Rod Steiger is Carl Schaffner, a crooked German-born businessman on the run from Scotland Yard and the FBI after embezzling £3 million in company funds.
On a train in the USA, he encounters and murders a man called Paul Scarff and acquires his Mexican passport and assumes the man’s identity in order to evade the authorities. Unfortunately, it transpires that Scarff is a wanted murderer with a ransom on his head.
Once in Mexico, Steiger is caught between the Scotland Yard man (Bernard Lee) trying to lure him back out into American territory, and the Mexican police chief, who withholds Steiger’s own passport in order to indulge in a spot of blackmail.
As the Mexican police chief, Noel Willman gives a wily, restrained performance which contrasts admirably with the Steiger technique.
These complicated goings-on are background to a remarkable study of mental and physical decay by Steiger. At times the movie is irritatingly over-fussy and mannered, but Steiger dominates the screen.
Director Ken Annakin has excellently created the atmosphere of a sleepy, brooding Mexican border town, which is all the more interesting as it was all filmed in England and Spain, using gypsies for Mexicans.
Most of the Spanish sounds terrible and Americans and Mexicans are all played by Europeans. Noel Willman doesn’t look any more Mexican than Marla Landi looks like a Texan.
Scarff’s Mexican wife has no lines, which is a good thing because she’s played by an actress named Ingeborg von Kusserow!
After the various accent imitations, it’s especially amusing to have the Texan motel owner come right out with a Cockney accent.
An American remake, Double Take, was released in 2001.
Chief of police
Detective Inspector Hadden