I’d describe FIVE STEPS TO DANGER as an undemanding fast paced 80 minutes of plot filled , Cold War thriller.
Sterling Hayden is John Emmett whose car breaks down on the way from Los Angeles to Texas. He’s on vacation and intends doing some fishing before visiting his folks in Texas.
John can’t afford the week it will take for repairs, so he sells it at the gas station/truck stop.
His life changes forever when he meets Ann Nicholson (Ruth Roman ) who is filling up her car and overhears his conversation with the pump attendant. She offers him a lift as long as he is prepared to share the driving with her. She has to get to Santa Fe as quickly as possible.
Before long, the twosome are up to their necks in murder and espionage , and are being followed by CIA and FBI agents (Ken Curtis and Charles Davis), plus a psychiatrist, Dr.Simmons (Charles Klemperer) who , along with his nurse (Jeanne Cooper) has been treating Ann for a mental breakdown.
There’s a flashback to three months earlier when Ann had gone to Berlin to find news of her brother Kurt who was caught in East Berlin. (Ann is German though she has lived most of her life in America).
Ann is given a coded transcript of missile research and asked to deliver it to a Dr. Kissel in the U.S. The transcript is in an ordinary compact mirror. (Her brother had been killed and his friend has contacted Ann and made her promise to deliver the mirror).
When Ann and John finally come face to face with Dr. Kissel (Karl Ludwig Lindt), there’s a nice twist as she prepares to hand over the mirror.
There’s even time for a nice, understated romance between Ann and John.
The screenplay is from a novel by Donald Hamilton called “The Steel Mirror”, a better title for the film.
I haven’t figured out what the ‘Five Steps’ are.
Ruth Roman (1922 – 1999) is an actress I think I have taken for granted. She was most active in the late 1940s and 1950s, after five years of uncredited and bit parts. She finally got a Warners contract and got some good parts in THREE SECRETS, CHAMPION, THE WINDOW, DALLAS , THE FAR COUNTRY as well as Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.
Two of her films I’ve never seen are LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE (with Richard Todd,Mercedes McCambridge) and THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE (with Van Johnson and Joseph Cotten).
Fortunately both are available on DVD and I look forward to seeing them soon.