Drama, Spy, Thriller

Five Fingers (1952)

Comments Off on Five Fingers (1952) 19 August 2014


Studio:  20th Century Fox
Distributed By:  20th Century Fox Cinema Archives
Director:  Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Rating:  Not Rated
Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including Five Fingers.

“Five Fingers is a movie about talking.”  – Bruce Dubs, 4-year-old

In the eyes of a 4-year-old, Five Fingers is most certainly a movie about talking. Anyone familiar with the style of 1950’s cinema will easily recognize the slower pace that typically resembles a filmed stage production instead of the modern, stylized spy thrillers of today. Viewers expecting high action like James Bond’s Skyfall or Jason Bourne’s The Bourne Identity may leave their couch wanting more. But for the participant looking for a slower paced, tense, taught, slow-burn thriller, look no further than Five Fingers.

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

5_1During WWII, a man (James Mason) claiming to have high level ties with the British Embassy in Turkey approaches Nazi agent L.C. Moyzisch (Oskar Karlweis) and offers him high level, top secret documents in exchange for exuberant amounts of money. Despite having a natural distrust for the man’s offer, Moyzisch, through the instruction of his superiors, agrees to the man’s terms and the Nazi’s give the mystery man the code name Cicero. As the Nazi’s try to determine the validity of Cicero’s information, Cicero looks to conceal his growing wealth with the assistance of a bankrupt Turkish Countess (Danielle Darrieux), who has deep political ties with both the German’s and the British. The British soon realize that they have a leak and hire an American investigator (Michael Rennie) to uncover Cicero’s plot and identity.

Filled with twists, turns, double-crosses, triple-crosses, and surprises, this thriller – based on the true life story documented in the book “Operation Cicero” by L.C. Moyzisch – may be one of the best espionage movies I’ve ever seen. To start, Michael Wilson’s script is exceptional and was nominated for an Oscar and won the Golden Globe for best screenplay. Although my son viewed it as “a movie about talking” the dialogue is some of the best written and includes some of the best exchanges between characters put to celluloid. Each exchange includes a battle of words and wits where the viewer is constantly challenged to question the truthfulness of the speaker, trying to disseminate fact from fiction, find truth in half-truths, and constantly question who is outwitting whom?

5_4Also nominated for an Oscar, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz demands complete precision timing with Five Fingers. Mankiewicz controls the entire pace of the story, slowly turning the tension higher and higher throughout the film and leverages the talents of his cast to near perfection. One of my favorite exchanges includes a final heist by Cicero in which all parties are close to catching him. Cicero attempts to steal top secret documents one last time, but the Allied forces have set certain security measures that Cicero may or may not know about. Mankiewicz perfectly orchestrates his camera, editing, sound effects, music, and acting to ratchet up the tension as the viewer wonders if this is the moment when Cicero will finally be caught! Oh, but I’m not going to spoil it for you here…

Video & Audio Rating: ★★½☆☆

5_7The DVD is available as an on-demand product through 20th Century Fox’s Cinema Archives collection. What this means is that once you order the title, they burn a copy onto your standard DVD-R media instead of the professional grade discs typically found in retail packaging. This is becoming more standard practice with studios and allows them the flexibility to offer as many catalog titles as possible without incurring massive costs. With all of that said…

The video quality is good. Even on my 55″ TV, contrast was okay and detail fairly sharp for standard definition viewing. Only a few instances of compression artifacts appeared on my copy which could have been created as part of the duplication process, but wasn’t bad enough to prove disastrous.

The mono audio track delivers dialogue, sound effects, and music with the clarity one would expect from a 1950s thriller. That’s not to say there is nothing to brag about. The sound design, although understated, is fairly complex in some of the more dramatic scenes. During one of my favorite sequences when Cicero attempts his final heist, there are a lot of little detail sounds like the clicking of a safe dial as Cicero tries to gain access, or the switch of a light as a house cleaner finds some clue that may put Cicero in further jeopardy, and so on. All of this is perfectly designed to slowly heighten the tension as the forces continue to outmaneuver each other.

Extras Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Theatrical Trailer

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

5_2I feel hard pressed to say much more as I don’t want to give away any of the nice little twists and surprises Five Fingers has to offer. Even if you stumble upon other reviews, I would strongly suggest you avoid reading them until after you’ve watched the movie for yourself. Some of the best surprises in Five Fingers comes from the little details offered in the writing and direction and are just to good to get spoiled by dumb critics like me. For any fan of spy-thrillers please be assured that there is no need to determine the validity of my claim. Five Fingers is a legitimate hit and this is no double-cross.


- who has written 70 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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