At his family home in the country Adrian Messenger (John Merivale) has a strange request of Anthony Gethryn (George C. Scott), a retired detective, as he wants him to find out if the people on a list of paper he hands him are still living at the addresses. Shortly after asking Gethryn to track them down Messenger dies in a plane crash and as Gethryn discovers others on the list have died in mysterious circumstances. With just 3 names on the list to track down Gethryn is in a race against time to track them down and work out what connects them all whilst also being cautious in case it is one of them behind the deaths.
"The List of Adrian Messenger" is a mischievous movie thanks to the smart use of some big stars or at least that was when it came out. I say that because here is a movie with acting legends such as Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum as well as a few more. Now some are pretty obvious as whilst Kirk Douglas plays a master of disguise his identity is revealed to us early on and George C. Scott is really the star of the movie as Gethryn. But you find yourself looking for Curtis, Lancaster, Mitchum and Sinatra wondering where they come into it only to discover that their parts are mostly cameos and not obvious one. Of course in this day and age of information on movie websites this is now a trick which doesn't work but it must have been entertaining back in the day.
The things is that the power of the cast list is one of the key elements to "The List of Adrian Messenger" as when you are not side tracked with looking for the stars the actual detective story which lies underneath is only okay. Yes the whole mystery of what is going on is quite entertaining and having Kirk Douglas playing a man of many faces is a nice trick to keep things even more curious but in the end watching George C. Scott solving the case with others joining in is not overly great.
What this all boils down to is that "The List of Adrian Messenger" is one of those movies which work best when the only things you know is who is in it and that it is a murder mystery. When you know anything more it loses one of its tricks and without it the actual solving of the mystery doesn't quite have enough about it to truly have you gripped by it.