Diplomatic Courier starts a lot stronger than it finishes. For the first half or so, it’s a post-war variation of a thirties Hitchcock–a lot of unexplained, strange incidents and a protagonist trying to unravel them. Then it changes gear, becoming a Hollywood attempt at The Third Man. It’s successful during the first part and it fails miserably during the second.
Part of the problem is the inexplicably fourth-billed Hildegard Knef (she easily should be second billed). I’m not sure how her performance would have been in her native German, but in English, she’s not good. Her performance, along with the endlessness of the last thirty minutes, capsizes Courier.
Tyrone Power does fine as the protagonist, though the film’s a lot more interesting when he’s out of his depth. A CID officer, played by Stephen McNally, sends him out on an espionage job he’s not qualified to undertake. When Power is out of his depth, it works (there’s a lot of that confusion during the first half); eventually he becomes the standard heroic leading man and the film’s a lot less compelling.
The supporting cast, especially Karl Malden, is decent. Patricia Neal is all right, but the material fails her. McNally makes very little impression. Plus, bit parts for Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin.
Courier breaks the rule of Chekhov’s gun. The film probably would have been a lot more exciting if it had fired.
It’d be an inoffensive time waster if it weren’t for the weak finale.
Directed by Henry Hathaway; screenplay by Casey Robinson and Liam O’Brien, based on a novel by Peter Cheyney; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Robinson; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Tyrone Power (Mike Kells), Patricia Neal (Joan Ross), Stephen McNally (Col. Mark Cagle), Hildegard Knef (Janine Betki), Karl Malden (Sgt. Ernie Guelvada), James Millican (Sam F. Carew), Stefan Schnabel (Rasumny Platov), Herbert Berghof (Arnov) and Arthur Blake (Max Ralli).