This aeroplane headed for Athens has engine trouble over the Middle East, and the Captain Jamie Faulkner (Lex Barker) decides the best course of action is to land at a Beirut airport to fix the damage, but one of the crew, Jonesy (Mickey Rooney) suddenly looks most perturbed at that notion, though he will not say why. Also looking perturbed is the French woman who in spite of being told to buckle her seatbelt as the plane comes in to alight on the runway, ignores that order and rushes into the cockpit to grapple with Faulkner; fortunately, she is fended off and the landing goes safely, with Jonesy commended for his level head in keeping the woman under control after the incident. But he is not going to be too calm for the twenty-four hours they need for repairs…
24 Hours to Kill was one of producer and writer (as ever, under a pseudonym) Harry Alan Towers’ many international adventure flicks, notable by their equally international location shooting and casts who would include some Continental starlets and at least one major actor who had seen better days in their career, who in this case was Mickey Rooney, finding now he was not the attraction he used to be in Hollywood was scrabbling around for whatever work he could get, which led him to some interesting jobs. This was not one of those, a middling thriller whose trademark Towers use of cheap, colour film stock tended to downplay the supposedly exotic places they were made in, though this was made at a time when Beirut was considered a worthwhile holiday destination.
Not so a few short years later when the bullets were flying and the bombs were detonated, so if nothing else this offered a chance to see the region in happier times, though even then it wasn’t exactly looking enticing with these filmmakers depicting it, indeed it looked decidedly low rent without the sheen of a higher budget behind it, but such was things with a Towers movie, he was more of a factory business than someone doing it for the love of art, profit was all-important and seeing as how he could make a load of these on relatively small amounts of money to be sold around the globe for considerably more amounts of money, you could observe the producer knew his market and how to exploit it, so more power to his elbow.
More problematic from a modern perspective was the presence of Lex Barker; back when this was released, he was that guy who played Tarzan in America, though in West Germany he was a megastar thanks to his Westerns made in Europe, as well a big name in areas like Italy and Yugoslavia. That’s not the problem, which turned up after he had died and Cheryl Crane, the daughter of his ex-wife Lana Turner, accused him in her sensational memoirs of raping her when she was a girl, an accusation that has been the subject of some debate ever since. Barker’s friends were baffled at the claim, and Crane had been a troubled girl to say the least what with stabbing Turner’s gangster boyfriend to death, so the truth of the matter was difficult to judge from this remove: Barker was never charged with anything.
Still, mud tends to stick and at the back of your mind when you watch his movies there’s always that doubt he was as pleasant a guy as his pals said he was. Putting that to one side, it’s Rooney who plays the most obnoxious individual here, repetitively getting his fellow crew into trouble and then blustering he knows nothing about why these men are chasing him when it’s plain he knows fine well. After about ninety minutes of kidnappings and “punch-ups” you may well be hoping Jonesy gets his comeuppance, though what actually happens to him is not quite what you would expect – maybe the filmmakers had grown tired of his shenanigans as well. In the meantime, we were treated, if that’s the word, to such bits of business as the bizarre sight of British light actor Michael Medwin as a rampant womaniser, in a running joke that he keeps trying to track down a sure thing from his little brown book; he had his charms, but a lothario wasn’t the most obvious role for him to essay. Also present were Walter Slezak as the gang leader, sort of a Sydney Greenstreet in brown makeup, and the inevitable Mrs Towers Maria Rohm as his second-in-command. Easy to watch, but production line stuff. Music by Wilfred Josephs.
[This was never going to look glossy, but Network's DVD has it at its best, and a German trailer and a gallery are your extras.]