TEN SECONDS TO HELL

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Feb. 20, 2015

The British-West German production “Ten Seconds to Hell” (1959, b/w) is a post-World War II thriller about a crew of former POWs who are members of a German bomb-disposal unit, newly assigned to scour Berlin for unexploded Allied devices.

The six men accept the job because they will be well paid, and then they enter into a macabre wager about who will and won’t survive the job.

Meanwhile, two of them (Jeff Chandler and Jack Palance) move into a boarding house run by a young widow (Martine Carol), and as weeks pass, they both have romantic feelings for her.

   

       Jeff Chandler, left, Jack Palance, 'Ten Seconds to Hell'

Things get complicated as one by one, members of the crew die in their efforts, and a secret about Palance brings out the worst in Chandler as they ultimately must work together on a 1,000-pound British bomb that may have a hidden second fuse.

“Ten Seconds to Hell” was directed by American filmmaker Robert Aldrich, whose attention to detail and affinity for rich characterizations earned him attention for his early efforts, “Apache” (1954), “Vera Cruz” (1954), “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955) and “The Big Knife” (1955).

After “Ten Seconds to Hell,” Aldrich had a string of well-regarded hits that remain popular today, including “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962),  “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (1964), “The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965), “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), “The Longest Yard” (1974) and “Hustle” (1975), among others.

   

The most difficult thing to accept about “Ten Seconds to Hell” is the casting of Chandler and Palance as Germans — and the casting against type of Chandler as a villain and Palance as a hero.

But Aldrich’s meticulous direction makes the bomb-defusing moments quite riveting and both stars are earnest in their approach.

In the editing process, the film was taken from Aldrich and a half-hour removed, which Aldrich protested and felt caused confusion in the picture’s narrative. He therefore had his name removed as producer, though he is still credited with direction.

But as it stands, “Ten Seconds to Hell” is a worthy wartime potboiler, and fans will be glad to see it on stateside DVD and Blu-ray for the first time, thanks to the folks at Kino Lorber.