I’ve always enjoyed RKO’s The White Tower starring Glenn Ford, Alida Valli and Claude Rains and was pleased when Odeon Entertainment brought it out on dvd in their Hollywood Studio Collection. Described by Odeon as ‘digitally restored and remastered’,the one important fact they omitted was that this Technicolor film was being manufactured in black and white. I’ve seen The White Tower several times on BBC TV – in glorious color – and I would love to know why its only commercial release in the UK is in B&W. Is it simply cost? I contacted Odeon Entertainment and this was their reply: “The Master copy we were supplied with by RKO was a Black and White version which we decided to go ahead and produce DVD’s from. We have recently been supplied with a colour version by the BBC, which we plan to use when we replenish stock,re-launching it as a colour version of the film. This may be a few months away.” I wasn’t aware of RKO being a studio that ever filmed outside the US, but for The White Tower, the cast and crew were taken to Europe and the Swiss Alps.Second Unit filming with climbing experts and doubles was also done near Mont Blanc in France. This must have been an expensive project for RKO.They had it in mind to film James Ramsey Ullman’s novel in 1947, and Edward Dmytryk was to direct,with Paul Lukas and Lilli Palmer as the stars. However, by 1949,Dmytryk was a victim of HUAC and Ted Tetzlaff took over.
There is a nice mixture of characters in The White Tower. Alida Valli is Carla Alton who wants to conquer the mountain known as The White Tower – it had taken her father’s life and no one has ever reached the top.
Lloyd Bridges is Hein,an unreformed Nazi who wants to prove he is still superior in every way. Claude Rains is Paul Delambre,an alcoholic writer who sees the mountain as some sort of salvation for him. Cedric Hardwicke is a retired Geologist ,Nicholas Radcliffe who lives near the little village of Kandermatt which is at the base of the mountain.
Oscar Homolka is a Swiss mountain guide ,Andreas who had led the climb that took Carla’s father’s life.
And Glenn Ford is a quiet spoken American,Martin Ordway who had been a flier during the War and was shot down in the area. Carla had hoped Andreas would have assembled a climbing group by the time she got there,but none of the locals want to tackle the mountain.The only people she can call on are the few guests in the inn she is staying at. Martin’s attitude becomes clear – “Do you think it’s worth the energy? Delambre is keen – he’s an amateur climber. Nicholas agrees too and Carla reluctantly accepts Hein. Martin is attracted to Carla and says he’ll go part of the way. She tries to explain herself to him, “They say it is a sickness with me. Is it a sickness to have loved your father, to have the same dream he had. I will only find peace when I reach the top of that mountain.” Hein only sees the group as a useful way to help him get to the top. When Delambre and Nicholas take a rest on the mountain, Hein quotes an old mountaineer song, “To rest is not to conquer.” He later says to Martin, “This is no tea party,Mr Ordway,or even an ordinary mountain climb – it is a war. To win it, we must fight.” Towards the end of the tortuous climb, Hein is forced to take help from Martin, but says to him, “I will finish alone and you will not finish at all.I am strong and you are weak. It is because I have the will and you have not. It is because I am climbing for a principle,the principle of superiority, to live and fight and conquer again. You are like all the rest,you are not climbing for anything.” Martin, through his love for Carla,accepts she must get to the top, he says to her,”Nothing is going to help you till you find something more important than that mountain or your father – that’ll never happen.” Does Carla change?….does Hein reach the top?…….who survives? Scenes filmed in the studio are obvious but acceptable. The cast is very good. I await the color version to see this film properly.
Still no sign of Odeon Entertainment
releasing a color version.