Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Five Miles to Midnight

(Le couteau dans la plaie, France, Italy, 1962)

The French title translates as “The knife in the wound.” Neither title really has much to do with the story. Tony Perkins is married to Sophia Loren, but she wants out. He boards a plane, which crashes. He is the only survivor, but no one knows that. He forces his wife to apply for the $120,000 insurance money so they can zoom off to Rio together. She agrees, but only if he will go away and leave her alone. He agrees, but reneges on the deal, telling her he will never leave her, they are together until death … well, hmmmm. I mean, he’s already legally dead, isn’t he? Maybe with a little nudge in the right direction …

Perkins is amazingly, creepily good as a permanently immature psychopath, engaging and boyish when he wants to be, but able to switch to cold, terrifying anger in a split second, and back to boyish, aw-shucks-I-screwed-up-again-please-forgive-me puppy-dog contrition in another split second. He makes your skin crawl. The big problem is Sophia Loren. Not that there is anything wrong with her performance, but she is one of the most beautiful and imposing women who ever lived, and it was just about impossible for me to see her falling for this chump in the first place, and even harder to believe that she would give in to his demands. Just bad casting.