One million dollars has been stolen, and at this resort in the Mediterranean more trouble is brewing since it is the location the robbers have fled to. In fact, one of them is still fleeing, Corbett (Cameron Mitchell), who is running for his life from former partner in crime Kostis (Ivor Salter), pursued by the criminal in his sports car while he tries to escape on foot. Meanwhile back at the hotel Corbett's moll Darlene (Jayne Mansfield) is rolling around in the money, unaware that her boyfriend is about to be thrown over a cliff...
With the combination of Mansfield and Mitchell, a cult pairing if ever there was one, it's surprising Dog Eat Dog isn't better known. Also called When Strangers Meet, which was the title of the book it was based on, poor distribution might be the cause of its obscurity, for the overheated melodrama it portrayed was surely exactly what an audience who followed the two stars' movies would lap up. It helps that this was so far over the top that it landed feet first into the realms of camp, asking us to take seriously a tale that came across as if it were an episode of The Saint Roger Moore had inexplicably failed to show up for.
Leaving the characters to degenerate into a bunch of infighting, treacherous ne'erdowells for whom the mere mention of all that cash sends them into a frenzy of avarice: often quite literally. Although we see Corbett (or a dummy stand-in for Mitchell) toppling over the edge into the sea, he isn't dead, merely the first of the cast to appear sporting a facial injury. Honestly, before the finale occurs just about all the main characters end up with some kind of black eye, or for variety, crushed fingers, but it's Mitchell who is awarded the most bloodied face, spending practically the whole movie with his phizog caked in stage gore, and in turn acting as if he has been rendered deranged by the experience.
Although this begins with the characters at the hotel, they actually wind up on an island before long, not only the three gang members but also the hotel owner Morelli (Pinkas Braun) and his repressed sister Sandra (Dodie Heath), who encounter the place's only inhabitants in a lavish mansion there, a sort of Sunset Boulevard combination of fading, loopy ex-madam (Elisabeth Flickenschildt) and her loyal butler Jannis (Werner Peters). Not a minute goes by without this lot squabbling, exchanging fisticuffs, or laughing hysterically, and as this was a European production the cast were all dubbed, so none of them sound the way they usually did, especially the West Country-born Salter, here blessed with an American gangster's growl.
Reputedly this was not an easy shoot, with an abundance of snags hit along the way, but all credit to them, they did manage to salvage something and get a story out of it. Not that it's a sensible story, indeed you're more likely to be giggling with it than be caught up in the intrigue as it transforms from sunkissed cops and robbers to an Agatha Christie-inspired murder hunt. Someone is bumping off the other people on the island in various proto-slasher movie ways, and you would be forgiven for thinking it was the increasingly nutty Corbett judging by Mitchell's masterclass of extended freakout acting as he tries to track down the now missing money. Jayne, however, got her own catchphrase ("Crackers!") and various dumb blonde bits of business, all the while trying to hide her baby bump - she looks decidedly plump in many shots. Connoisseurs of the ridiculous should find much to savour here with all the hardboiled dialogue for a start, and for a finish, the most heavyhanded "Crime does not pay" message you'll ever see. Music by Carlo Savina.