Cast & Crew
On a snowy afternoon in Montreal, Canada, Juan Menda, the populist president of a South American republic, arrives with his wife Carla and aide Francisco Flores to undergo brain surgery. While Menda's ambulance speeds to the hospital, three conspirators--Boyd, a brutish thug, Kral, an edgy fugitive and renegade physician, and their steely leader Finch--plot to kill Menda by injecting him with a lethal hypodermic needle. Meanwhile, at the hospital, Margaret McLaurin, the shrewish wife of neurosurgeon Bob McLaurin, delivers her husband an ultimatum: either he quit his current job for a high-paying one in a fashionable London clinic, or she will lie to Dr. McNeill, the head of neurosurgery, that Bob is having an affair with Nancy Ferguson, a sympathetic young doctor on staff. Bob postpones answering Margaret, and soon after, he and McNeill scrub up for a long, protracted operation to remove a bullet that had been lodged in Menda's brain during an earlier assassination attempt. Upon regaining consciousness, Menda sees a fire escape outside his window and asks to be moved to a more secure room. In the lobby, meanwhile, Boyd tricks the hospital receptionist into divulging that Menda is housed in room 427, the room he is about to leave. That night, Kral and Finch drive to the hospital, and as Finch distracts Menda's private nurse with a phone call, Kral slips into his room. Unaware that Menda has been moved, Kral injects the sleeping patient with a lethal dose of air. As Kral leaves, he is startled by Nancy, who is waiting to meet Bob in the sunroom. After Kral departs, Bob arrives and tells Nancy that Margaret plans to slander her with accusations of an affair. To Bob's surprise, Nancy responds that she has fallen in love with him. Upon picking up Kral, Finch informs him that he has killed the wrong man and that they must return the following night to complete the job. Finch then phones Flores, his co-conspirator, to notify him that their plan has failed but they will try again. Flores, Carla's former lover, has been romancing her to keep her away from her husband. Although Flores, like Carla, a member of the upper class, professes allegiance to Menda, he holds the president in contempt for placing the concerns of the peasants above those of the wealthy. The next morning, Bob goes to see McNeill, intending to tell him of Margaret's threat, but before he can apprise McNeill of the situation, Bob learns that Hardy, the patient in room 427, has died. After an autopsy is ordered to determined the cause of Hardy's untimely death, Nancy recalls seeing an unfamiliar doctor leaving Hardy's room the previous night. The next day, Bob reports to McNeill that Hardy was killed by a lethal injection and that he suspects that Menda was the killer's real target. At Bob's urging, McNeill contacts the police and Detective O'Brien is dispatched to guard Menda. After Margaret carries out her threat and lies to McNeill about her husband's affair, Bob, disgusted, notifies her that he is filing for divorce. Concerned that Carla has not come to visit, Menda phones her hotel room, but Flores answers and refuses to allow her to speak to her husband. When Menda becomes agitated about his wife's absence, Bob promises to help locate her and phones the hotel detective. Carla, who is being held prisoner by Flores in her hotel room, realizes that her husband is to be killed and denounces Flores as a traitor. Soon after, the hotel detective knocks at the door and overpowers Flores. Bob, meanwhile, speaks to McNeill about Margaret's allegations and discovers that McNeill, having suffered a similar situation, is sympathetic to his plight. That night, O'Brien sets up watch at the reception desk and Bob agrees to monitor the unguarded back stairway until another detective arrives at midnight. As Bob and Nancy profess their love on the stairs, Finch arranges to draw Menda's nurse out of his room by placing a phone call to her. Becoming suspicious of the conversation, O'Brien hurries to Menda's room and finds Kral standing over him with a hypodermic needle in hand. Pulling Kral into the hallway, O'Brien demands that he identify himself. Boyd, hidden in the shadows of the stairway, hears O'Brien interrogating Kral, pulls his gun and orders Nancy to tell O'Brien that Kral is a doctor at the hospital. Stepping into the corridor, Nancy shouts a warning to the detective, who pulls out his weapon and wounds Kral, who then fires back. After Bob jumps Boyd, the two plunge through a window and fall several floors into the street. In the ensuing chaos, Finch sneaks into Menda's room, where the now alert Menda trains his gun and fires, killing his would-be assassin. The injured Bob is then carried into surgery, where a concerned Nancy and McNeill tenderly administer treatment.
H. L. Bird
Kenneth V. Jones
Sinfonia Of London
Adrian D. Worker
Intent to Kill
Todd was at the peak of his career in 1958, having recently appeared in The Virgin Queen (1955) opposite Bette Davis, the war epic D-Day the Sixth of June (1956), and the mystery thriller, Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) with Anne Baxter. He had also made quite a strong impression in his first U.S. feature in 1949 - The Hasty Heart; a role that won him an Oscar® nomination for Best Actor. Yet, unlike most top box office stars today, actors during Todd's era were bound to studio contracts and had to honor them unless they were prepared to make costly settlements to get out of their commitments. And Todd was no exception.
Certainly the basic premise of Intent to Kill is quite intriguing. Juan Menda (Herbert Lom), a populist president from an undisclosed South American country, has arrived in Montreal for a brain operation to remove a bullet from an earlier assassination attempt. Unfortunately, three conspirators have tracked Menda, his wife (Lisa Gastoni) and personal aide (Carlo Giustini) to their wintry destination with plans to finish the job they started. When a patient who is accidentally mistaken for Menda is killed with a lethal injection, Dr. Bob McLaurin (Todd) begins to suspect the worst and takes steps to protect his patient. But can he outwit the anonymous assassins?
In his autobiography, In Camera, Todd proclaimed Intent to Kill "a stinker" and added, "It was a melodramatic, unbelievable thriller....and had all the merits of a run-of-the-mill TV drama." However, the movie did provide the celebrated cinematographer Jack Cardiff with his feature film directorial debut. Todd noted, "Jack, one of the greatest cinematographers in the world, had always been keen to direct and was a really sweet man; it was a pity that he had been landed with such a poor subject. However, he did his best with it and was a dear to work with." Todd also added, "My leading lady in Intent to Kill was Betsy Drake, ex-wife of Cary Grant, who was somewhat withdrawn and reserved. I don't think I ever saw her outside the studios."
Unlike Todd, Cardiff thoroughly enjoyed making Intent to Kill. In a conversation with interviewer Justin Bowyer on the making of the movie, he recalled, "I think we were using Mitchell cameras. I had a lot of ideas scenically for Intent to Kill, but I didn't bother myself too much with lighting. Looking back on it, it's quite possible that most of the crew was hired because they were quite cheap. I didn't realize that at the time - I was just happy to go on the floor and direct the film. The unit was extremely good...As a director I was more concerned with the script and the actors and whatever. It was not an easy subject and we had to go to Canada on location...It did have some good reviews. It didn't become a smash hit but it was interesting."
Viewers will have to decide for themselves whether Intent to Kill succeeds as a suspense thriller but many reviewers of its day found it a satisfying entertainment. Howard Thompson of The New York Times gave it a mixed review but found things to admire: "INTENT TO KILL, a British-made suspense drama, is interesting on two counts. It has excellent black-and-white photography by one of the screen's masters of color, Jack Cardiff. And it has the ingredients for a dandy thriller. But it squanders these ingredients, mainly because of a dawdling, unimaginative script.....As the picture opens, some excellent tightly woven scenes promise one of those smooth tinglers unfolding in antiseptic, white corridors. (Britain's Green for Danger , beats this one by a good ten miles.) Unfortunately, Jimmy Sangster, who adapted Michael Bryan's novel of the same title, has chosen the easy way out, loosening the tension with a welter of overstated detail and all but severing it with the human element."
Some additional trivia: Jackie Collins, the younger sister of Joan Collins and better known as a bestselling novelist (The Bitch, The Stud, The World Is Full of Married Men), has a supporting role in Intent to Kill and the cinematographer on the film is Desmond Dickinson; his screen credits include such British classics as Hamlet (1948), The Browning Version (1951) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1952). In addition, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster is a familiar name to Hammer Horror fans, having penned the scripts for such popular British horror films as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959).
Producer: Adrian D. Worker
Director: Jack Cardiff
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Music: Kenneth V. Jones
Film Editing: Tom Simpson
Cast: Richard Todd (Dr. Bob McLaurin), Betsy Drake (Dr. Nancy Ferguson), Herbert Lom (Juan Menda), Warren Stevens (Finch), Carlo Giustini (Francisco Flores), Paul Carpenter (O'Brien), Alexander Knox (Dr. McNeil), Lisa Gastoni (Carla Menda), Peter Arne (Kral), Catherine Boyle (Margaret McLaurin).
by Jeff Stafford
In Camera: An Autobiography Continued by Richard Todd (Hutchinson)
Conversations with Jack Cardiff by Justin Bowyer (Batsford)
Intent to Kill
According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Fox advanced Zonic Productions Ltd. eighty percent of the production costs to make Intent to Kill. Intent to Kill marked the directorial debut of cinematographer Jack Cardiff.