Many mystery-thrillers walk a thin line between cleverness and incredibility, as Circle of Danger demonstrates. Not that Circle is in any way a bad movie; in fact, it is rather a good one. But one watches it thinking that, with just a little more effort, it could have been a VERY good one. It has enough ingredients to create a superior film in the classic Hitchcock vein, but it lacks the master's special touch -- that knowledge of how to arrange these ingredients so that they seem to fall into place in just the right order and in the most natural way possible -- no matter how outlandish they might appear if one encountered such a series of situations in real life. With Circle, one is always aware of the machinery operating underneath the plot, and the clanking of the gears gets a bit loud at times. It also doesn't help that Jacques Tourneur's direction, while dead on in places, is most certainly far off in others. Most damagingly, Tourneur doesn't keep the level of suspense high enough for long enough stretches. And he's also unable to make the ending seem anything other than contrived, although few directors would be able to do any better tackling the same problem. Fortunately, Circle does have Ray Milland, who knows pretty much what to do at every twist and turn. Even though he's reduced to being a spectator too often, and the plot doesn't involve him in as direct a way as one wants it to, he grabs hold of the picture and steers it along with panache.
by Craig Butler review