Monday, August 24, 2015

Snack-sized Reviews: "The Mark" and "Twilight of Honor"

Stuart Whitman in The Mark.
The Mark (1961) - This well-made Irish film tackles a controversial subject with restraint and intelligence. Stuart Whitman plays an American named Jim Fuller, who has been recently released from prison. His psychiatrist (Rod Steiger), his boss (Donald Wolfit), and the local police are the only people that know the nature of Whitman's crime: He plead guilty to child seduction with intent to assault. Although he has been deemed cured, Fuller struggles to fit into society and lead a "normal" existence. His daily challenges are complicated by a disturbingly maternal landlady (Brenda de Banzie) and a mutual attraction with a co-worker named Ruth (Maria Schell). She knows that Jim is a former convict, but she doesn't know the nature of his crime. She also has a young daughter who forms an instant bond with Jim. For most of its running time, The Mark is a potent film that shows both Jim's struggles and the general public's fear that arises when his secret is revealed. In one of its best scenes, the police pick up Jim with no explanation. He waits in agony for two hours, not knowing why he is being detained. When he's finally released, Jim learns that a young girl was assaulted and murdered...and naturally, the police suspected him until his alibi could be verified. Stuart Whitman shines as Fuller, his face conveying a tormented man who doesn't believe he deserves happiness. The performance earned Whitman a Best Actor Oscar nomination (he lost to Maria Schell's brother Maximillian, who won for Judgment at Nuremberg). My only quibble with The Mark is that it ultimately plays it safe. The ending doesn't ring true and I also wonder how audiences would react to the film if Fuller had really been a child molester.

Chamberlain and Heatherton.
Twilight of Honor (1963) - At the height of his Dr. Kildare fame, Richard Chamberlain starred in this courtroom drama set in New Mexico. He plays David Mitchell, a young lawyer assigned to defend a drifter (Nick Adams) who allegedly murdered the most popular man in town. David quickly learns that the defendant is all but convicted. The judge refuses to change the venue, an ambitious special prosecutor (James Gregory) has been called in, and the defendant's promiscuous wife (Joey Heatherton) wants to collect the reward for turning her husband in. Assisted by his legal mentor (Claude Rains), David bases his defense on an obscure New Mexico law (though, as it turns out, good ol' self-defense might have worked, too). A poor man's Anatomy of a MurderTwilight of Honor is a reasonably entertaining courtroom drama that lacks the brilliant performances, humor, and sizzle that made the latter film a classic. Claude Rains heads a solid supporting cast peppered with actors destined to become known for their television roles: Pat Buttram from Green Acres, James Gregory (Barney Miller), Linda Evans (The Big Valley and Dynasty), and Paul Langton and Henry Beckman (both Peyton Place). Twilight of Honor also "introduced" Joey Heatherton, who is actually quite convincing in the "bad girl" role. Nick Adams, who gained fame on TV's The Rebel, is okay as the none-too-bright defendant. He surprisingly garnered a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance (the film received another nomination for Best Art Direction-Black and White). As for Richard Chamberlain, he struggles at times, but guts out his performance. I think he grew as an actor and was quite convincing in later roles in Shogun and The Thornbirds.


  1. I liked Twilight of Honor, but it is a rather forgettable film. (When I first started reading that review, I thought, "This sounds good," then realized I'd already seen it!)

    As for The Mark, Stuart Whitman is someone I've been paying more attention to lately. He seems to give consistently good performances, based on the very few things I've seen him in. Must find this one.

  2. Stuart Whitman is quite good in "The Mark," a film that always leaves the viewer wondering about him. This film would be very different if made today.

    "Twilight of Honor" is indeed a great vehicle for Joey Heatherton. I like your analogy to "Anatomy of a Murder" which is so well done that I cannot stop watching if I happen to glimpse a scene while channel switching.

    Your snack-sized reviews are quite fun, Rick, and provide a glimpse into some lesser known films that might otherwise be overlooked. Great job!

    1. Toto, I agree about Stuart Whitman, who gave some fine performances early in his career. I'm not sure what happened between THE MARK and NIGHT OF THE LEPUS.