FORGOTTEN LEE MARVIN THRILLER: A LIFE IN THE BALANCE

Unlike some biographies, in Lee Marvin Point Blank, I went out of my way to cover all of Marvin’s films, including the rarely seen little thriller, A Life in the Balance. Whether successful or not, all of Marvin’s films are worth viewing, in my opinion, and in Balance it’s one of the rare times you see him play and out-and-out psycho killer. It was one of those quickly made little 1950s thrillers in which Marvin played a knife-wielding murderer who’s crime is witnessed by a little boy. Marvin kidnaps the boy on the run and circumstances have the police blaming the recent killings on the boy’s father, played Ricardo Montalban,. Young Anne Bancroft plays Montalban reluctant love interest as they both race to beat the police to find the boy….and the real killer.
Marvin is great as the killer, who actually elicits some sympathy as he tries to make friends with the much more wiley little boy, played incidentally, by Jose Perez. As an adult, Perez would go on to play the Puerto Rican janitor (i.e God) in the play, “Steambath.” Filmed on location in Mexico, it really should be made more accessible in this digital age.
For Lee Marvin, the project was memorable for another reason. As he explained in a magazine interview ten years later….

One of two ad campaigns for A Life in the Balance (1955), with Ricardo Montalban & Anne Bancroft more prominently featured.

The second ad campaign for A Life in the Balance but with Marvin more prominent than his romantic co-stars.

“We were in a Mexican town once, a bunch of guys. We were drinking tequila. The price was three pesos. A very fair price. But then they raised the price to five pesos. That was twenty-four cents more. Too much. So we went on strike. We walked out and drove down the road to the next town where we found three-peso tequila. We drank there.  Then we went back to the first town. They pegged the price back to three pesos. We started drinking there again. It has to be the first time man ever went a strike for a lower price on his drinks. It has to be the most satisfying strike ever.”

Share