13 mai 1953. Un essai de bombe atomique. Un désert. Des truands. Des otages. Que demander de plus ? Rien se dit le passant cinéphile en se précipitant découvrir Split Second au Criterion, premier film de Dick Powell.
Critique d’époque :
« In making his directorial debut with Split Second, Dick Powell fortunately acquired a small but enthusiastic and competent cast, a fairly sturdy script and a contemporary peg on which to hang his melodrama, which turned up at the Criterion yesterday. Unfortunately, however, the pace at which this thriller moves is erratic and while its dénouement is spectacular it is hardly surprising. Split Second is a fairly taut adventure closely tied to the atomic age but it is rarely explosive.
The script by William Bowers and Irving Wallace does not ignore the drama inherent in the nuclear fission tests in Nevada or the austere vistas of the desert wastes in which the blasts are being set off. And, in coupling the countryside with a trio of escaped killers who are holding a variety of innocent motorists in a ghost town in the center of a test area, Split Second achieves moments of commendable tension. And, an emergency operation performed on one of the fleeing convicts becomes a race against hemorrhage and the « H-hour » of the atomic explosion.
While this clutch of captors and captives is not especially rare, a few of the characters are given more than surface treatment. There is Sam Hurley, the bandit leader, an authentically tough citizen who hates being locked up, who is looking forward to his share of $500,000 and sanctuary in South America. He can be callously murderous either with a gun or with his fists. There is Kay Garven, a selfish, fun-loving socialite about to divorce her medico-husband, who is ready to do anything to save her skin. Richard Egan, as that stalwart and self-effacing gent, is brave according to the Hippocratic Oath and his own conscience. Dottie, a flamboyant blonde night club entertainer is tough enough to choose a reporter apparently doomed to die rather than freedom with Hurley. Larry Fleming, the newspaper man, is willing to take a beating in an attempt to save the party.
Stephen McNally is a cool, calculating and relentless outlaw whose viciousness is tempered only by his concern for Paul Kelly, his wounded sidekick. As the selfish socialite, Alexis Smith is a cringing dame clinging desperately to life. Jan Sterling is properly brittle as the night club blonde. Richard Egan is coolly efficient and courageous as the doctor, while Keith Andes, as the reporter; Robert Paige, as the ill-fated boy friend of Miss Smith; Paul Kelly, as the wounded convict, and Arthur Hunnicutt, a grizzled prospector contribute their fair share to the proceedings. Mr. Powell’s initial directorial effort is not likely to startle the cinema world but it’s a long step in the right direction » par A.W. pour le New York Times.
Pour A.W., Split Second n’apporte pas grand-chose de plus au genre. S’il trouve les personnages bien écrits, la réalisation reste à son goût beaucoup trop classique et appliquée. Il reconnaît cependant que le travail de Dick Powell va dans le bon sens. Mon avis sur ce Même les Assassins Tremblent directement ici.