At the Pilgrim, Mayflower, and Esquire
"Guilty of Treason" claims net only to be the story of the trial of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, but also to be "based on his personal papers and the book, 'As We See Russia' by the Overseas Press Club." These assertions are dubious.
I went to this movie knowing little or nothing about the trial. I came out knowing no more. Eagle-Lion Films, however, tried so very hard and with so much melodrama to convince me of the Cardinal's complete innocence, that I'm afraid I came away with the opposite impression.
In the first place, only a minor part of the picture really concerns itself with Cardinal Mindszenty. There are long and dreary ideological dialogues between a Russian Army Colonel and a dewy-eyed young lady who plays the Hungarian National Anthem as a diversion. When this young lady, acted by Bonita Granville, isn't playing the piano she relieves herself of such pronouncements as, "Is it an act of treason to fall in love?" She is in love, incidentally, with the Colonel who does nothing but spout party line in a monotone throughout.
Submerged by this love story hopelessly entangled by polities is the account of the trial itself. Charles Bickford, the Cardinal in the movie, is one of the few who can act. He, at least, has a variation of facial expression and a change of inflection in his voice. His prosecutors, however, are a series of the most evil looking men that have been seen on the screen since the fall of the movie Gestapo. The similarity of the Hungarian police force and the stereotype Gestapo is, of course, intended, but I felt it was carried to a ludicrous extreme.
Most offensive of all the characters is an American reporter played by Paul Kelly. This man rushes hell bent for leather through the plot infecting people with 100 percent Americanisms. His sentiments are admirable but I couldn't help wondering why he never got in trouble through his spouting them behind the Iron Curtain with such abandon. Every few minutes the Colonel's party line would prove embarrassingly illogical before the blasts of the reporter.
As a movie, "Guilty of Treason" is badly acted, confusing, and overly melodramatic. As an account of Cardinal Mindszenty's trial, one can only wonder why the scriptwriters had to bury it under so much superfluous and undocumented plot.