World for Ransom is a 1954 film noir drama film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Dan Duryea, Patric Knowles, Gene Lockhart, Reginald Denny, and Nigel Bruce (in his final film role).[3][4]

World for Ransom
World for Ransom movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Aldrich (uncredited)
Produced byBernard Tabakin
Robert Aldrich
Screenplay byLindsay Hardy
Hugo Butler (uncredited)
StarringDan Duryea
Gene Lockhart
Music byFrank De Vol
CinematographyJoseph Biroc
Edited byMichael Luciano
Plaza Production
Distributed byAllied Artists Pictures
Release date
  • January 27, 1954 (1954-01-27) (Los Angeles, California)
  • January 31, 1954 (1954-01-31) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office441,946 admissions (France)[2]

Many of the actors and sets used in the film were from the Dan Duryea television show China Smith. Aldrich and cinematographer Joseph Biroc also worked on the series.

Aldrich later said the film "first embedded what I wanted to say in films. It was mainly about two men with good and bad points.Both men believed in individual liberty but the belief of one man was weaker than the other because he had no respect for humanity."[5]


Mike Callahan (Duryea) is an Irish émigré and war veteran working in Singapore as a private detective. He takes on a case from a former flame, now a nightclub singer. She thinks her husband Julian March (Knowles) is involved in criminal activities and asks him to help out.

Callahan learns that a man named Alexis Pederas (Lockhart) has involved Julian in a plot to kidnap a prominent nuclear scientist Sean O'Connor and hold him for ransom to the highest bidder. O'Connor is one of the only men in the world that knows how to detonate the H-Bomb.


Production backgroundEdit

Aldrich said he got the idea to make the film while directing episodes of China Smith. When production was on hiatus he wrote a story with a colleague.[6] Bernard Tabakin, who produced China Smith, agreed to produce the film along with Aldrich.[7]

Aldrich says the script was almost entirely written by Hugo Butler but Butler does not get credit due to being blacklisted. Aldrich said "There are optimists in the society, not many left, who thought that someday those guys [on the Hollywood Blacklist] would get post-mortem credits for their work. So he wrote World for Ransom and I put my name on it to try and get him the credit. And it went into arbitration with the Writer's Guild, and another guy [Lindsay Hardy] got total screen credit on it. It was a joke. He no more wrote that script than walk on the water. Butler made that total screenplay."[8]

Filming started 13 April 1953 at the Motion Picture Center Studio.[9]

The film was shot in 11 days, on a budget that has been reported between $90,000 and $100,000. It was shot over 6 days, then Aldrich halted production to shoot TV commercials in order to raise money for the film's post-production. Then there was a five day shoot to finish it.[10][6]

"It was a strange and very enjoyable experience and - except for the end result - a marvellous collaboration," said Aldrich. "It really had no sets and thanks to Joe Biroc we had reflections in the water where there was no water and all sorts of silly things. I've always looked back on World for Ransom with a kind of wistful happy feeling.."[6]

The film is similar to another film noir with a nuclear theme by Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly, the difference being that Callahan is trying to get an old girlfriend back, while Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly was in it for the money.


The film had a considerable impact on Aldrich's career - in July 1953 Harold Hecht hired him to direct Burt Lancaster in Apache.[11]

Critical responseEdit

When the film was released, film critic Bosley Crowther was negative about the film but appreciated the actors, writing, "Nothing gives it distinction, save possibly the people in its cast ... Robert Aldrich produced and directed. He was trying. Some day he may learn how."[12]

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz was positive about the film, and wrote, "This is a marvelously understated film noir that parodies all those big-budget spy/adventure films and in my opinion does a better job than most in getting to the underbelly of that genre. Aldrich was upset with censors for lifting the scene where Duryea learns his love interest is a lesbian. He could forgive her love for other men, but not with other women. The 1950s wasn't ready for such relationships, at least not in films. Nevertheless, this was a compelling film doing a fantastic job exploring the uncertainty of partnerships and the indeterminate nature of trust."[13]


  1. ^ Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 231
  2. ^ French box office results for Robert Aldrich films at Box Office Story
  3. ^ World for Ransom on IMDb.
  4. ^ WORLD FOR RANSOM Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 21, Iss. 240, (Jan 1, 1954): 137.
  5. ^ Aldrich, Robert (2004). Robert Aldrich : interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 12.
  6. ^ a b c Aldrich, Robert (2004). Robert Aldrich : interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 43.
  7. ^ DOLEFUL HOLLYWOOD: Uncertainty Pervades Industry as Rise In Unemployment Continues -- Addenda By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times19 Apr 1953: X5.
  8. ^ mr. film noir stays at the table Silver, Alain. Film Comment; New York Vol. 8, Iss. 1, (Spring 1972): 14-23.
  9. ^ WRITERS, STUDIOS AGREE ON CREDITS: Guild to Vote April 22 on New Terms Concerning Alleged Reds and Arbitration By THOMAS M. PRYORS New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]04 Apr 1953: 9.
  10. ^ TV Guide Movie Database
  11. ^ ALDRICH TO DIRECT FOR NORMA STUDIO: Former Production Assistant Achieves Goal on 'Bronco Apache' With Lancaster New York Times 1 Aug 1953: 8.
  12. ^ Crowther, Bosly. The New York Times, film review, June 5, 1954. Accessed: July 8, 2013.
  13. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, Match 17, 2004. Accessed: July 9, 2013.

External linksEdit