Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The 25th Hour" Has Tragic Tick

Cleveland Press 1966

After almost two hours of interminable screen suffering Anthony Quinn stands in the dock at the Nuremberg trials for war criminals.

"Why are you here?" a lawyer asks him.

"Mister, for eight years I haven't known I was anywhere," Quinn answers.

The statement sums up his troubles but it also sums up the problems of those who made "The 25th Hour."

UNDOUBTEDLY QUINN, as a thick-headed but cheerful Rumanian peasant is a symbol for all the displaced innocents who were persecuted and buffeted about during World War II.

The character is truly never really anywhere as he is wrenched out of one place and deposited in another through a series of outrageous coincidences.

His movements are dictated neither by logical developments nor the illogical whims of fate but by the manipulations of moviemakers who wished to paint the big picture of war's suffering but found the canvas too large for comfortable handling.

At the picture's start Quinn's happy life is destroyed when he is placed in a Jewish labor camp. Though a Christian, he has been ordered there by a police official who covet's Quinn's wife, Virna Lisi.

IT'S ALL A MISTAKE, he keeps telling his fellow inmates, optimistic that he will be free as soon as the mistake is discovered.

"There goes a schlemiel," says one and that's what Quinn proves to be. He discovers, but never truly understands, that bureaucracy never corrects an error but compounds it.

He escapes to Hungary with a group of Jews but cannot continue out of Europe with them. The Jewish organization that arranges such things recognizes him as a Christian.

The Hungarians recognize him as a Rumanian and ship him to Germany as part of a labor gang where he is discovered by a half-mad anthropologist as a true member of the Aryan race.

This throws him into a German SS uniform in time to be captured by the Americans.

THROUGH IT ALL QUINN IS STOLID, smiling and dogged; managing to keep himself alive while remaining both ignorant and uncaring about what goes on around him.

The 25th Hour has all the surface characteristics of a great movie but its greatness is only skin deep. It nags rather than indicts.

It tries to range from tragic to comic and it never settles on a single viewpoint or a definite direction. Through no fault of Quinn's the character of the peasant is never clearly defined.

And for all of his suffering played out against the dark facts of history he gives no indication that he is aware that there is anything but a coincidental relation.

What might have been tragic is merely sad.