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4.4 out of 5 stars
The List of Adrian Messenger
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
"The List of Adrian Messenger" is a superb thriller starring Kirk Douglas and George C. Scott. Adrian Messenger (John Merivale) is mysteriously killed in a plane crash and Anthony Gethryn (George C. Scott) who is a friend of the family is asked to investigate. Gethryn had been given a list of names by Messenger at the house prior to Messenger's fatal plane journey. The men named on the "list" are all being murdered one by one and Gethryn has to use all his investigative powers to try to track down the killer and stop him before others on the list are also murdered. More murders do take place and Gethryn is assisted by Raoul LeBorg (Jacques Roux) and Lady Jocelyn Bruttenholm (Dana Wynter) to solve the mystery. Your enjoyment of the film is enhanced by the appearance of several famous stars in cameo roles (all heavily disguised) and part of the fun is to identify who they are before the final "unmasking" at the end of the movie! Kirk Douglas also appears in many disguises throughout the film and seemed to be enjoying his various roles. The fine supporting cast includes Herbert Marshall, Clive Brook and Gladys Cooper. The film was proficiently directed by John Huston who also appeared in the climatic hunting scene. "The List of Adrian Messenger" could be compared with the old fashioned mystery thrillers of the forties and is none the less enjoyable for that. It is like having Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie combined in the one film!
Some favourite lines from the film:
John Merivale (to George C. Scott): "Anyway, if I'm right about this it's a far older sin than politics".
Herbert Marshall (to Scott): "If you really think that all these deaths were tied together it would involve a mass murder plot so preposterous as to defy belief".
Scott (to Jacques Roux): "When you count yourself in - you really mean in, don't you?".
Kirk Douglas (to audience): "Ladies and gentlemen - the end!".
Here is a puzzle for "movie buffs" to ponder over. Although audiences are led to believe that Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster appear in disguise during the film (and indeed these stars are certainly "unmasked" at the end) I have a sneaking suspicion that we were fooled into thinking that ALL these stars were in the film and I am convinced that neither Frank Sinatra or Burt Lancaster actually took part in the film at all and only appeared at the end for the final unmasking! If you look closely it would seem very likely that other actors were used to stand in for Sinatra and Lancaster and that these two stars only came on at the end! Take a look at the film for yourself and see what you think. There is no doubt that Tony Curtis and Robert Mitchum were in the film as they could be easily recognised through the disguises. However, apart from this little deception "The List of Adrian Messenger" is an interesting and unusual film with good performances and is well worth seeing. Clive Roberts.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
This is a VERY unusual movie in that all the stars wear makeup to hide their identies until the end. The fun is trying to identify each star as they make their appearance in the movie. The "List" is a group of names on a list that Adrian Messenger has in his pocket when the plane he is flying in crashes. A fellow passenger is with Messenger when he dies. Together with a retired MI-5 agent played by George C. Scott (and a friend of Messenger) they investigate the crash and determines the crash was a planned murder of Messenger. The hunt is on to find the killer and his motive for killing Messenger and the people on the list. Stars Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. A 4**** movie!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2006
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
I echo the positive comments made about this film. It is interesting, fun, and a tad creepy in parts. Kirk Douglas and George C. Scott are at their best in this movie. Overall, it is an excellent film and really should be available on DVD. There are so many garbage films on DVD - that pander to the lowest common denominator - and worthy efforts like this film are only available in VHS. Hopefully, this wil be corrected soon.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
A quirky star studded film that packs a pretty good wallop in all departments. The acting is good, the plot is exciting with a few twists and turns here and there that keeps you pretty much on the edge of your seat. Not bad for a black and white film made in the 1960s. George C. Scott is Anthony Gethryn a retired MI5 agent who sets out to find the murderer of his friend Adrian Messenger. Just before he died Adrian, played ablely by John Merivale, gives his ex-MI5 friend a list of names, asking him to track them down. To Gethryn's surprise nearly all the men on the list are dead, only one, Jim Slattery (Robert Mitchum well disguised here!) is still alive but not for much longer. The film is a maze of questions and answers that slowly become more apparent as the film moves on. All the loose ends are carefully drawn together and the climax is exciting as it is well thought out. A good who-done-it that is well worth buying just because it is so different from most mystery-thrillers of its day.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Universal/Amazon.com has just released a very good DVD-R transfer of this film in anamorphic widescreen. This product is similar to the MOD burned discs of the Warner Archives program. It is being sold through Amazon as an exclusive. The image is crystal clear, and the sound is very good too.

I don't need to belabor the film's merits, because many others have done so here. Suffice it to say that the film is a stylishly entertaining mystery with a gimmick.

According to character actor Jan Merlin, most of the celebrity guests only appear in the unmasking scenes at the end. Robert Mitchum was the only guest star who actually acted in the body of the film while wearing the mystery makeup. Many of the actors' voices were provided by voice artist extraordinaire Paul Frees.

When the film was brand new in 1963, there was a blurb in the newspaper movie section that said "Talk to Kirk Douglas!", and a phone number was provided. When you called the number, you simply heard a recorded message from Kirk in which he ballyhooed the opening of the film in that city. That was another gimmick associated with this fun film.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This one's on my Top Ten List! A great mystery, a great director, and a great cast! See if you can guess who Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra are under all that make-up! Terrific score, too! Buy this film - you will not be disappointed! I guarantee!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
John Huston certainly took a little change of pace in this one, didn't he? Oh, so British, and oh so tongue in cheek, THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER has survived the test of time, and even after my fourth viewing of this movie, I still found myself intrigued with the sometimes complex plotting.
Along with the much promoted and maligned cameos, the rest of the cast is very good. George C. Scott plays the proper British retired policeman quite well; Dana Wynter (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) is disarmingly lovely; Jacque Roux as the French survivor is lustily French in his wooing of Winter, and John Merivale as Messenger is stoic and heroic. Gladys Cooper has a delightful cameo as one of the murdered men's survivors.
Huston didn't do anything fancy with this movie, but it is well crafted and didn't need any flashy effects.
A murder mystery that will stand the test of time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
That's only a portion of the last words of Adrian Messenger as he gasps out a cryptic warning to a fellow passenger on a plane blown out of the sky by a bomb. That Frenchman survivor hooks up with British-accented detective George C. Scott to unravel the mystery of who is killing so many, and why.
"The List of Adrian Messenger" was a staple as a Sunday afternoon movie when I was a kid, and it was always really scary to see how many people George C. Scott just misses saving. Of course, the best part of this movie are the latex mask disguises so many of the stars are wearing. Fairly early on, the audience learns the identity of the murderer while he is removing one of these disguises, but now that we know that disguises are the order of the day, we find ourselves scrutinizing every face, trying to decide if this one's a mask, and who's underneath it if it is. A pretty good way to develop paranoia, I'd say!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Format: DVD
Fun, intriguing, a bit eerie, and a little bit silly, "The List of Adrian Messenger" was, in 1963, a bit of a throwback to 1940s-style British mysteries, with some added promotional gimmickry prevalent in late-'50s and early-'60s pop cinema.

I first saw this film on TV as a child and was fascinated (and a little creeped out) by the disguises -- particularly by the removal of a false eye early in the film. (Sorry for the spoiler.) Being a young movie fan I was familiar with all the Hollywood "guest stars" purported to be littered throughout the film in disguise, and had fun trying to spot them (I say "purported," since their presence is disputed -- read on).

Another look at "Adrian Messenger" with a bit more mature eye confirms it to be an enjoyable ersatz-Christie thriller, with pleasing performances, atmospheric photography (mostly on sound stages, but with some terrific Irish location work), and a not-quite-leakproof plot. The wonderful music score by Jerry Goldsmith is as much a character in this movie as lead detective George C. Scott (whose Brit accent is shaky but serviceable).

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the film is this: why did John Huston -- he of "The Maltese Falcon" and "Key Largo" -- direct this curious, gimmicky whodunit? He may have been a director-for-hire (employed by Kirk Douglas' Joel Productions), with enough employee clout to shoot a goodly chunk near the Huston estate in Ireland (subbing for the English countryside in the nifty fox-hunting sequences).

An equally big mystery concerns the questionable veracity of the movie's advertising campaign, as relates to the "five great stars" who "challenge you to guess the disguised roles they play!" Character actor Jan Merlin has since claimed to be the "man behind the mask" for nearly all of Kirk Douglas' disguised appearances (he even turned his peculiar experiences on "Messenger" into a thriller novel, "Shooting Montezuma"). Repeated viewings and careful inspection of the false faces may lead you to doubt the ballyhoo, too, but it won't spoil the fun of it all.

"Messenger... Messenger... clean sweep... only one broom left!"
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The List of Adrian Messenger is severely cropped in its DVD release currently selling on Amazon. It's especially evident that the bottom of the image was cut off. The sides may have been cropped as well. The result is that the composition is terrible in about half of the shots, and in many shots you can't see what the actors are doing with their hands.

There are shots of actors on horses, except you can't see the hands on the reins and you can barely see the horse. There are shots of horses jumping fences, except you can't see the fence. There are a couple of shots where one actor is handing papers to another actor, but the passing of papers happens below frame. There's a shot of an actor passing a glass of wine to another actor, but the you can't see the hand of the actor receiving the glass. There are two shots of actors reaching for doorknobs and opening doors, but you can't see the hands or the doorknobs.

The cropping of films released on DVD is widespread, and ought to be loudly decried by everyone who loves the cinema. Please add your voice to those who are denouncing this loathsome practice.
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