The Assassin (1952) Poster


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Great mood in a Venice filmed underrated gem.
FrankiePaddo11 January 2005
Set in the short years after WW2 there is mystery and political intrigue as a private detective tries to discover the whereabouts of an Italian and reward him for his part in the rescue of an allied airman during the war.

This is an excellent early 50s murder mystery thriller set in Venice with some great set pieces and beautiful and at times striking on location photography...much better than the overrated Venice filmed in "Don't Look Back".

Great mood - a marrying of post war paranoia ( Venice is close to the then disputed city of Trieste - between the West and communist Yugoslavia) and political intrigue which reflected the chaotic state of Italian politics at the time.

Ralph Thomas ( brother of Gerald of Carry On fame and who edited this film) made his fame with the "Doctor" comedy films starring Dirk Bogarde and Iron Petticoat with Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn but he also made quite a few well above average middle budget suspense / drama films - Campbell's Kingdom (1957), Checkpoint (1956), Above Us the Waves (1955), Appointment with Venus (1951), The Clouded Yellow (1951), of which this is one of the best. The climactic chase is excellent.

Good performance from the ever reliable Richard Todd and a nifty small role for Sid James.Excellent music by Nino Rota ( Godfather, La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2) also.

A underrated gem.
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No Tourist Venice This, Despite a Wonderfully Haunting Music Score!
JohnHowardReid3 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A millionaire hires a private detective to find and reward a wartime partisan who saved his life. Unfortunately, the man does not want to be found. Sound familiar? It ought to be. "Family Plot" is a blatant variation.

One of the best cinema translations of a mystery thriller ever made, the pacily-directed "Venetian Bird" started life as a gripping page-turner by Victor Canning who was, most fortunately, called upon to write the screenplay from his own book by astute producer, Betty Box, who saw to it that a fine cast of players headed by Richard Todd, Eva Bartok and Walter Rilla were assembled and flown to the suitably noirish Venice locations where the film was actually photographed.

From its attention-grabbing credits superimposed on a high angle over St Mark's Square, and underlined by Nino Rota's superlatively evocative music score, to the thrilling conclusion in that same square (astutely borrowed from Orson Welles' "The Stranger"), "Venetian Bird" is a high-flying movie. (What idiot changed Victor Canning's most appropriate title to "The Assassin"? No wonder all the movie's fans live abroad! The American title gives half the plot away before a patron even enters the theater or switches on the TV. As he twiddles his thumbs while he sits through all the now non-suspenseful exposition of the first half of the film, the American viewer must wonder why all the on-screen characters are so incredibly stupid. If you know the plot even before Richard Todd swings into action—and "swings" is the word, because he performs all his own breathtaking stunts—and the super-lovely Eva Bartok brings an otherwise spellbinding touch of mystery to her enigmatic role, you may well conclude that "Venetian Bird", despite all its atmospheric trappings, is no masterpiece of suspense.

All the same, it's still difficult to downgrade Ernest Steward's strikingly somber, moody camera-work, or the charisma of the players. Only the normally reliable John Gregson fails to convince. Fortunately, his part is small. The support cast is otherwise in the reliable hands of people like Walter Rilla's delightfully suave and sinister villain, and Margot Grahame's fine-tuned, carelessly guiltless charmer.
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James Bond meets the Third Man.
onepotato219 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Dapper, debonair, Brit Richard Todd runs around Venice (in a nicely tailored suit) trying to detect and derail an evil plot.

The best part of this is quite early, when we're not sure if Todd is a hero or a villain. Unfortunately they neutralize any of Todd's threat much too early and jump headlong into fairly disposable conventions (the burden of a female lead arrives). Todd's moral ambiguity ends far too soon, and once he's shown to be a run-of-the-mill straight shooter, things get less interesting.

Still it does not look like a B noir. There's more than competent lighting, surprisingly difficult camera moves (carried off smoothly) and a serious mood. Talented people are at work. It's Hitchcockian, almost Welles-ian (George Couloris is in it). How many B Noirs are filmed on location in Venice? For that matter, how many A noirs are? It's shockingly cynical for this era (likewise for Frank Capra's State of the Union '48, and All the Kings Men '49). It has a few smart, bracing lines in it: "When a man faces a blank wall, he turns round and come back. But put him on the wrong path and he'll never come back." "Sometimes changing your habits at the right time is all it takes to save your life"

As I watched, I wondered if this was the template for Ian Fleming's Bond? Did 'The International' borrow a ton from this? Both end with a rooftop pursuit. Richard Todd even resembles Clive Owen a bit. Far inferior things were made in the States that are still available (Frank Sinatra in Suddenly! ???) while this remains obscure.
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Excellent thriller for its period - early fifties
davidmgeer11 June 2011
As another reviewer says this is something of an underrated film. More so since it was made in 1952. At that time exchange controls would have limited the amount of filming that could be done overseas and so much of it was studio filmed in England.

The story is intricate and the full meaning is not revealed until the final 20 minutes. If Venice seems harsh and cold its very much in the recovery from war mode yet the back drop is excellently atmospheric. The absence of tourists is refreshing. The films high contrast back and white rendition is also noteworthy.

Good cast....

Not hard to see why some say Bond meets 3rd man! Even some classy looking femmes fa tales!
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Venice on a black and white budget, still beautiful
blanche-21 May 2013
Richard Todd stars in "The Assassin" with Eva Bartok and George Coulouris, from 1952, shot in Venice.

Todd plays Edward Mercer, who comes to Venice on behalf of an insurance company, looking for a man named Uccello who has a reward coming for the rescue of an Allied airman during the war. Unfortunately for Mercer, the first person he's supposed to see is dead. Then he meets Adrianna (Bartok), who knew Uccello, and he is told that Uccello is dead. After a while, though, he begins to think that's not the case.

The director, Ralph Thomas, borrowed a good deal from Hitchcock in this film and did some effective things, particularly at the end, which is marvelous. He also used Venice and its surroundings very well to create an excellent atmosphere. If only the script had been less talky and the plot better, you might really have something here.

Bartok is mysterious, Richard Todd is very serious and quite handsome, and Venice is beautiful, even in black and white. Well worth seeing for that.
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Why has this been overlooked? A solid post-war thriller.
LCShackley19 February 2012
This film, although not as well-crafted as THE THIRD MAN or THE MAN BETWEEN, is definitely in their league; it's a taut, post-war mystery in which a European city (in this case, Venice) is one of the most important characters. The main human character, Edward Mercer (Richard Todd), is a Hitchcockian protagonist: a man trying to prove his innocence in ever more dire circumstances.

The plot does get convoluted at times, but director Ralph Thomas always keeps your eyes interested with wonderful location shots. The cast is solid, and Sid James is given a rare dramatic role. The ending, also with Hitchcockian overtones, is thrilling and a fine bit of camera work and direction. (May I recommend that after you finish the film, go back and watch the first few minutes again. You'll see how cleverly the motifs of the film are tied together.)
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Some great visuals, but it talks the convoluted plot to death...death in Venice anyone?
secondtake8 May 2011
The Assassin (1952)

What distinguishes this movie is the setting--Venice, in the 1950s. There are some other famous movies set in this town in this time (the moody 1955 "Summertime"), and somehow this one feels the most authentic, not romanticized to pieces but still an appreciative take on it.

Of course, you'd rather have your movie succeed because of its plot and acting, and this one isn't bad--I'd watch it if you like this kind of low budget black and white Euro-noir. (This is a British B-movie.)

As much as murder, and the machinations of post-war Italy, are the backdrop, this is a very talky movie, to the point of being both redundant and at times confusing. It's dramatic in its progression of mysteries, and in the many night or dark interior scenes, barely lit. It's dripping in art history throughout, both as backdrop and as a growing part of the theme (one of the main mysterious characters is an artist) and this is terrific.

Because the plot is one conversation after another, all rather undramatic in its delivery, it depends on its actors rather a lot, and the leading man (Richard Todd) in particular is serious but straining the whole way. The story and screenplay are by Victor Channing, who was a best selling British author in his day, and it feels like best seller stuff, thinly conceived. There are bit actors doing their best, and there is an authenticity implied by all of the settings and period sets fairly contemporary to the filming. But the deadened script undermines a visually emphatic movie. Watch with some patience left over.

Or watch for Venice. There really is a lot in store in this aspect (though some of the interiors were apparently shot in Veneto, which is the province nearby. Toward the end is a large procession on the grand canal, pretty neat if you like that kind of thing. As the assassin, an artist at heart, says as he is ready to commit his crime, "I should have a pencil, not a gun." And you know, the last five minutes is amazing filming (and sound!), with Hitchcockian overtones, worth seeing no matter what you think of the rest of it.
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James Bond meets Hitchcock---needed more of Todd's bad side
filmalamosa30 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Richard Todd plays someone hired by an American millionaire to locate a partisan in Italy who saved his life during the war. He wants to give him a reward.

The movie skims much too quickly over Todd's dubious provenance--too bad that would have made the movie so much more interesting than the straight shooter he is molded into.

The movie is shot in Venice and as other reviewers have noted resembles both Bond and Hitchcock.... The very last scene with the body falling from onto Saint Mark's square was so Hitchcock like. Also the police chief's office with the vertical window blinds that turn into a map of Venice seemed so Bondish.

As some one else noted there are talented people filming this ... moody shadows and cinematography that could not have been easy to do is carried off perfectly.

The movie has a couple flaws it becomes too straight shooter and it is talky....we depend on long dialogues by the actors to carry the story... this taxes them to the max especially when the lines are unlikely. Some of the lines were fantastic though ---the one about telling a man nothing causes him to hit a blank wall and return while lying to him sends him down a path and he leaves you alone.

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Assassin of Venice
sculptagain-111 May 2012
Just 7 years following WWII, Italy was just regaining it's favored nation status with Europe. And to reward a countryman for Anti-Nazi actions, a detective is sent to track one man down for proved to be a hero assisting the Allies against the Nazis only to discover he is recorded in public records as dying as a hero. As the story plays out, political intrigue enters the picture as attempts are to be put into place that will ruin the up-coming elections. The police are suspicious to a degree of the detective and keep him under watch. The plot to 'assassinate' the political front runner is directed toward the detective by the true perpetrators for cover. There is much of a Hitchcock-type landscape throughout the movie with twists and turns and intrigue that ends with moment to moment wonder... Will the truth unfold? Will the true assassin be exposed? Will the police get the right person?
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Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.....
MartinHafer17 March 2012
A private detective is sent to Italy by an insurance company to locate a man so that he may be rewarded for his gallantry during WWII. However, soon it becomes obvious that this is all a ruse and they want to find the man for ulterior motives. Yet, despite this and a group of killers who want to stop him, the handsome detective (Richard Todd) doggedly continues his investigation in the town of Venice. Will he find what he's looking for...and, does the audience really care?

It's odd, but for a mystery/suspense film, "The Assassin" is amazingly unexciting. Most of the problem is that the film is so very talky. Again and again, instead of SHOWING the plot unfold, the film relies on HEARING people talking about it--a very static way to do such a film. The other problem is that although Richard Todd is a suave and handsome guy, he just seemed to sophisticated and nice for such a role. It played very much like if Dirk Bogarde or Cary Grant had played the part--all good actors but all too smooth and 'nice'. Overall, it's not a terrible film but it sure could have been a lot better.
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Hot Glass when Hot
tedg26 May 2010
Many of these detective series had to be formulaic. That is the nature of a series. So if you want to differentiate, one strategy is to introduce exotic locations. When this was made, that was still rare. The location has to be highlighted in the name, so we have Charlie Chan, the Saint, the Falcon and so in such and such a city.

The place here is Venice. Unfortunately it is not captured well. For some reason, the texture of the city escapes the usual camera. (I did like the color you got in the Clooney "The Job" and the Bond "XXX").

So the setting is largely wasted by the clumsy camera, except for a visit to a Murano glassworks. The glass factories are located on an island near the city because of the ancient fear of fire. These for hundreds of years have been a wonder of the world, once secret, now a bit tired. When this film was made, Chihuly had not yet brought Murano to our attention and the polluting effect of tourism had not occluded its magic.

It is only a few minutes in this otherwise ordinary adventure. And it is just background motion. But you might as I, hold it a dear experience to just see.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Not bad
karen577827 April 2014
This movie is obviously a competent adaptation of a book. It is pretty good, if you like grade B noir, and we do, but the most fun is seeing familiar faces playing against type and/or putting on Italian accents.The villain in particular was a shocker, as I'd only seen him in light comedies.

The most fun was looking up the bios of the actors on IMDb. It is one of those ones where a lot of the actors played roles in WWII themselves, some of them more dramatic than the parts they play here.

IMDb requires 10 (!) lines of text, so I will say the pigeons of Venice are amazing, some of the best lines are idiotic in context, and why have a chase scene in a glass factory if you aren't going to break any glass? I guess they didn't have the budget as they filmed in a real glass factory. And, IMDb, "bios" is not a misspelling of BIOS, it is a common term for biography.
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The Song is Driving me Nuts
BILLYBOY-1023 September 2019
First of all, this is a very good 50's thriller which of course, as everyone on earth knows by now, takes place in Venice and they do a great job of intertwining the city with the action of the film. It is overlooked for some reason, mostly I guess because it plods along in places but the ends justify the means in the end. M

My purpose of writing this review is because I can't seem to find anywhere the name of the song/singer during the opening credits. I know the score was done by the marvelous Nino Rota and it is haunting and appropriate as all of his scores are but given that I still have to fine the NAME OF THE OPENING CREDITS SONG. It's a male singer, all in Italian and even sounds older than the movie, but I don't know.
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the wrong man in Venice
"Venetian Bird" is a fine surprise, a thriller in Venice with a fast paced ending after more than an hour too talky to me, action is just described in conversations, and that's too bad. Venice is of course well exploited with fine shots night and day, especially in the ending, and with few tourists. And Richard Todd is fantastic with his stronger and stronger look until this famous ending. So be patient till the end. And when you've seen this end, watch again the beginning. Great musical score.
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