The Angry Hills starts well enough. It’s 1941. Robert Mitchum plays Mike Morrison, an American Correspondent who has just arrived in Greece. The Nazis are preparing to take the country and Mike plans to be on the next plane out. A member of the Greek resistance presents Mike with a list of Nazi collaborators. He urges Mike to take the list to British Intelligence. Mike declines, saying he doesn’t want to get involved. Later, while out with a friend, Mike discovers the list in his jacket. Mike attempts to unload the list to another Greek agent, but Gestapo agents are already on Mike’s tail. They force him to flee through the darkened back streets of Athens. Mike escapes by hitching a ride on a British convoy.
So far, so good. But then the film goes off the rails.
The script jumps ahead. We learn that the Germans bombed the British Convoy and that Mike survived thanks to some fishermen who took him to a remote village. Then the film jumps back and we see the convoy get bombed. Then we’re back with Mike in a small Greek village.
These village scenes are dull and uninspiring. Stilted melodrama replaces suspense. A young, hotheaded female villager named Eleftheria nurses Mike back to health.
Once Mike is healthy, the film devolves into a clumsy wartime adventure. The villagers ask Mike to lead them on a raid of a Nazi supply depot. Because, who better to lead a guerrilla raid in the Greek countryside than an American journalist? While they’re planning the raid, a British soldier shows up, says he’d like to help, learns all the details about the raid, then leaves. No one is concerned. Of course, the raid goes bad. The Nazi’s slaughter all the men save Mike and another, who manage to get away. When they can’t understand what happened, we almost laugh.
After a bit, Mike and Eleftheria travel to a convent where Mike’s given passage back to Athens. Once there, things get a little better, as the film shifts again, this time to a heist picture.
Lisa, a widowed British spy, is Mike’s contact in Athens. The Gestapo gets wind of this and kidnaps Lisa’s children. She’s to turn over Mike if she wants to see her kids again. She sets Mike up, but changes her mind at the last minute. To rescue her children, she makes a deal with a local underworld figure named Chesney, played by Sebastian Cabot. Chesney double crosses the local Nazi agents while Lisa distracts the chief officer. It’s a satisfactory ending, but one in which Mike is superfluous. By this point the list is all but forgotten, having been supplanted by Lisa’s children as the motivating factor.
There’s a lot of good here. The film looks great, especially when it’s in Athens. The location photography, and rich use of shadows give it a terrific sense of atmosphere. The cast is solid too. Mitchum is great as a reluctant hero. Stanley Baker is even better as the Gestapo Agent charged with capturing Mitchum. Cap it off with Sebastian Cabot channeling Sidney Greenstreet in the best way possible and this should have been a good movie.
But, in the end, The Angry Hills isn’t really a movie at all. It starts as a Hitchcockian spy thriller. But before it can get going, it drops that premise and sets up an action picture. And before that can pay off, it tries out a heist picture. Had it followed through on any of these premises, it would likely have turned out better1. Instead we’re given the beginning of one movie, the middle of another, and the end of yet another. Quite a disappointment given the talent involved.
- Okay, maybe not the wartime action premise. That was just silly.↩