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The Secret Ways

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Secret Ways
Original film poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Richard Widmark (uncredited)
Written byJean Hazlewood
Based onThe Last Frontier
1959 novel
by Alistair MacLean
Produced byRichard Widmark
Euan Lloyd
StarringRichard Widmark
Sonja Ziemann
CinematographyMax Greene
Edited byAaron Stell
Music byJohn Williams
Color processBlack and white
Heath Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 1961 (1961-04)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Secret Ways is a 1961 American neo noir mystery thriller film based on Alistair MacLean's 1959 novel The Last Frontier. It was directed by Phil Karlson and stars Richard Widmark.[1]

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In 1960 Vienna, after Soviet tanks crush the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, American adventurer Michael Reynolds (Richard Widmark) is hired by an international espionage ring to smuggle a noted scholar and resistance leader, Professor Jansci (Walter Rilla), out of Communist-ruled Hungary. Reynolds goes to Vienna to see the professor's daughter, Julia (Sonja Ziemann), and he persuades her to accompany him to Budapest. Once there, Reynolds is kidnapped by "freedom fighters" who take him to the professor's secret headquarters.

Meanwhile, one of Jansci's trusted aides is captured by the Hungarian Secret Police and forced to reveal the professor's hiding place. Reynolds, Julia, and Jansci are quickly rounded up and taken to Szarhaza Prison, where they are tortured by the sadistic Colonel Hidas (Howard Vernon).

They are rescued by a resistance fighter known as The Count (Charles Régnier), who tricks the Communists into placing the prisoners in his custody. At the last moment the ruse is discovered. The Count is killed as the other three race to the airport where a chartered plane is waiting. Hidas pursues them but is killed in an accident on the runway. Safe at last, Reynolds, Julia, and the professor leave Hungary.



The film was based on Alistair MacLean's novel The Last Frontier which was published in the US as The Secret Ways.[2]

Actor Richard Widmark moved into producing in the 1950s while making Time Limit.[3] His production company, Heath Films, bought the screen rights in March 1959.[4] Widmark called it "an anti-Communist thing" which "had nothing to do with my [personal] politics."[5]

In August 1959 Heath Films signed a two-picture deal with Universal, the first of which was to be The Secret Ways.[6] Other books Widmark wanted to film were The Wounds of Hunger and The Seven File.[7]

Widmark visited Austria with his wife Jean Hazlewood, who would write the script. They did considerable research and made a significant number of changes to the novel.[8]

In May 1960 Phil Karlson signed to direct. Karlson went to Vienna on June 1, and filming began in August.[9] Many local Austrian actors were cast in support roles.[10]


According to an interview in Cinema Retro, associate producer Euan Lloyd stated that producer and star Richard Widmark did not like director Phil Karlson's proposed tongue-in-cheek direction of the screenplay written by Widmark's wife Jean Hazlewood. Widmark took over the direction of the film in September without credit.[11]

Karlson says Widmark hired him on the basis of The Phenix City Story because "he wanted to try to get realism in it" and the director told him "I wanted to do it as a James Bond. But he hadn't heard of James Bond. I said, "If we do this tongue in cheek, we'll be the first ones." He said, "No, I don't want to do it that way"." Karlson says he left for the last week of filming. Years later, after Karlson made The Silencers, a Bond-style spoof, he says Widmark tried to get him to do three more pictures. The director said, "He realized we'd have had, maybe, the first picture that would have taken him out of the role of the guy who kicks the old lady down the steps."[12]

Widmark had a series of movies in development as a proposed follow-up.[13]


  1. ^ SECRET WAYS, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 28, Iss. 324, (Jan 1, 1961): 84.
  2. ^ THE BOOK REPORT: Espionage Story Delves Deep Kirsch, Robert R. Los Angeles Times 8 Apr 1959: B5.
  3. ^ The Private Life of Richard Widmark Is Private: Richard Widmark By DICK ADLER New York Times 7 Mar 1971: D17.
  4. ^ LAST MILE' CREDIT IS BASIS FOR SUIT: John Wexley Seeks $150,000 From Film Producers -- Widmark Buys Novel By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 20 Mar 1959: 26.
  5. ^ Rerunning Widmark: The cackling killer's quiet now: The cackling killer's quiet now Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 10 June 1973: f3.
  6. ^ CAPITOL THEATRE TO BE RENOVATED: Modern Design With Fewer Seats Planned -- Filming Completed on 'Spartacus' By RICHARD NASON. New York Times (12 Aug 1959: 33.
  7. ^ Boroff Activates Season at Circle: New Plays Emphasized, With Four to Be Sponsored by Club Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 17 Nov 1959: C9.
  8. ^ Mandelsohn, Harold (13 November 1960). "SPOTLIGHT ON 'SECRET': Austrian Landscape Adds Its Realism To Drama of Hungarian Refugees". New York Times. p. X9.
  9. ^ New Pictures Get Go-Ahead Signals: Karlson, Levin Will Direct for Widmark and Pasternak Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 18 May 1960: A11.
  10. ^ Seasoned Viennese Players Lined Up: Widmark Completes Casting; Mirisch Marks Anniversary Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 16 Aug 1960: 21.
  11. ^ Cinema Retro Issue #1 Euan Lloyd Interview
  12. ^ Todd McCarthy and Richard Thompson. “Phil Karlson: Interview, November 19, 1973” Kings of the Bs; Working Within the Hollywood System, eds. Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), pp. 327-345. Rpt. Cine Resort, Oct. 7 2014
  13. ^ WIDMARK'S FIRM ADDS TO AGENDA: Heath Plans Films in Japan and in England After Star Makes 'Seven File' Here By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 4 Feb 1961: 14.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 April 2024, at 22:49
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