pawn Broker in 1965 was another amazing performance in another film of his that is all but forgotten. The reasons for the MIA status are a little vague; lost to the fog of time … no matter, DVD news is in the wind this week.
During this early part of his film career Steiger had starred in such films as Oklahoma!, Jubal, The Harder They Fall, Run of the Arrow and The Mark. An impressive start to a film career that would span six decades and over 100 film appearances … including an Oscar win for his performance in the 1967 Best Picture-winner, In the Heat of the Night.
The good news this week for film buffs, students, collectors (and anyone else who enjoys a terrific film) is that on Aug. 6, VCI Entertainment — as part of summer package of new-to-DVD titles announced this past week — will be releasing Rod Steiger in director Ken Annakin’s 1957 film adaptation of a Graham Greene (noted for such works as: The Ministry of Fear, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana … a long list) story, Across the Bridge.
This Rank Organisation film production had a limited theatrical run during the fall of 1957, received solid reviews and then slipped into obscurity, which is something of a mystery since the film certainly ranks right up their with those other films that Steiger was starring in during this period.
As for the story, Carl Schaffner (Steiger) is in the United States on business when word arrives that his embezzlement scam (back in London) has been uncovered. He decides to make a run for Mexico, where he figures that with the three million in cash that he has he can pretty much disappear.
Once on the train and heading south — and this where Annakin/Greene deliver the first twist — he meets a fellow passenger named Paul Scarff (Bill Nagy) who sort of resembles himself. He steals his identity and ruthlessly tosses him from the train, thinking that he’s killed him — it doesn’t matter, by the time they discover the body he will be safely in Mexico.
Now what Carl really likes about his handy work is that Scarff just happened to be traveling on a Mexican passport! He looks like him, has a Mexican passport … crossing the border is going to be a piece of cake.
This simple plan unravels very quickly when Carl discovers upon his arrival at the (fictional) border community of Katrina that Scarff is wanted by the Mexican authorities for murder. He quickly confesses that he is actually Schaffner, but all that does is to place him in something of a legal limbo on the Mexican side of the border with a very unlikely companion.
The screws are turned relentlessly by Mexican officials who are secretly conspiring with Scotland Yard to keep Carl exactly where he is until the trap can be sprung. He is left to twist in the wind as he learns first hand about that old, “the best laid plans of mice and men …” Across the Bridge is a sweet psychological crime thriller … be sure to mark Aug. 6 on your calendar for its DVD debut.
Also announced this week from VCI Entertainment are six additional films that are set for the DVD arena between July 6 and Aug. 20.
In chronological order these being with the July 16 DVD release of director James Hill’s The Belstone Fox: 40th Anniversary Edition. This 1973 film adaptation of David Rook’s family-friendly novel, “The Ballad of the Belstone Fox,” teamed Eric Porter, Jeremy Kemp, Rachel Roberts and Bill Travers (who would later join filmmaker James Hill for Born Free) with animal stars Tag (the fox) and Merlin (the hound).
Also on July 16 is director Anthony Page’s 1979 remake of the Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes. Elliott Gould and Cybill Shepherd take on the roles made famous by Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood … and, if the truth be known, they do a damn good job of carrying it off. Others in the cast include Angela Lansbury (as Miss Froy), Herbert Lom, Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael.
Joining Across the Bridge on the Aug. 6 release calendar is director Carol Reed’s 1938 romantic comedy, Climbing High, which stars (in small world sort way — see the above reference to The Lady Vanishes) Michael Redgrave, Jessie Matthews (also starred in VCI Entertainment’s 2012 DVD release of First a Girl) and Margaret Vyner.
Jessie Matthews returns on Aug. 20 in one of her first starring roles, the 1932 romantic musical comedy, There Goes the Bride, which also marked David Niven’s film debut.
Rounding out the Aug. 20 DVD selections are two featuring Dirk Bogarde — he stars in director Charles Crichton’s 1962 on-the-run thriller, Hunted (aka: The Stranger in Between) as well as part of an ensemble cast in the 1949 post-war English comedy, Dear Mr. Prohack (with Cecil Parker, Glynis Johns and Hermione Baddeley).
To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report: DVD & Blu-ray Release Report