Julie Benton (Doris Day) is an airline stewardess married to her second husband Lyle (Louis Jourdan), having seen her previous one kill himself over financial troubles. But today she is wondering if she has made the right decision in marrying again so soon, especially after Lyle's outburst at the club today, in front of all those people and just because she was chatting away to man who wasn't him. As she rushes out in embarrassment, he follows hot on her heels and they both get into the car, but once she has driven away she finds he is still furious and he presses down on the accelerator, speeding up the car dangerously, not allowing Julie to turn off the ignition. The vehicle zooms along the highways as she tries to keep control, and one thought emerges in her mind: is Lyle a killer?
The issue of domestic violence is not one which you'd think would make for jolly entertainment, yet down the years Julie's nondescript title has concealed what many regarded as one of the campest unintentional comedies of the nineteen-fifties. That it essentially related the tale of an abused wife being stalked by a violent husband didn't matter, since dramatically too often it drifted into absurdity, with the grand finale going down in bad movie history for its sheer gall, no matter that it presaged a collection of brave, plucky stewardesses leading to Karen Black in Airport 1975 and Lauren Holly in Turbulence - notice a pattern? Yup, they're regarded as camp favourites as well, what was it about stewardesses in peril that attracted that reaction?
Not that Julie's role on aeroplanes was important until the last half hour, before then you had the chance to watch Doris in one of her performances of great suffering, starting with having to sing one of her least effective ballads over the opening credits. In its curious way, the three-way relationship at the beginning represented Julie's choices that would be sympathetic to her female fans: should she stick with the exciting but deadly Lyle, or opt for the dependable but dull Cliff Henderson (Barry Sullivan in typical form)? The answer to that is given by the ending, where she realises the real person she should be counting on is herself as she gathers resources she never knew she had, a conclusion that was not necessarily often relied on in the woman-centric movies of the fifties.
For his contribution, Jourdan was by this point tiring of his accustomed Hollywood persona as the debonair French leading man, with all those romantic fantasies projected onto his dashing demeanour and brooding good looks, so you can understand why he would jump at the chance to play an out and out baddie. This explains why he went about it with such gusto, he really looks as if he's cutting loose and essaying the villainy to the hilt whether thunderously playing piano concertos (Lyle is a concert pianist in his day job) or creeping around in the shadows spying on Julie, often with pistol in hand. He was another reason this gathered the reputation it did, as Jourdan was just evil enough to be rather silly, going to incredible lengths to keep Day in his sights, which led us to the sequence the film closed with.
This was directed by Andrew L. Stone, an interesting chap in the Hollywood of his era. He had started out as a journeyman until he had the opportunity to helm movies the way he wanted, which was to add as much realism as possible, all part of his philosophy of sustaining the credibility of plots that were often thriller-based. That would work out better for some of his projects than others, as in this case all the location filming in the world couldn't assist the audience in believing it could actually happen in this manner, certainly not these days when airport security is not half as lax as depicted here, with Lyle easily sauntering onto Julie's plane - with a gun in his coat! There follows one of the most treasured thriller denouements of the decade, certainly in Doris's filmography, though she does manage to emphasise Julie's turmoil in a way that demonstrated she at least was taking it seriously (no wonder, with her luck with men). But as Julie is forced to try and land the plane, it is difficult not to snicker a little, so contrived was it to put its heroine through the wringer. Music by Leith Stevens.