27 January 2014

Brian Moore's Forgotten First Feature: Speculation and Scattered Thoughts on a Film I've Never Seen

As with the pseudonymously published novel on which it's based, the great Brian Moore laid no claim to Intent to Kill. His name does not feature in the credits. Fifty-five years after its release, there's no mention of Moore in the film's IMDb listing. Biographies of the man pay little or no attention to this screen adaptation, but I think it worthy if only because it was the first of his novels to be adapted for the screen. Just consider the wonderful stuff that followed: The Luck of Ginger Coffey, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Black Robe, The Statement.

Need more?

Well, Intent to Kill marked cinematographer Jack Cardiff's debut as a director, and Jimmy Sangster, he of Hammer Horror fame, wrote the screenplay. That's Sangster on the left discussing the script with Cardiff and producer Adrian Worker:

What's more, much of Intent to Kill was shot in Montreal at a time when few features were being made in Canada.

Trust the Brits to do it… and in wintertime.

The Gazette, 18 December 1958

All I've seen of Intent to Kill comes courtesy of this trailer, posted here last week:

It would seem that Sangster remained quite faithful to the book. Each scene in the trailer is just as it is in the novel. The only liberty comes in remaking American doctor Robert McLaurin as an Englishman, thus sparing us Richard Todd's attempt at a Boston accent. Down, down, down the list of credits, I see only three characters that don't appear in the novel: "Carol Freeman", "Carol's friend", and "Kathy". The first of these will be of some interest to readers of a certain a genre for being one of Jackie Collins' very few film roles.

Maybe I'm just distracted by the beauty of Betsy Drake, best remembered as Cary Grant's third wife.

Looking further, I see Sangster deviating from Moore's novel. This scene, with Richard Todd, Herbert Lom and siren Lisa Gastoni aboard a BOAC jet in Dorval, does not feature.

And here, in another scene not in the novel, Lom anticipates his role as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther franchise:

In the second volume of his autobiography, In Camera, Richard Todd dismisses Intent to Kill as "a stinker", but then he didn't want to do the film in the first place. The reviews I've been able to dig up are overwhelmingly positive. The only reason I've not seen Intent to Kill is that its DVD release is substandard. A pan and scan transfer of a CinemaScope film? One should never encourage such things.

Coincidence: Richard Todd was riding high when Intent to Kill was made, thanks largely to his role in The Sixth of June, based on the novel of the same name by Montrealer Lionel Shapiro.

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