The Secret Ways

The Secret Ways is a 1961 American thriller film based on Alistair MacLean's novel The Last Frontier. Directed by Phil Karlson. it stars Richard Widmark.

The Secret Ways
Original film poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byRichard Widmark
Euan Lloyd
Written byJean Hazlewood
Based onThe Last Frontier
1959 novel
by Alistair MacLean
StarringRichard Widmark
Sonja Ziemann
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyMax Greene
Edited byAaron Stell
Heath Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 1961 (1961-04) (United States)
  • May 24, 1961 (1961-05-24) (New York City)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States


In Vienna, 1956, after Soviet tanks crush the Hungarian uprising, American adventurer Michael Reynolds (Richard Widmark) is hired by an international espionage ring to smuggle a noted scholar and resistance leader, Professor Jansci (Walter Rilla), out of Communist-ruled Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution. Reynolds goes to Vienna to see the professor's daughter, Julia (Sonja Ziemann), and he persuades her to accompany him to Budapest. Once there, Reynolds is kidnapped by freedom fighters who take him to the professor's secret headquarters.

Meanwhile, one of Jansci's trusted aides is captured by the Hungarian Secret Police and forced to reveal the professor's hiding place. Reynolds, Julia, and Jansci are quickly rounded up and taken to Szarhaza Prison, where they are tortured by the sadistic Colonel Hidas (Howard Vernon).

They are rescued by a resistance fighter known as The Count (Charles Régnier), who tricks the Communists into placing the prisoners in his custody. At the last moment the ruse is discovered. The Count is killed as the other three race to the airport where a chartered plane is waiting. Hidas pursues them but is killed in an accident on the runway. Safe at last, Reynolds, Julia, and the professor leave Hungary.



According to an interview in Cinema Retro, associate producer Euan Lloyd stated that producer and star Richard Widmark did not like director Phil Karlson's proposed tongue-in-cheek direction of the screenplay written by Widmark's wife Jean Hazlewood. Widmark took over the direction of the film without credit.[1]

Karlson says Widmark hired him on the basis of The Phenix City Story because "he wanted to try to get realism in it" and the director told him "I wanted to do it as a James Bond. But he hadn't heard of James Bond. I said, "If we do this tongue in cheek, we'll be the first ones." He said, "No, I don't want to do it that way"." Karl says he left for the last week of filming. Years later, after Karlson made The Silencers, a Bond-style spoof, he says Widmark tried to get him to do three more pictures. The director said, "He realized we'd have had, maybe, the first picture that would have taken him out of the role of the guy who kicks the old lady down the steps."[2]


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