At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

TEN SECONDS TO HELL (Kino Lorber)

By • Aug 16th, 2015 •

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British rocket bombs seem to be booby-trapped, proving very difficult for this 6-man German Bomb Disposal Unit hired to defuse live 1000-lb bombs that haven’t detonated in the ruins of Berlin after WW11 has ended. Upping the ante of their perilous work, the team agrees that as each of their members perishes, that person’s money goes into a pool, and the last man standing gets it all.

Their attitudes under extreme pressure range from near-hysteria (not the humorous kind) to devil-may-care. The bomb-confrontation scenes, shot in Berlin’s ruins, which suggest a visual hell in which they ply their trade, are gorgeously shot by Ernest Laszlo, and the entire film is art directed with dark beauty by Ken (DOCTOR STRANGELOVE) Adam.

Producer/Director (and co-author) Robert Aldrich’s tendency was to go a bit over-the-top, both in his directing and in his casting choices, and in no way could he have chosen better in both of those areas than with Jack Palance, who he also used in THE BIG KNIFE and ATTACK!. Given Palance’s larger-than-life face and persona, I could buy him doing little else than chewing the scenery, though in addition to that he’s been given a vulnerable, humane, conscience-wracked character to portray. It seemed like he and Jeff Chandler purposely switched roles to see how going diametrically against type would play out. The results are uneven, but certainly compelling

The co-producer was Michael Carreras of Hammer Films. It’s an unusual item from the Hammer stables, but extremely classy, and I was initially surprised that Aldrich & Hammer didn’t work together again. I’ve read since (on IMDB) that the studio cut a half hour out of the film without Aldrich’s approval, and such an act certainly could have severed ties between them. It led to him insisting his name be removed from the credits as Producer.

However, in a highly-detailed book (‘Hammer Films – The Bray Studios Years’ by Wayne Kinsey), it’s Aldrich who is depicted as the heavy, bringing in his own people, being brusque and dictatorial, and delivering an unwieldy first cut of approximately three hours.

I knew Aldrich quite well, and always found him to be a pleasant, easy-going person, but that was over a decade later, after KISS ME DEADLY, VERA CRUZ, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and THE DIRTY DOZEN. He may have been more comfortable with his professional clout by then, and not as aggressive in order to get the results he wanted on celluloid without interference. He also, by then, owned his own production company.

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