Set your DVRs for this quirky and satisfying film. House of the Seven Hawks, 1959, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 30 at 4 a.m. (Actually January 31). Not closed captioned.
The House of the Seven Hawks was a solid adventure story and it was well received by the New York Times. This is their review:
The House of the Seven Hawks (1959)
Mystery From Britain
December 17, 1959
by A. H. Weiler
ALTHOUGH producer David Rose and his skilled company obviously were not being imitative, they have flatteringly followed the format of the successful British mystery makers in fashioning “The House of Seven Hawks,” which landed yesterday at neighborhood theatres around town. For this suspense yarn filmed in England and in the Netherlands for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is a neat package of economical dialogue, a satisfyingly labyrinthine plot and carefully paced direction and underplaying that adds up to a modest but truly taut and absorbing diversion.
Perhaps Jo Eisinger’s script does not explain why Robert Taylor, an American, happens to be the skipper of a charter boat in England taking a clandestine trip to the continent with a clandestine passenger. But enough interesting red herrings follow this voyage to the Netherlands to please the more demanding of the whodunit fans. He finds his passenger dead before arrival. He is a man who had been carrying a cryptic map and a dispatch case full of currency, and, it evolves eventually, had a record as a Dutch detective searching for a million-dollar cache of loot taken as far back as the Nazi invasion.
As a hapless fugitive who is a prime suspect of The Hague’s police and a gent sought by the dastards anxious to lay covetous hands on this king-sized boodle, Mr. Taylor naturally is involved with sinister citizens, a couple of mysterious but highly decorative dames and, of course, the police. To the credit of Richard Thorpe, the director, and his crew, the mystery, search and chase are given added color by advantageous use of the natural locales of The Hague.
Except for the climactic set-to, which is a standard shoot-’em-up affair, Mr. Thorpe and his troupe are oblique but adroit in their approach to their story. Although he is a somewhat lean, gaunt and subdued hero, Mr. Taylor looks and acts the part of a beleaguered but tough citizen who can figure and fight his way out of a bizarre mess.
The British add their professional acting aid to Mr. Taylor and the film’s cause. Count among them Donald Wolfit, as a wily Dutch police chief; Eric Pohlmann and David Kossoff, as, respectively, a threatening and a timid villain, and Philo Hauser, as a humorous two-timer who loves to be involved in double dealing “because,” as he says, grinning, “it’s my nature.” As the ladies of this whodunit. Linda Christian, who plays a conniver, and Nicole Maurey, as Mr. Taylor’s romantic vis-à-vis, are, as noted, decorative.
It is still a mystery why the title was changed from “The House of Seven Flies” to “The House of Seven Hawks,” but it is eminently clear that this is an unpretentious but satisfying entertainment.
THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN HAWKS; screen play by Jo Elsinger; from the novel. “The House of the Seven Flies” by Victor Canning; directed by Richard Thorpe; produced by David E. Rose for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At neighborhood theatres. Running time: ninety-two minutes.
John Nordley . . . . . Robert Taylor
Constanta . . . . . Nicole Maurey
Elsa . . . . . Linda Christian
Hoff Commissar Van Der Stoor . . . . . Donald Wolfit
Wilheim Dekker . . . . . David Kossoff
Inspector Sluiter (Mr. Anselm) . . . . . Gerard Heinz
Captain Rohner . . . . . Eric Pohlmann
Charlie Ponz . . . . . Philo Hauser
This is a review of House of the Seven Hawks I wrote for the IMDB.
House of the Seven Hawks was released in December 1959, when its star, Robert Taylor, was forty-eight years old. It is a mystery based on Victor Canning’s best selling book, House of the Seven Flies. The plot concerns John Nordley, an American ex-pat who lives in Britain and runs a charter boat. Captain Nordley is flung into a convoluted situation involving dead policemen, ex-Nazis, scheming women, creepy crooks and innocent daughters.
The New York Times called the movie “a satisfying labyrinthine plot and carefully placed direction and underplaying that adds up to a modest but truly taut and absorbing diversion.” The director is Richard Thorpe, who had worked with Taylor before in six other movies, including The Crowd Roars, Ivanhoe and Knights of the Round Table.
Despite being basically a suspense film House of the Seven Hawks has a considerable comic undertone. Robert Taylor plays Nordley as the only sane man in a nest of loonies. No one is what they are supposed to be, with people assuming false identities and numerous double-crosses.
Other than Taylor, the cast is European. Nicole Maurey plays the love interest. Linda Christian is a one of the double-crossers. Donald Wolfitt and Gerard Heinz are policemen. David Kossoff, Eric Pohlmann and Philo Hauser are villains. The story ends with a diving expedition to recover stolen treasure and a satisfying shoot-out.
I’m not sure Robert Taylor took this movie terribly seriously. He wears the same costume throughout the film, including an Eisenhower jacket that he had made for himself. He does a little mugging, especially when Nordley is being asked to believe one fantastic lie after another. Far from being wooden, he displays considerable facial flexibility. Mr. Taylor does look as though he’s having fun.
MGM seems to be insisting that Mr. Taylor is much younger than his actual age. Nicole Maurey is too young for him. He is referred to in one scene as a young man. As in so many films the story gets him out of his clothes. The Taylor body is in good shape for a 48 year old, but it’s not the body he had twenty years earlier. Nonetheless this film provides good, undemanding and ultimately satisfying entertainment.