Thursday, March 15, 2012

hotel reserve

I caught a strange little movie the other day on TCM, Hotel Reserve, A spy movie based on a book by Eric Ambler, starring a very young James Mason. Although not a film noir, the British black and white film was filmed with some interesting camera angles and lighting. It's set in a Riviera hotel with an assortment of international guests (and suspects.) Mason plays a young Austrian who the French police have asked to help smoke out which one of his fellow travelers is a spy — or risk being arrested as the spy himself.

A lurid poster from Argentina
It's a bit like watered-down Hitchcock or Casablanca, but it's still fun. Typical of British mysteries of the period, like And Then There Were None. It's nice to see Mason being a hero, not a villain, and being so enthusiastic, as opposed to his usual world-weary type. Some other familiar actors turn up: Herbert Lom, Patricia Medina. But the main attraction is Mason, who plays the wronged man with enthusiasm.

Stripes! From the blinds, their clothes — the lighting designer surely had fun
Hotel Reserve is not a great film, but it's a good one, with reminders about how fluid sympathies and nationalities were pre- World War 2, and just how suspicious everyone could be about someone going on holiday or taking photographs. Check it out if you get a chance.

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