This story of a hit-man pursuing a murder witness hiding out in Glacier National Park is not good, but may appeal to Vincent Price fans. To explain why, I must venture into spoiler territory.
The film opens in a darkened, deserted nightclub. A man plays a piano with his back to us. Another man appears atop the stairs. He has a gun. He sneaks down and creeps across the nightclub floor. Outside, lightning flashes followed by a crack of thunder. The piano player turns, and the gunman shoots. The piano player drops dead. Then we hear footsteps and a woman scream. The gunman hurries after the mystery woman.
Two weeks later, we’re in a posh high-rise office. The rain hasn’t stopped. The gunman, Johnny, sits on a couch. He pokes at a toy piano, playing the same melody the piano player played before he died.
We learn Johnny is out on bail. He plans to claim self-defense, but the District Attorney has identified a witness that could prove otherwise. Johnny thinks he knows where the witness is hiding and wants her out of the picture.
“That’s your job,” Johnny says to a man sitting with his back to us. Now, here’s where things get contrived. They know the witness’s location and what she looks like, but somehow they don’t know her name. So the mystery hitman must go undercover and suss out the witness’s identity before killing her.
“What a hideout,” Johnny says. “No wonder we couldn’t find it until yesterday. It’s the last place in the world you’d expect anyone to hide.”
Cut to Glacier National Park in Montana. We see Matt Hallett, played by Victor Mature, entering the park in a rented car. The guard at the gate spies a gun in Matt’s glove compartment and phones it in to Chief Ranger Joe, played by William Bendix.
For the next half-hour or so, the script tries to convince us Matt is the hired killer. It helps that Mature has a way of talking where his entire body remains motionless except his jaw. Like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Creepy enough to pass for a sociopath.
But, of course, we know better. This attempted misdirection lets Vincent Price do what he does best, play a character playing someone else. Here, he plays Paul Adams, a mob hitman playing a nature photographer. Early on, he’s all folksy smiles, but even his dilettante persona exudes a hint of menace.
Matt and Paul both vie for the affections of the witness, Louise, played by Piper Laurie. Given Louise proves the only woman in the park fitting the witness’s description, one wonders why she chose the location.
Louise is cordial to Paul, but finds herself drawn to Matt. In between, there’s a sub-plot involving a fugitive Indian, an avalanche, and a forest fire. Most of these diversions exist to exploit the film’s 3D presentation, but they also give the impression that Glacier Park is a death trap.
Anyway, a little before the halfway point, we discover Paul’s true identity. Though we see it coming, the reveal isn’t without a surprise. From here, the film shifts into adventure. Paul must kill Louise and escape. But despite being a professional killer, he fails, and Louise alerts the park authorities. With the roads closed, Paul must flee overground.
Matt, now revealed as a cop working for the New York District Attorney’s office, sets out after Paul. Of course, Louise ends up tagging along. After some great location photography, everything culminates in a showdown inside an ice fissure. A real ice cave would have impressed. The soundstage artifice does not. You’ll be hard-pressed not to laugh at the matte backgrounds. Ditto the scene where Price kicks Mature in the face.
The print streaming on Watch TCM is standard definition. A shame. The location photography and Technicolor presentation prove the film’s biggest assets. But Vincent Price fans should enjoy him here, if only for the outfit he wears for the square-dance scene.