Suddenly - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Suddenly Reviews

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½ December 31, 2016
During this time of a hotly contested Presidential election, it is a perfect opportunity to consider some of the incredibly well-crafted movies with political themes. Fortunately, one of the best examples of the political thriller cast in the genre of film noir is getting a fresh release with the newly remastered high definition edition, 'Suddenly.' Originally published in 1954 the movie may be over 60 years old, but its entertainment value greatly appreciated over the years. Although set in the United States directly after World War II, some of the political and cultural references are undoubted, dated. The significance of this film is in how these details may set a particular time and place, but they do not drive the themes of the movie. What drives this film is the insight provided into the psychological composition of the human mind. As a thriller, the movie sets up situations that would test the resolve of any reasonable man. When blended with film noir the audience experiences an exploration of some of the dark recesses working in our subconscious.

These aspects of the human condition are intrinsically unchanging. The external events that help shake them may change in the specifics of its manifestation may be modified by the particulars of the current time, but what is important; their inexorable influence on human behavior remains constant. This movie contains an extraordinary cast of actors that unfortunately may not be as impressive to modern audiences as it should be the appearance of these names on a theater marquee was guaranteed to generate ticket sales. Topping the bill was Frank Sinatra, commonly known as 'Old Blue Eyes.' During the peak of his popularity, he was one of the most popular entertainers in the world. His appearances as a singer would instantly sell out. His nightclub back helps make Las Vegas the venue for top talent that continues to today. The commonly believed conjecture at the time was Mr. Sinatra's career was assisted by powerful men suspected of having ties to organized crime. Regardless of what brought him to film many of his performances are staggering in their intensity. His portrayal in this film of a hardened, professional assassin is frightening in its realism and its ability to incite the primitive fear center of your brain. American actor, Sterling Hayden had a long and illustrious career dominated by leading man roles primarily in residence and film noir mysteries. The other A-list name on the billing is Jackie Gleason. While primarily known as a comedian and one of the founders of the television stables, the variety show, and sitcom, like degrees and frequently distinguish himself as an accomplished dramatic actor. Today this situation remains true. It appears that, and an increasing number of established comedians have undertaken the migration of intensely dramatic roles. This situation is still found in both film and television, a comedian moving towards dramic roles tend to be more successiful than dramatic actors attempting comedy.

To bolster the postwar feeling of national pride, the President of the United States is making personal appearances in California. The route to his next rally would take the Presidential entourage through the small town of Suddenly, California. Before the arrival of the Presidential train a group of men visits the home of the Benson family consisting of Pop Benson (Jackie Gleason), his daughter-in-law, Ellen (Nancy Gates) and his grandson, Peter (Kim Charney), commonly referred to as 'Pidge.' Their home has a unique distinction in the town; it resides on top of the hill with direct line of sight to the train station where the President will appear. It is crucial to consider this plot point within its historical context. Before the proliferation of television, and the construction of transcontinental highways, many politicians utilized railroad system to travel from one town to another. Using the extensive railway system running throughout the country, the politician, and his staff would use a private train to travel from one event to the next. As a standard practice, it became known as whistle-stop campaigning. The use of this mode of transportation for a sitting President to visit his constituents would be entirely natural to the audiences of the mid-50s. The Benson family soon discovers that the group of were not the advanced government team of agents as they have claimed. In reality, there a team of highly paid hitmen hired to assassinate the President. The merciless leader of the team of assassins is John Baron (Frank Sinatra), a hardened, sociopathic killer. He can snuff out a human life with less concern than an average person disposing of a used Kleenex in the trash. Baron and his pair of lackeys forcibly take the hapless family hostage.

Ellen has lost her husband during the war, and as such is vehemently opposed to Pidge even playing with a toy gun. Sheriff Tod Shaw (Sterling Hayden) had seen the boy admiring one in a toy store window and asked what he wanted to do with the weapon. His response was unusual for that time in American history. Rather than being a soldier and killing enemies of the country, Pidge wanted to be a sheriff when he grew up and use the gun to capture criminals. Impressed and somewhat flattered by the response. Sheriff Shaw buys the toy for the boy is a present. But his mother comes to gather him at the toy store. She is quite upset over the gift. A necessary part of most films to establish the moral standing of the characters. In a film noir is crucial to provide the foundation of moral ambiguity that is a defining characteristic of the genre.

At the train station, the sheriff greets a group of Secret Service agents that have just arrived to secure the location for the President's detail. As a result of its vantage point, the Benson home was a natural security concern, prompting a visit by the sheriff and Secret Service agent. Shortly after they arrive, they are ambushed by the gangsters shoot Agent Carney and wound Sheriff fracturing his arm. Sheriff Shaw joins the three members of the Benson family as hostages. Baron's insidious plan is to use a window in the Benson home as a place to set up a powerful sniper rifle assassinating the President as soon as he steps into view. Despite the fact that the living room is adequately roomy the inherent tension of the situation that as it intensifies induces an escalating sense of claustrophobia. In 'Twelve Angry Men,' Sidney Lumet achieved this effect by means of his mastery of camera lens and how he incorporated it into his distinctive directorial style. In contrast, Lewis Allen employs a different methodology substituting a mastery of pacing and an amazing control over the revelation of the exposition to illicit a feeling of progressive claustrophobia to the viewers. The use of this procedure pulls the audience into the room with the Benson family able to relate to the overwhelming terror induced by proximity to a psychopath like John Baron.

The near perfection of this film heavily relied on the exceptional talent displayed by Mr. Sinatra. It might appear odd that a man who attained such universal notoriety as a crooner should also possess such an extraordinary talent a dramatic actor, but this film remains as a testament to this undeniable fact. Mr. Sinatra had an innate ability to discern the deepest motivations of his character channeling that comprises the human condition. Hem to the audience, connecting them to the most primitive emotions and deeply ingrained psychological impulses. It is this visceral reaction prompted by physiological and emotional manipulation that ensures this film a timeless position as a masterpiece.

This latest release is from 'The Film Detective' collection hand has been fully restored from archived 35mm stock back to the original theatrical aspect ratio. The film had fallen into public dolman resulting in a plethora of substandard editions. Many contain terribly scratched video and muddled audio, an unforgivable tragedy for a film of this caliber. There are even releases committing such travesties as colorizing the movie to altering the aspect ratio to 'fit your screen'. One example of heinous mistreatment was time compression shortening the running time and destroying the maliciously planed pacing. If you have any of these copies in your collection show respect to the artistry and immediately replace them with this edition. To make certain you have the correct copy the UPC is 191091180020, accept nothing else.
November 15, 2016
This film had a small budget and it shows but the cast makes the most of it. Frank Sinatra a-typically plays an S.O.B. Finally it is available on blu-ray in its original widescreen aspect ratio: 1.75:1!
February 25, 2016
A routine exercise in trying to be a cross between Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Twilight Zone, but the crappy, stale acting ruins everything.
Not even Frank Sinatra - who is the only decent thing about this, for nostalgia sake only - cant keep it from completely stinking.
Sterling Haden is wooden as usual -
I did not like any of the rest of this either. It had hints of something interesting, but completely fell apart as it went on.
Sad, but true.

2 blank mugs out of 5
January 29, 2016
Frank establishing himself as a heavy fresh off his Oscar win. Interesting concept for the time. Pre-dates JFK's assassination and builds upon Frank's odd relationship with the fallen President and conspiracy theories that implicate the Mafia/Sinatra. Manchurian Candidate took this connection into Twilight Zone territory. Life is strange, isn't it?

Stark black and white footage. Sweaty, hostage scenario much like Desperate Hours but Frank lacks a fitting rival in Hayden, who gives his usual wooden performance.
November 1, 2015
I was very pleasantly surprised by this as I always expected Frank Sinatra films to be centred around him doing a bit of crooning or tap-dancing. This is actually a pretty good, and quite clever, crime thriller. A nice little compact story with a few twists and turns.
½ October 5, 2015
That's a funny name for a town.

The small town of Suddenly is expecting the president to arrive by train. Meanwhile, three gangsters arrive in town and take a family hostage whose window happens to be directly across from where the president will step off the train. They expect to snipe the president but as more resources and security arrive, their cover and the plan quickly becomes at risk.

"Show me a guy with feelings and I'll show you a sucker."

Lewis Allen, director of Decisions at Midnight, Whirlpool, Illegal, A Bullet for Joey, The Unseen, The Perfect Marriage, Desert Fury, and So Evil My Love, delivers Suddenly. The storyline for this picture is fairly good and well written. There are great characters, scripts, and subplots and the characters evolve well. The acting is awesome and the cast includes Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates, and Willis Bouchey.

"It's not polite to say she like that...especially about your mother."

Suddenly is a movie I came across on Netflix while looking through Frank Sinatra films and had to add to my wish list. This was awesome and I loved his delivery in this film. Overall, this a must see Sinatra classic that is worth your time.

"Big, beautiful, booby trap."

Grade: A-
½ September 28, 2015
Any movie where Sterling Hayden has to stop Frank Sinatra from killing the president deserves 4.5 stars. Slow to get going but worth a watch.
½ August 24, 2015
"Suddenly" is shockingly one of the better thrillers to come out of the 1950s as Frank Sinatra plays an unusual role as an assassin trying to kill the president before the town sheriff and a widow try to stop him.
Clintus M.
Super Reviewer
May 4, 2015
In spite of the fact that I've seen Frank Sinatra in a wide variety of roles, I was nonetheless surprised and captivated by his performance in Suddenly. I had never heard of this 1954 film before, but I found it in a used bin at a good price so bought it. The film itself is a good, tense thriller about an attempted assassination of the president, but don't get this confused with The Manchurian Candidate. Sinatra's enthusiastic performance as the gleeful psychotic hit-man is really all this picture's got going for it. The rest is pretty standard.
The theme is that there are unrepentant, amoral killers out there, but they're the exception not the rule. Sterling Hayden's character, the Sherriff is presented as the sacrificing hero- the GI who only does what has to be done. Sinatra's character is someone who enjoys killing-not standard, even among outlaws and gangsters.
April 5, 2015
For his entire career, Frank Sinatra remained the skinny kid (and later skinny legend) with a voice that made you believe in God. That voice, that voice, was and is one of the many wonders the entertainment industry has given us over the years. Throughout the 1940s, he was placed in throwaway musical comedies that only continued to paint him as a singer first and foremost - but the 1950s changed all that typecasting stuff.
Beginning with his stunning performance in 1953's "From Here to Eternity", for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, audiences were introduced to Frank Sinatra The Actor; he was no longer just a singer who decided that headlining movies would be a fun side-gig. Today, only the nerdy cinephiles seem to appreciate his stunning acting abilities, while the rest of the world paints him as Old Blue Eyes. Either party will find themselves bathing in a hearty basin of nostalgia, but exploring all of his occupational triumphs is nothing short of astonishment. Singers turned actors were and are never ever this talented.
"Suddenly" continued his "serious actor" path, placing him in a low-budget thriller and having much of the focus lie single-handedly upon him. Like "Dial M for Murder", much of the action takes place in a single location - a house in the suburbs - and like "The Manchurian Candidate", the assassination of the president may or may not be the climax. At just 77 minutes, it's a tight, to-the-point psychological exercise, giving Sinatra one of his juiciest roles as the assassin. It's an unexpected character for an actor who always played the hero.
In "Suddenly", Sinatra portrays John Baron, a psychopathic sniper whose arrival coincides with that of the country's leader, who is stopping by the small town of Suddenly, California for a visit. John's intent is to ambush him and successful exterminate him, with payoff. Finding a perfect safe house in the suburbs, Baron and his men hold the Benson family hostage until they meet the point of no return.
The film is a minor work in Sinatra's filmography, but it's also an important one. It shows a performer unafraid to explore low-budget but challenging territories, curious about his abilities and willing to see how far he could go. As Baron, Sinatra is surprisingly formidable, managing to make us forget about his charming past and replace it with unbridled fear. Perhaps "Suddenly" is too stagey for my taste, but it manages to be taut and pulse-pounding when we least expect it. This isn't a film concerned with deep characterizations or in your face action - it is a film about acting, writing, and directing, and how the three characteristics can take you to places you never thought you would have traveled to before.
September 21, 2014
Crime drama that takes Place in one roomish. It involves a presidential assassination plot and some crooks trying to pull it off. It was good, but not great.
½ March 9, 2014
Sinatra's light blue eyes appear white in this black and white. This helps his performance. He really was a fine actor.
½ January 5, 2014
Really dark subject matter for the mid 1950's, a well done and fast little thriller, would probably make a good play (few sets and low budget). Mostly good screenplay as well, and the acting is also good (the kid is just a little annoying in his delivery). Interesting role for Sinatra to play, I can't see most movie stars of his time willing to play such a dark (and as we find out, and probably because he had to be that way at the time, a weakling) character, and Sinatra does a very good job.
September 5, 2013
I'm Not Really A Fan Of Political Thrillers, But Suddenly Has A Distinct Charm To It. The Film Has A Good Cast And A Good Plot. Sinatra & Hayden Are Excellent In Their Roles As They Try To Outwit Each Other. Sinatra Is The Cool & Cold-Hearted Psychopathic Assassin, While Hayden's Portrayal Of A Weak Sheriff Trying To Appear Tough Is Equally As Good As Sinatra's Performance. The Film Relies On These Two Actors Performances And Works Extremely Well A Very Good Film.
July 4, 2013
In lesser hands, this rather stagy, low budget thriller could have been a tedious affair but thanks to the work of director Lewis Allen (who injects great pace and tension into the drama), the end result is a gripping account of the events that take place when a suburban family's house is invaded by a group of men who've been hired to assassinate the President of the United States. Frank Sinatra, in an outstanding performance, is very intense as the unstable Baron who gradually loses his composure as time progresses and seems to have been an inadequate person who found some self-esteem as a result of his achievements as a soldier who killed 27 Germans. Sterling Hayden and James Gleason are also good in their supporting roles and Nancy Gates does well as Ellen whose feelings and views are routinely undermined or ignored by everyone who purportedly cares for her.
Overall, a very tight and suspenseful film from start to finish. It sure gives a great "bang for the buck". Exceptional throughout.
½ April 20, 2013
ouch,, i expect something more than this, it's a movie about Sinatra being a chatty sensitive assassin :D
½ April 12, 2013
Suddenly is a pretty good film, even after all these years, and Frank Sinatra is still quite intimidating as the lead antagonist, John Baron.
March 11, 2013
What I liked best was that Frank [Sinatra] wore a fedora throughout, even indoors.
February 16, 2013
Excellent black & white. Frank Sinatra should have won an Oscar for his acting on this one. Complex simplicity..,
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