Written by / 10/11/2012 / No comments / , , , ,

ORSON WELLES CINEMA PRESENTS 'FERRY TO HONG KONG'

Gorgeous poster art for a visually beautiful film YEAR: 1959
This could have made a great pilot for a TV series: The premise has maverick loafer Mark Conrad, played by Curt Jurgens, winding up on a Ferry from Hong Kong to Macao. Officials at either port won’t let him on land so he has to remain a passenger on the Ferry. The not-so-accidental, omnipresent tourist.

Now for the antagonist: Orson Welles as Captain Hart, an uptight, prissy, anal retentive, control freak Captain who runs the boat with a iron fist despite his fluffy, passive/aggressive composure.

In another film with an Asian title, his own classic jigsaw Film Noir THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, the Irish accent sounds decent while here he seems looped by a British actor doing an imitation of an uptight character meant to be despised. You'll think it impossible for this to be the same man who played the mesmerizing heavy in TOUCH OF EVIL the previous year, or at the age of 25 played a man of all ages in CITIZEN KANE...

The VHS Cover
The good news is, there's an "excuse" for this embarrassing performance, which could be real or not: Unlike the rest of the cast, Welles, at odds with Curt Jergens on set, decided to play the adventure/drama on paper like a comedy to the camera. This bit of (IMdB derived) trivia makes it a much easier pill to swallow... Then again, pretending or not, like all great actors, eventually a human form does takes shape (much thinner than TOUCH OF EVIL where he used padding). Jergen's affable Conrad and Welle's practically heartless Hart couldn’t be more different, and, as life imitates art (or vice versa), much of the film has the duo at bickering odds, at sea and on land...

HongKongScore: ***
And not to forget the lovely love interest – Sylvia Sims's Liz is beautiful albeit far too young for the overweight Jurgens. She's a missionary with a bevy of orphans, and can’t help but love the grungy loner who, like all scruffy anti-heroes, has a heart of gold. Jurgens makes for a semi-decent lead (though he always seems more a villain), and there are moments when Welles comes alive from his keystone banality, mostly pushed by Conrad, who has to eventually take over when an emergency occurs: at this point, a true antagonist was needed, desperately.

The Asian locations are beautiful and best yet, genuine and the direction by Lewis Gilbert (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, where Jurgens played the world-dominating underwater villain) flows nicely enough. And despite a clunky script, not sure whether to be a comedy, romance, drama or adventure, by the end you’ll want to spend more time on that boat, a cozy enough place to be stuck without a paddle.
Opening credit sequence in two languages
Great Oriental Font
Sylvia Sims
Orson Welles, Curt Jurgens, Noel Purcell
Orson Welles (Captain Hart) with a stogey
Conrad's permanent lair aboard the Ferry
Welles and Sims
Welles and Sims
Jurgens and Welles
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