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Split Second (1952)

Stephen McNally , Alexis Smith , Dick Powell  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, Arthur Hunnicutt
  • Directors: Dick Powell
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: RKO
  • DVD Release Date: April 21, 2010
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003IKND0S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,228 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Editorial Reviews

Five travelers sweat it out at gunpoint in an abandoned mining town in the Nevada desert. A killer escaped from the pen holds them, intending to scram after a doc tends to his wounded accomplice.

Like The Petrified Forest and Key Largo, Split Second's tale of captives and captors lets the sweat drip, the tension build, the dialogue zing and when the occasion calls, the fists and bullets fly. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking: the mining town is practically ground zero for an A-bomb test slated to unleash its mushroom cloud in just a few hours.
Musical-star-turned-film-noir-hero Dick Powell makes his taut and tough directorial debut, guiding Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith and Jan Sterling in this split-second suspense thriller.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Intensity Never Flags. February 10, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
A cultish favourite that is often listed for festivals of noir cinema, this work is less noirish than it is a clear example from the Theatre of Paranoia, as Dick Powell's directorial debut melds nuclear explosion fears with a harrowing hostage taking by two escaped convicts fleeing from a Nevada prison. The escapees, Sam (Stephen McNally) and Bart (Paul Kelly) helped by mute accomplice Dummy (Frank DeKova), take refuge in an abandoned mining town, Yucca Flats, along with six prisoners they acquire during their flight, despite their awareness that the desert ghost town is within a nuclear test site where, in 12 hours, a combined military force is going to explode a tower bomb armed with high grade scissile plutonium. Sam believes that he and his two cohorts will be able to evade a protective army encirclement and escape prior to the blast, but the uncertain fate of their hapless hostages becomes the oarlock for the film's atmosphere of foreboding, with one of the captives, played by Keith Andes, being a Las Vegas newspaper reporter who has full knowledge of the detonation schedule, having attended planning meetings during which the event's timetable has been established. For Powell's initial effort as a director of features, he selects a restricted environment, essentially one large room, as setting for his limited cast of featured players, with the bomb becoming an additional sinister character. Following initial lead-in scenes, including interlaced footage of actual soldiers and military technicians, a stage mise-en-scène is established to advance an atmosphere of suspense. Unfortunately, Powell's inexperience with ensemble work is in evidence here, as the players generally simply take turns with their readings, although a good deal of the dialogue is trenchant. Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
RKO Radio Pictures presents "SPLIT SECOND" (1953) (85 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Starring Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, Arthur Hunnicutt, Paul Kelly & Richard Egan -- Directed by Dick Powell

Actor Dick Powell made an impressive film debut with the taut atomic-age suspensor Split Second --- Convicts Stephen McNally, Paul Kelly and Frank DeKova escape to a ghost town in the Nevada desert --- Only it isn't exactly a ghost town, but a "dummy village" constructed for the purpose of A-bomb testing --- The criminals hold several hostages, including reporter Keith Andes, nightclub singer Jan Sterling, selfish socialite Alexis Smith, her doctor-husband Richard Egan and her newest boyfriend Robert Paige --- Andes suspects that the deserted town is at Ground Zero of the latest bomb test, but he can't convince the convicts until it's almost too late --- The best and most horrifying sequence occurs near the end, when the criminals, accompanied by the duplicitous Ms. Smith, discover that they're driving towards the A-bomb target instead of away from it.

Novelist Irving Wallace collaborated on the script of Split Second with Chester Erskine and William Bowers.

This started out as a "B-Film" that rates the "A Plus Film Noir" for rating, showing what could be done with the right chemistry of the director, cast and producer -- What more can an avid noir film collector ask for.

BIOS:
1. Dick Powell [Director]
Date of Birth: 14 November 1904, Mountain View, Arkansas
Date of Death: 2 January 1963, West Los Angeles, California

2. Stephen McNally
Date of Birth: 29 July 1913 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 4 June 1994 - Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California

Mr.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful old movie September 23, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I highly recomend this movie to anyone who likes real suspense. Good action, plot development and wonderful direction by Dick Powell. This movie is proof positive that you don't need constant action to maintain tension, an unforgivable deadline with an atomic bomb is a great substitute.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Noir September 6, 2008
Format:VHS Tape
The government is doing nuclear tests in the middle of the Nevada desert. They plan to bomb a ghost town at 6 am and have evacuated the town. Reporter Larry Fleming (Keith Andes) is covering the story until he is assigned to a breaking story; a killer (Stephen McNally) has escaped from jail and is in the area. He takes along a girl (Jan Sterling) with him to Carson City, but on the way, he is stopped by convict Sam Hurley himself. Hurley has kidnapped a couple (Robert Paige, Alexis Smith) and called the woman's doctor husband (Richard Egan) to get him to fix his partner's wound. He chooses a less than ideal hideout: the ghost town in the middle of the bomb site.

This was Dick Powell's first screen credit as a director, and he recieved good notices for his work. It is difficult to create atmosphere in the desert which offers little variety in the way of locations, but Powell works well with the outdoors. When the action moves indoors to an abandoned barroom, he manages to convey the claustrophobia of the captives. His direction is not fancy; he does what he needs to do to set the mood, but there is nothing overly beautiful about his work. The actors do a good job of aiding the tension of the film, and Paul Kelly gives a standout character performance as the old prospector.

Interestingly enough, nuclear testing sites played a major role in Powell's life a few years later when he directed The Conqueror. The film was shot in the desert on grounds that had once been used for nuclear tests. Rumor has it that the location contributed to almost half of the cast and crew's contraction of cancer.
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