LISBON is a 1956 feature made by Republic Pictures, and filmed in Portugal. I bought the Kino DVD of it for a very low price from Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers, mainly because it stars two of my favorites, Claude Rains and Maureen O'Hara.
An American smuggler based in Lisbon named Robert John Evans (Ray Milland) is offered $10,000 to help an elderly rich businessman named Merrill escape from communist imprisonment. The offer comes from a shady character named Mavros (Claude Rains). Evans becomes involved with Merrill's lovely wife Sylvia (Maureen O'Hara), and also with one of Mavros' "secretaries" (Yvonne Furneaux). Evans starts to realize that Merrill's life isn't as important to those who want him freed as the money the old man controls.
I had never seen LISBON before, and from the plot descriptions and disc cover I assumed it was something along the lines of CASABLANCA or TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. A few elements of the script does remind a movie buff of those other pictures, but LISBON isn't as exciting. It's a very talky film, with very little action.
Ray Milland was not only the star of LISBON, he was also the producer and director. Milland makes great use of the Portuguese locations, and he has a fine eye for shot composition, but there are times when the movie (which is in widescreen and color) feels like a travelogue. There's a lighthearted air to the proceedings, with about three or four sequences of characters sitting down and having dinner.
Milland's Evans isn't the Humphrey Bogart/John Garfield type--he's a gentleman smuggler, who won't kill or deal in narcotics. In the film Evans has a major reputation (which is why Mavros wants to hire him), but we never see him do much actual smuggling, and because of Milland's usual upper-class attitude, it's hard to believe he'd be involved in this down-and-dirty world. (Perhaps Milland might have had a stronger presence in the lead role if he wasn't busy being producer & director as well?)
Claude Rains is his typical silky-smooth self as Mavros. Mavros is a mysterious fellow who is powerful, charming, cultured, and witty--and he's also quite ruthless (in his introduction sequence he kills a bird on his windowsill with a tennis racket!). Watching Rains in LISBON made me think that he would have been a great James Bond villain. Mavros even has a Bond-like cold-blooded henchman named Serafin, played by Francis Lederer, who is very creepy here.
It's always a treat to see Maureen O'Hara in a color film. O'Hara is as feisty as expected, and the character she plays becomes more complex as the movie goes along. Yvonne Furneaux (best known for starring in Hammer Films' 1959 THE MUMMY) actually has more to do-and show--than Maureen does (see picture below). Furneaux's character is also desired by Francis Lederer's Serafin, which gives him another reason to dislike Milland's Evans.
LISBON isn't a bad film--visually it's quite impressive with the Trucolor photography and the Naturama widescreen process. Rains in particular is very fine in his role, and the two leading ladies are beautiful. But one feels that something stronger and more dramatic might have been made out of this story.