Suddenly

A cold-blooded thriller!
Suddenly
The tranquility of a small town is marred only by sheriff Tod Shaw's unsuccessful courtship of widow Ellen Benson, a pacifist who can't abide guns and those who use them. But violence descends on Ellen's household willy-nilly when the U.S. President passes through town... and slightly psycho hired assassin John Baron finds the Benson home ideal for an ambush.

Reviews

John Chard
God and the Gun! Suddenly is directed by Lewis Allen and written by Richard Sale. It stars Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates, Kim Charney and Christopher Dark. Music is by David Raksin and cinematography by Charles G. Clarke. The small American town of Suddenly is gearing up for a pit stop visit by the President of the United States. Unfortunately the President’s visit has attracted the attention of assassins, who hold hostage the Benson family and friends as their home is the perfect viewpoint for a sniper shot at the President… Show me a guy with feelings and I’ll show you a sucker. Sinatra was never comfortable with his role in Suddenly, even before he “requested” it be removed from circulation post the assassination of his friend JFK in 63, there was a feeling within the Sinatra camp that playing such a despicable character would harm his image. More so as it came a year after his Oscar winning performance in From Here to Eternity. Blue Eyes would even try to make good on the characterisation by reversing the roles as it were for The Manchurian Candidate 1962, but of course a lot of things changed after November 22nd 1963. This all gives Suddenly a curiosity value that it actually doesn’t need, for it’s a gripping thriller capable of standing on its own two feet, and it’s boosted by a terrific performance from Sinatra, one of his best in fact. That it was hard to see for quite some time is a shame, because it deserves to be better known. The makers take a hostage scenario and give it a noir edge by way of the conspiracy angle, some paranoia, a family in peril and a strong noir staple of a returning soldier from a war badly scarred by his experiences. In this case John Baron (Sinatra) has the taste for killing, as he is taunted by chief hostage Sheriff “Tod” Shaw (Hayden) about his means and motives, that Baron just likes to kill, Baron repeatedly rants that he was a Silver Star winner, that he killed 27 German soldiers, but this doesn’t hide the fact that he has no compunction about killing the President for money. To him the President is just a mark of no significant interest, Baron is a real cold fish and Sinatra gives a thunderously twitchy coiled spring portrayal. Sinatra is backed up by Hayden doing one of his strong macho type turns, and Gleason scores best of the support actors as a wise old boy who himself was once in the Secret Service. These two bastions of Americana off set the near irritating characterisations of Ellen Benson (Gates) and Peter Benson III (Charney), the former the hysterical female, the latter the annoying kid saying illogical things. However, these two stereotypes don’t harm the picture, because director Allen manages to keep the group under duress dynamic ticking away, smothering it with claustrophobic atmosphere to then unleash all for the explosive finale. It’s set in daylight and visually it’s nothing to get excited about, in fact much of the film is set in one living room, while the patriotism over traitorism is a necessary piece of thematic flag waving. But this comes highly recommended as entertainment as sleepy small town Americana is jolted out of its stupor. 8/10

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