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With: James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John, Hanns Lothar, Leon Askin, Ralf Wolter, Karl Lieffen, Hubert von Meyerinck, Lois Bolton, Peter Capell, Til Kiwe, Henning Schlüter, Karl Ludwig Lindt, Liselotte Pulver
Written by: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, based on a play by Ferenc Molnar
Directed by: Billy Wilder
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 108
Date: 12/15/1961

One, Two, Three (1961)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Count on It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After the enormous success of The Apartment, Billy Wilder's star began to fall. He could no longer please great numbers of fans and critics with his films, and one of his very best films, One, Two, Three (1961), was an undeserved flop. James Cagney stars as a Coca-Cola executive stationed in West Berlin who must keep the boss's daughter (Pamela Tiffin) from marrying a Communist (Horst Buchholz). Unlike Wilder's other lengthy, languorous films from this period, One, Two, Three moves at lightning speed, with Cagney keeping just ahead of the pace. Using a beautiful black-and-white widescreen frame and deep, extensive sets, Wilder not only gets us to care about his characters, but he skewers Germany and American capitalism at the same time. It's his darkest, most energetic film since the rarely-seen Ace in the Hole (a.k.a. The Big Carnival). This was Cagney's last film before his retirement, but he returned in 1981 for a role in Milos Forman's Ragtime.

MGM released the movie on a now out-of-print DVD in 2003; Kino Lorber has re-issued it in a 2017 Blu-ray edition. The image is fine, serviceable, but not quite as sparkling as I'd hoped for the black-and-white widescreen picture (which at times reminds me of Jacques Tati's films). It's a teeny bit on the soft side. The sound is excellent, however. The extras make up for any shortcomings: Michael Schlesinger provides an interesting, informative commentary track (the Berlin wall was erected in the middle of filming!), and there are two short video interviews with Wilder as well as a trailer for this film and other Kino Lorber releases.

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