Monday, December 24, 2018

Lisbon (1956)


Lisbon: City of Murder, Intrigue and Excitement!

Captain Jack (Ray Milland) is a professional smuggler with an eye for the ladies. He goes by a strict code of ethics: no murder, no narcotics, just straight smuggling. When Jack arrives at Lisbon port he finds Inspector Fonseca (Jay Novello) hot on his trail. But luckily Jack and his shipmate Tio Rabio (Humberto Madeira) hide their loot before the Fonseca and his team can find it. In Lisbon, Jack meets with career criminal Mavros (Claude Rains) who has an assignment for him involving the wife of an American imprisoned in a Communist country. Jack is to arrange for Sylvia Merrill (Maureen O'Hara) to have a clandestine business meeting with Mavros and to help Mavros' team smuggle Sylvia's husband Lloyd Merrill (Percy Marmont) into Portugal safe and sound. However Captain Jack is about to get more than he bargained for with this new job. He's equal parts smitten and confused by the beautiful Sylvia. It's clear that she married her much older husband for money. Is she really concerned about her husband's well-being or are her efforts to ensure her financial security? Sylvia quickly becomes enamored with Captain Jack. And she's not the only one. Mavros' live-in girlfriend/employee Maria Madalena (Yvonne Furneaux) also develops an affection for him. But the mercy of her boss and the infatuated Seraphim (Francis Lederer). When Mavros plants an idea into Sylvia's mind to ensure that her husband doesn't make it back alive, she dismisses the idea at first. But $24 million dollars and the chance at real romance with Jack is much more alluring. Will Jack break his code of ethics or will he stay true to himself?

Lisbon (1956) was shot on location in Portugal for Republic Studios. Filming in Europe was big business for Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s and this film has the notable distinction of being the first film entirely shot in Portugal. The story was based on an original idea by Martin Rackin and was adapted for the screen by John Tucker Battle. Paramount held the rights to the story before it was purchased by Republic.

Ray Milland not only stars in the film but he also produced it and directed it. In the credits he goes by R.A. Milland for his producer role and R. Milland for the director role. After making Dial M for Murder (1954), Milland took his career in a different direction and Lisbon was the second film he directed and the only one in which he received credit as producer.

I'm half Portuguese so for me Lisbon (1956) was like time traveling back to my dad's home country around the time he was living there. He emigrated from Portugal in the late 1950s and moved to Brazil before moving to the United States in the early 1960s. I've spent time in Lisbon and it's a gorgeous city. And 1956 Lisbon looks beautiful shot in Naturama and Trucolor. There are lots of great shots of the city and Milland used a variety of Portuguese actors in the film including Vasco Santana, Joao Benard da Costa, Humberto Madeira and singer Anita Guerreiro. Nelson Riddle composed the music for the film and his rendition of Lisbon Antigua was a huge hit in the US. It's a  fado song (a type of traditional Portuguese folk music) and is sung by Guerreiro in one of the scenes.

Story-wise, Lisbon was kind of a disappointment. It took too long to get to the point and when it did I didn't care much. The beginning and ending scenes were great. I loved the resolution to the story. It's very satisfying for Milland's character. And the opening scene shows Claude Rains as the heartless Mavros as he lures and kills a bird to feed to his cat. It gives us some insight into his cruel nature. Maureen O'Hara is absolutely stunning in this film. She has the most complex character of the cast which isn't saying too much because a lot of these characters are rather two dimensional. It's worth watching Lisbon for the beautiful on location shooting by Jack A. Marta, the brilliant color made even more beautiful with the newly remastered Blu-ray, for the great cast and O'Hara and Furneaux's amazing wardrobe.




Lisbon (1956) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Blu-Ray comes from a new high definition master from a 4K scan of the original Trucolor negative. It also includes audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan and a variety of Kino Lorber related trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Lisbon (1956) for review. 

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