Cast & Crew
Michael Lanyard, an ex-jewel thief known as the Lone Wolf, travels with his butler, Llewellyn Jameson to Alexandria, Egypt to help the British government smash a German spy ring that is operating there. Lanyard is staying at a hotel owned by his old friend, Johnny Booth, and while drinking in the lounge with Johnny, Lanyard receives a note from Sir Roger Wembley, the British diplomat he is to meet later that night, directing him to a waiting limousine. The car transports Lanyard to a secret elevator garage that descends into a darkened room, where an unseen man informs him that Jameson is being held hostage and will be executed unless Lanyard agrees to steal some secret British documents. When Lanyard accedes to the spy's demands, he and Jameson are released. After the two are driven back to the hotel, Karl, the unseen man, informs his accomplice, Fritz, that Lanyard's assignment is a diversionary tactic to keep the ex-thief and his British allies occupied while the Germans steal the charts to the mine fields that defend the Suez Canal. Upon learning of Lanyard's meeting, Sir Roger, who resents the American's involvement in British affairs, reluctantly accepts Lanyard's proposal that he pretend to work with the spies to discover their mission. Later, Jameson receives a telegram from his son Donald, a lieutenant in the Navy, notifying him of his arrival in Alexandria that night. At Johnny's club, Jameson and Lanyard meet Donald and his fiancée, war correspondent Valerie King. When Valerie's purse spills open and a patch of crocheted lace falls out, Johnny becomes suspicious and has a vague recollection of meeting Valerie before. After retiring to his office, Johnny introduces Lanyard to Cezanne and Rembrandt, two mercenaries who have been sent by Sir Roger to aid the American in his mission. When Cezanne shows him a message he has intercepted from the Germans concerning charts of the location of the Allied army in Iran, Lanyard suspects that the Germans plan to invade the Mid-East through Turkey and expect him to steal the charts. After leaving Johnny's office, Rembrandt shoots Cezanne in the back. Valerie, upon returning to her hotel room, discovers that her passport is missing and panics, explaining to Donald that the document is a forgery. After Donald leaves to search for the passport, Karl emerges from the shadows. Valerie informs him that Donald has arranged a personal tour of the Admiralty for her and promises to pass along the layout to the spies. Lanyard, meanwhile, is strolling down the street when The Whistler, another mercenary, approaches him and reveals that Valerie delivered the lace to a laundry and has arranged to pick it up at midnight. Hearing The Whistler's information, Johnny remembers that Valerie was involved in a spy scandal with a French officer. Later, The Whistler returns to Johnny's office with the lace, and when they unravel it, Rembrandt deciphers a code directing Valerie to a midnight meeting with a submarine. Upon returning to his room, Lanyard is visited by Karl, who tells him that they have kidnapped Jameson and will execute him unless Lanyard steals a file from the vault at Naval Intelligence that night. At Naval Intelligence, Lanyard is in the process of breaking into the vault when a car carrying Jameson crashes into the gates. When Sir Roger arrives with news that the Admiralty has been broken into and a copy of the defense of the Suez Canal stolen, Lanyard realizes that he has been duped. Holding Lanyard responsible for the theft, Sir Roger orders his arrest, but Lanyard sets fire to the car, and in the confusion, escapes with Jameson. Determined to retrieve the charts, Lanyard and Jameson search the streets and find Donald lying unconscious in an alley. Upon regaining consciousness, Donald explains that he was following Valerie when someone hit him on the head. Continuing down the alley, the three men come upon the laundry and force their way in. There, they coerce the workers to divulge the spies's hideout. After tying up the workers, they descend into the basement hideout and are greeted by Fritz, whom they overpower. When they find The Whistler's dead body holding a broken watch crystal in the palm of his hand, Lanyard puts the crystal pieces together. Upon projecting the pieces through an ultraviolet projector, Lanyard discovers that a map of the Suez Canal has been microfilmed onto the crystal and deduces that Valerie must be wearing a watch bearing the identical plan on its crystal. Soon after, Valerie telephones and Lanyard, pretending to be Karl, tricks her into divulging her location at a hotel. Lanyard then calls Johnny for help, and Johnny agrees to meet him at Valerie's hotel room. Before they arrive, however, Rembrandt appears at Valerie's door and demands the watch. By the time Lanyard, Johnny, Donald and Jameson get there, the room is empty. When the clerk remembers seeing two men waiting outside in a roadster, Johnny offers Lanyard the use of an old training plane equipped with machine guns. Lanyard takes off in the plane and, after locating the car carrying Karl and Rembrandt, strafes it. The machine gun fire catapults the car off the side of the road, causing the watch to smash in the wreck. Later, at the club, as Johnny, Donald, Jameson and Lanyard celebrate their victory, Lanyard receives word of another assignment from Sir Roger, causing Jameson much distress.
L. W. O'connell
M. W. Stoloff
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
The working titles of this film were A Night of Adventure and The Clock Strikes Twelve. According to the files of the War Review Board contained in NARS, the Los Angeles Board of Review disapproved the export of this film because it portrayed British Intelligence as ineffectual and naïve. For additional information on the series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2563.