Written by: Richard Day and Harold Robbins based on Robbins’ novel
Directed by: Robert Stevens
Starring: John Drew Barrymore, Lita Milan, Robert Bray, Steve McQueen
Released by: Republic Pictures
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Skip It
Francis “Frankie” Kane (Barrymore) is a scrappy young orphan trying to to earn a few bucks. Things look up when he catches the eye of the local gangster ‘Silk’ Fennelli (Bray). He also captures the heart of Julie (Milan), the maid of his friend Marty Cabell (McQueen). But things turn south when the Catholic orphanage discovers Frankie is actually Jewish and plan to send him to be with his own kind. Disgusted, Francis runs off. After seven years of bumming around, Frankie comes back and finds that Marty is a D.A., Julie is a singer and Fennelli’s girl. Hard and ruthless, Frankie joins up with Fennelli’s mob and soon is running the syndicate over the whole city, becoming Finnelli’s boss. Frankie is also rekindling with his old flame Julie. Fennelli is none too happy with the situation. To add to that, Frankie has been so successful that a special task force is set up to take him down, lead by D.A. Marty Cabell. Can Frankie avoid the slammer and a bullet and still get the girl?
[ad#longpost]Never Love A Stranger is a lucky movie. If Steve McQueen or John Drew Barrymore hadn’t starred in this movie, no one would have heard of it. Mind you, they don’t make the movie better…just more noteworthy. Not that they were bad, there’s just not much you can do with this script. You would think that a film based on a runaway best seller by Harold Robbins would be at least entertaining. The problem is the book is known not for its well written plot or characters, but its sexually explicit nature. This erotic content is not translated at all into the film. So your main draw for your audience is gone.
Another odd aspect of the film is its take on anti-semitism. A big mover of the first third of the plot is that Frankie’s mother was Jewish and he must be moved from his Catholic orphanage to a Jewish one. Frankie doesn’t want to be Jewish and also doesn’t want to have to leave the only home he’s ever known. And that is the last we hear of it until the very last bit of the movie. It’s like they had this idea to explore Jews in organized crime…but forgot about it until the last reel–but by then it was almost too late. One more weird bit in this film is the narration. It talks about birth and death and the infinities or…something. It tries to add a metaphysical aspect to this story but it’s just plain goofy. Supposedly, this narration was taken from the actual book, so I can understand why Robbins made it so spicy.
There are no features on this disc which is a shame. They could have added a small biographical piece on Steve McQueen or John Drew Barrymore. Even something on Harold Robbins would have been nice. Shame, really. So unless you are a die-hard McQueen completist, skip this movie.