Monday, November 01, 2010

Time Limit (1957)

Watched this film yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. Richard Widmark plays an Army colonel investigating a case of treason during the Korean War against Richard Basehart's Major, who refuses to defend himself against the charge. Widmark suspects something else is going on, but nobody's talking. The movie follows his patient and frustrated investigation as he's hounded to close the case by a General, whose son was killed at the same POW camp Basehart was a prisoner in.

The last twenty minutes really take off, when characters start to crack and reveal the truth. There is a fabulous, passionate exchange between Basehart and the General (played by Carl Benton Reid), about the nature of heroes, cowards, Army code. It could seem a bit speechy under a different director or actors, but the actors here are all strong, and they pull it off. It was so good I rewatched the ending three times. I'm particularly fond of how it keeps changing how you think about the situation as each character chimes in, and I think it ends in the right place as well, with the General's answer to Basehart's question.

Martin Balsam plays Widmark's aide, and despite his rather annoying, smarmy character, he also gets a great serious scene defending Widmark. A very young Rip Torn plays another POW member who gives his testimony in the case. He also gets some powerful moments. Dolores Michaels plays Cpl. Evans, who is Widmark's other aide. While she's mostly just a secretary, she also gets some good moments, where she stands up to Martin Balsam, and where she figures out some key points. There's some attraction between her character and Widmark's that is nicely underplayed. I really liked her.

This film was directed by Karl Malden, in what I understand was his only directing venture. He does a fine job, and I would have liked to have seen what else he might have done, how he might have grown as a director.


  1. This looks like a good one. I didn't know Karl Malden directed this one.

  2. I've had this sitting unwatched on the shelf for a while. I must dust it off and give it a spin. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Ooooooooooooooooooh! And of course, the ILL system doesn't have it. Maybe after we move I'll find it.

  4. Anonymous6:40 PM

    I watched it too. Really good.