24 Hours to Kill / Assignment to Kill

In 1965’s “24 Hours to Kill,” the title carries a winking dual meaning.
Mickey Rooney is Jonesy, part of an airline crew en route to Athens, but
forced to make an emergency landing in Beirut, of all locales. As soon
as he’s on the ground and headed to the hotel, he notices he’s being
followed. He’s nervous; everyone else on the crew is keen to party.

Jonesy follows them, although he’s clearly the odd man out, and
eventually explains that “a friend” once ran afoul of a Beirut syndicate
of gold smugglers from India to Hong Kong, and therefore, believes
himself to be in danger by association. He’s correct, yet his co-workers
seem more interested in taking in the sights and smoking the hookah.

More effective as a colorful travelogue of the jet-set era than an
international conspiracy suspenser, “24 Hours” pads itself with a lame
romantic subplot between Western actor Rex Barker and German actress
Helga Sommerfeld, and dates itself with such swingin’ dialogue as
“Jonesy, we’re gonna take you to the gayest place in town!”

It’s fun to watch just for places you’ll never visit — a hotel where the
pool looks into an underground space, ruins of the oldest town in world
— but you’ll almost instantly forget about it. You’ll also hit your
visual RDA of the fez. Despite how Warner Archive’s packaging reads, the
film is not in black and white.

In 1968’s “Assignment to Kill,” brassy, kaleidoscopic opening credits
suggest that murder can be a blast! And it is, in a William
Conrad-produced spy number that makes the decade look sexier and more
fun than it probably was.

Patrick O’Neal plays Cutting, a detective hired for a seemingly boring
task: investigating the death of Walter Green (Peter van Eyck, “The Spy
Who Came in from the Cold”), who may not be dead. Instead, he gets
himself into a rip-roaring ring of insurance fraud where the stakes
prove fatal for so many of its players.

Take a cue from leading lady Joan Hackett — who plays her sexy,
romantic-interest part with a humorous, half-blasé attitude of partial
detachment — for the right frame of mind. For example, she stands
sleepily to watch a fistfight going on right in front of her face; she’s
so seen-it-all, the effect is comical.

Besides, it’s tough to take too seriously a spy who wears ascots. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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