My Reviews of some 1950s UK comedy films
TREASURE HUNT (1952, directed by John Paddy Carstairs, Teddington Studios, 8*)- Charming Irish whimsy: if Jimmy Edwards can be a little too loud, here his sulky childishness is a fine match for the world ranging fantasies of Miss Anna Rose (Martita Hunt), "I'd like to see a little sanity in this house." The bankrupt Ballyroden estate takes on doomed paying guests who mostly fall for the charms or otherwise of the locals, "they're all raving mad." The austerity is saved when at last Anna Rose's treasure is found, "a ransom for Ballyroden"
THE GAY DOG (1954, Riverside Studios, directed by Maurice Elvey, 5*) - A slice of Yorkshire life, with Wilfred Pickles a surprising success, and though Petula Clark is definitely not Up T'North, she provides the love interest. This is old fashioned family fun, with Raving Beauty a winning greyhound and its rival Pride of Erin, who wins our family a small fortune. Plenty o' courtin' too, though a man's priority is always his dog first, and the husband in charge
HOBSON'S CHOICE (1954, directed by David Lean, Shepperton Studios, 7*) -
Charles Laughton is not my cup o' tea, even though he gives a tour de force as the domineering dominated Henry Hobson. His comeuppance is well merited at the hands of his old maid of a daughter, who takes up with the naive but talented boot hand extraordinaire Willie Mossop. John Mills plays him straight, with just perhaps one too many a "by gum." You nearly feel sorry for poor Hobson, having to climb down from t' high horse
THERE'S ALWAYS A THURSDAY (1956, directed by Charles Saunders, Southall Studios, 4*)- Poor henpecked George (Charles Victor) is in a rut with his family, and at work, "imposed" upon by everyone. Each Thursday he has to take money from his boss Henry to keep Vera (Frances Day) quiet. But these secret trips are accidentally uncovered in a police investigation, and George is landed with a doubtful reputation as a man of the world. This lands him an amazing job promoting ladies' underwear. George is a changed man at the heart of a thriving business, his family now at his beck and call. His fame brings him to Vera's notice, and the wheel turns full circle, for it is now George who has to pay her hush money
THREE MEN IN A BOAT (1956, directed by Ken Annakin, Shepeprton Studios, 4*)- Harris (Jimmy Edwards), J (David Tomlinson) and George (Laurence Harvey) not forgetting Montmorency the dog need a breather in this gentle undemanding piece of fun messing about in boats. It starts with the scenes that live longest in the mind, at Hampton Court maze, "just keep turning right." The film meanders along up the reaches of the Thames, with slapstick attempts never convincing, yet always pleasant enough as our three heroes mildly pursue three young ladies. However Jimmy Edwards with Shirley Eaton takes some believing! On the way, nice cameos from Martita Hunt, Esma Cannon and Robertson Hare, then a nice bonus at the cricket match at the end three old gents, AE Matthews, Ernest Thesiger, and Miles Malleson
My reviews of Films from 1959
(In alphabetical order)
BEYOND THIS PLACE (1959, directed by Jack Cardiff, Walton Studios, 7*)-
Paul has returned to his home city of Liverpool to discover his father whom he has not seen for 20 years is a convicted murderer. The film has the advantage of some fine location shooting, but the disadvantage of an unconvincing star (Van Johnson). The case against his father Patrick Mathry is by no means watertight, fixed according to one drunk ex-copper. The prosecutor, now Sir Matthew, has a lot to lose, and blusters, "I'll stake my career on it." The arresting officer, now Chief Superintendent Dale ditto. But one man, Oswald has fought to obtain Mathry's reprieve from execution. At the seedy Grapevine Club, Paul makes up to owner Louise whose money must have come from blackmailing the real killer. To prove the case, Paul has to elude the aggressive police, "I can't give up," he tells Lena, a librarian with her own problems. It's the power of the press that moves the case to a conclusion, perhaps changing the mood of this film, but it changes again with an unhappy reunion with his embittered dad, "I never did the murder, but it's what murdered me." Paul steals the vital evidence to bring on an emotional scene with the killer, "you are the avenging angel"
THE CHALLENGE (1959 directed by John Gilling, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
The opening music with its semi nudity puts this into the 1960s (it was released in 1961), another giveaway being that 'The Boss' (Jayne Mansfield) is a dame planning and getting away with many daring robberies. It's all been done before but the night photography, and the little touches like the cat are well done, as well as the car chase and crash, burying the loot. The fall guy is Jim (Anthony Quayle), but only he knows where the £50,000 is and he is shopped, presumably so the evil Kristy can make off with the Boss. But when Jim comes out, the gang want the cash, so do the police, "they'll break you," simple method kidnap Jim's boy Joey. To repeat, it's all been done before, Jim almost irrationally refusing to give up his money, and he slowly disintegrates, as do the crooks. Several good twists later, and I might include here JM miming the title song,
it ends in another chase, "I said I'd come for you." It's a pity the main characters are not more convincing and the ending is very contrived, but I enjoyed it
COVER GIRL KILLER (1959, directed by Terry Bishop, Walton Studios, 6*)-
Harry H Corbett looks sinister in his thick pebble glasses and combed down wig:
as Walter Spendoza he lures showgirl Gloria Stark to pose for photographs in the park.
Inspector Brunner (Victor Brooks) plods methodically through the evidence: "we're not completely
half-witted, you know." Some help comes from Johnny Mason, owner of the pinup mag Wow. Miss Torquay,
on the front cover like Miss Stark is next to be killed: "your nudity means nothing to me," the killer tells
her before strangling her. He even has the nerve to call at the Yard with some informnation on the murderer!
A trap is set. June, Johnny's girl friend model, poses for Wow. She's then "guarded closer than the Crown Jewels," in this neat little thriller,
but naturally June ends up alone with the madman...
DEADLY RECORD (1959, directed by Lawrence Huntington, Beaconsfield Studios, 4*)- Airline pilot Trevor (Lee Patterson) returns home to discover his wife Jenny, a dancer, is away. Next day police find her corpse at home, stabbed with Trevor's own knife. With help from Sue (Barbara Shelley), he discovers two suspects: Ramon her former dance partner, and her doctor who was having an affair with her. Though Supt Ambrose (Geoffrey Keen) seems sure Trevor is the killer, Jenny's "extremely frank" diary provides a deadly record as to the murderer's identity
THE EDMUNDO ROS HALF HOUR (1959, directed by Michael Carreras, AB Studios Elstree 2*)- This short is an excuse for a medley, I nearly wrote apology, of tunes by Ros' Latin American band, so popular at the time, though I confess I never succumbed to his charms. After a lively opening piece by the band, Ros introduces Mayfair Mambo. Ines del Carmen sings Ay Ay Ay, marginally less embarrassing than the start of the John Peel Samba, and both infinitely better than the alleged comedy in the next 'comedy' number by Morton Fraser's Harmonica Gang. Si Senor is more fun with ER singing and dancing with Ines, "you must bring your mother too." A mambo dance is more avant garde, almost, while Monte Carlo is ER's version of an old standard. ER sings the finale, something of a plug to come and see him at his London club
THE END OF THE LINE (1959, Southall Studios, directed by Charles Saunders, 5*) - Mike Selby, an American writer with a nice narrative line, is staying in a quiet Marlow hotel. He meets an old friend, now Mrs Crawford the manager's wife (Barbara Shelley). Says Mike- "the one thing, when you're close to her, your mind stopped thinking." She persuades him to steal her husband's fenced jewels. So what can go wrong? Well, there's a blackmailing private eye for starters, then Crawford is killed, and with Mike's automatic. Yes, in those days, films did show Crime does not Pay. This slow starting film develops a few pleasing twists. I ought to have known Fredy Mayne shouldn't have been trusted. "All you held," a repentant Mike tells himself," was the joker."
THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS (1959, directed by Maxwell Munden, St John's Wood Studios, 4*) -
Moody Jeff wants to be Alone, thus this provides an ideal part for Michael Gough. He and his wife Carol find the ideal country retreat but "there's a dark side to every man's heaven," and here the fly is Spencer (Ronald Howard) the owner of the cottage, an artist and an even more tortured soul than Jeff. What's his dark secret? It must be related to his late wife's early death, and that just before she would have inherited her aunt's fortune. "Spencer's going to murder you, "Jeff confides to Carol, and with their car immobilised, it gets quite exciting, ending in violent struggle, but somehow this 40 minute film is over before it has quite got going
HOUSE OF THE SEVEN HAWKS (1959, directed by Richard Thorpe, MGM Studios, 4*) - "I knock with seven" are the dying words of a Dutch policeman who'd chartered a ship piloted by a one man maverick Johnny (Robert Taylor). Victor Canning's novels are always complex and this film is full of shady double dealings as sailor, crook and cop try to unravel the dead man's secret. "I think you know more about my father than you told inspector." Another typical line is "you've been lying to me all along!" But unfortunately the characters aren't convincing enough to make a convincing story.
LIFE IN DANGER (1959, directed by Terry Bishop, Walton Studios, 4*)-
Alec Miller has escaped from a prison for "criminal lunatics." He's a murderer. The film has some good studies of differing reactions to the danger: the calm Insp Bennett (Humphrey Lestocq) has to catch him, while the veteran Major (Howard Marion-Crawford) has his own idea of tracking down the villain, with his gun. Tension builds as The Man (Derren Nesbitt) is sheltered by the naive Hazel (Julie Hopkins- her last film) and her little brother Johnny. They listen to his stories in a barn, not quite like Whistle Down The Wind since the 16 year old girl is making eyes at him. The Major leads his posse to shoot the madman, the expected twist is well prepared
THE MAN WHO LIKE FUNERALS (1959, directed by David Eady, Twickenham Studios, 5*) - a gentle charm exudes from this unassuming film about the well meaning Simon Hurd (Leslie Phillips), who hits on a novel idea for raising the £4,000 needed to save a Boys' Cub. He attends the funerals of successful people. Firstly General Hunter, then informs his relatives that the general wrote a book on ballet dancing. For a consideration, Simon agrees not to publish. Next a late bishop who wrote intimate love poems, a Commie who had written a capitalist romance, and the headmistress of 'Rowdean' whose book is Sex And How To Get It. Simon comes unstuck with gangster Nick's Fairy Tales, "what would you like to die of?" He spends the rest of the film eluding his own funeral, and there are some pleasing lines on the way
NAKED FURY (1959, directed by Charles Saunders, 2*)- Impressive London night scenes as crooks drive to a disused warehouse after a £50,000 robbery. Unfortunately they've had to "bring along" the night watchman's daughter (Leigh Madison). Whilst boss Eddy guards her, the film loses momentum, following the rest of the gang- weak link is Syd (Arthur Lovegrove) whose embittered wife (Ann Lynn) wants her share Now! Johnny (Kenneth Cope) is being blackmailed whilst Steve (Tommy Eytle) gets desperate too. Best cameo is Denis Shaw as a ship captain who's to help them all escape, playing it in his best You Will Obey Orders- style. But everything falls apart, Syd murders his wife, Johnny tries to steal the loot, and the girl ("let's get acquainted,eh?") before justice punishes 'em all when the warehouse falls apart too, a bit like this whole film
THE NAVY LARK (1959, directed by Gordon Parry, Walton Studios, 4*)-
"Underground skullduggery" aboard the Compton minesweeper. Captain Povey, Old Thunderguts, is out to stop it. Stock comedy with routines like the enjoyable Leslie Phillips defusing a mine that he knows is a dud, but isn't actually. Then there's feigning yellow fever, and "a tinpot revolution," only this pseudo battle ain't that funny. Leslie is the only survivor from the original radio series, which has little connection otherwise with this disappointingly bland film. I put it down to Twentieth Century Fox. Cecil Parker as officer in charge, and Ronald Shiner as the fiddler in stores provide adequate support, but look ill at ease, and not just because they're rumbled in the actual story
THE PRICE OF SILENCE (1959, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 7*)-
Roger Fenton (Gordon Jackson) has begun a new life after serving a prison sentence for embezzling. Evidently following a novel, the story rushes on, as he gains experience in his new life as an estate agent working for 69 year old H Shipley, whose young bored wife Maria makes eyes at Roger, but he's more interested in recluse Audrey. 'The Slug' (Sam Kydd) is an old lag and Roger "has to keep his filthy trap shut," but his increased demands force Roger to resort to the only way out. The tension builds, but he finally rejects his crazy plan, thankfully, only to find himself charged with the murder of a wealthy client, killed in his office. Supt Wilson (Victor Brooks) untangles events, misled by Marcia's lies, and salvation for Roger comes from an unexpected source, "it's beginning to make sense now." A well worn theme, but well built up to a fine conclusion
AND THE SAME TO YOU (1959, Walton Studios, directed by George Pollock, 3*)-
Impressive credits both behind the camera and in front somehow fail to live up to expectation, though the film starts promisingly with Miles Malleson as a bumbling bishop appointing a new vicar who finds his church hall is being used as a boxing venue. Leo Franklyn is the hapless vicar, assisted by his nephew theology student Brian Rix up against second rate boxing promoter William Hartnell and his useless helper Tommy Cooper, completely wasted. Sid James adds a pleasing cameo, though only a cameo, as does Terry Scott, while Dick Bentley is irritating as a bookie. The implausible plot gets too bogged down in the noble art, with William Hartnell, knowing the script is letting him down, overdoes it
SAPPHIRE (1959, directed by Basil Dearden, Pinewood, 4*) - Two kids at the start, underacting on Hampsetead Heath, rather set the tone for this early attempt to explore racial prejudice set against the murder of a young student, victim of a hate killing. Nigel Patrick adds authority as the shrewd investigating officer and Olga Lindo as the future mother-in-law of the dead black girl gives a memorable cameo, but some of the young supporting cast needed to learn how to act, even making Michael Craig's sergeant believable for once. He comments: "these spades are a load of trouble, I reckon we should send them back where they come from." Our superintendent firmly puts him down for that, yet the suburban bigotry is always just a little too transparent. Indeed the whole film seems uncertain how to proceed, culminating in the final silly melodrama which is saved only by Earl Cameron's dignified performance as the butt of the killer's deep prejudice.
STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL (1959, directed by Charles Saunders, Twickenham Studios, 3*)- The Major (William Kendall) and The Commander (Richard Murdoch) are two down-on-their-luck conmen who are just the "strong courageous gentlemen" that a young heiress wants to run her company. They are briefed to modernise her firm, but in fact she is using their incompetence to undermine the business. The plot meanders along, with nice parts for William Hartnell and Bruce Seton before the pair confess their past and the swindler is unmasked. Although the cast do their best, the script by Brock Williams needed a much tighter focus on the two main characters
THIS OTHER EDEN (1959, directed by Muriel Box, Ardmore Stuios Ireland, 4*)-
Leslie Phillips is the most English of Englishmen, Crispin Brown, who's travelled to Ireland to bid on Kilgarrig House, and maybe for Moira wilful daughter of the local bigwig, though there's a rival in Conor. This starts as a gentle comedy of Irish eccentricity but the erection of a statue of a patriot raises those questions deep in the Irish psyche. An "atrocity" is this symbolic statue, even Crispin says it should be "blown up." When it is, he is chief suspect, but facing a lynch mob, his oratory wins them over, "the English come out of everything well." But then, to quote, "the Irish are the strangest people," and this film nearly wins you over
THE TREASURE OF SAN TERESA (1959 directed by Alvin Rakoff, National Studios Boreham Wood, 4*)- Compulsory American in this one is Eddie Constantine as Larry, a poor man's John Wayne, who'd hidden a box of jewels in the war in Czechoslovakia. With the help of the enigmatic Siebert (Marius Goring) and high class tart Hedi (another dud role for Dawn Addams) they retrieve it from a nunnery now apparently a police station. There's no undue excitement at all, except perhaps when Larry has to smash through a frontier post, I didn't realise it was so easy to escape from the Iron Curtain. To prolong the film, 'Inspector' Jaeger (Christopher Lee) now wants his hands on the treasure and Siebert turns out to be nothing but a suave double crosser, which we'd guessed anyway. A few more twists before the climax on the atmospheric Night Train to Munisch, "mein Gott in Himmel!" There's enough local colour to make the film watchable, and almost despite the main leads, Larry and Hedi make an interesting if ill matched pair. Now Larry can give her "a little lesson in anatomy," that's one way of putting it.
THR TROUBLE WITH EVE (1959 Mancunian Films but now made at Walton Studios, directed by Francis Searle, 4*)- The Willow Tree Tea Rooms face a council inspection, during which upright chairman Maitland (Robert Urquhart) sits on some cakes. A policeman sees him in his undies, or rather those of the owner (Hy Hazell).
Romance blossoms, until he catches a "glimpse of a modern babylon" as her daughter Eve (Sally Smith) is caught up in a wild party. Gossip ensues, the cafe being less like "cosy teas" more "like striptease".
The cunning of Eve ensures it's all patched up.
THE WHITE TRAP (1959, directed by Sidney Hayers, Beaconsfield Studions, 5*)- Inside for "something I didn't do," Paul Langley (Lee Patterson) is being transferred to Dartmoor, when he yet again makes a break for it. He's desperate to see his wife Joan, who's expecting their child. The contrast between her fear of dying, as her mother did, and his desperation is well done. A friend helps Paul elude the police, but with maternity being closely watched, how can he ever get to see his wife? Answer- pose as a casualty case, his face bandaged! But Sgt Morrison (Conrad Phillips) spots him and there's a chase around the corridors before Paul takes refuge in a doctor's party. But "desperate men make mistakes" and when Paul learns his baby is doing fine but his wife "has not much hope" he frantically dons a doctor's white coat and finds his wife- they smile, but it's only for a moment. "Just lousy" is the only way this can end now.
WITNESS IN THE DARK (1959, directed by Wolf Rilla, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
Young Don (Richard O'Sullivan) is being helped to learn to read Braille by kind Miss Jane Pringle (Patricia Dainton), who is helping him adjust to his despairing blindness. She's a kindly soul who helps everyone, but she is blind too. One of her friends is old Mrs Temple, whose one treasure is a £2,000 Indian brooch, which an unpleasant thief has set his eyes upon. He fails to discover its hiding place, but kills the old lady. The one witness is bound to be Jane, the classic story of the blind witness to a crime. It's frustrating for the police inspector (Conrad Phillips) who nevertheless persists in painstakingly reenacting the crime in a bid to turn up with a clue- or is he secretly attracted to her? This film also provides sharp observation of human ghoulishness in the slightly macabre. The climax is inevitably the return of the killer to steal the brooch that Jane has now inherited
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR WIFE (1959, directed by Anthony Simmons, Twickenham Studios, 2*)-
A muddled comedy that at least finishes fairly well, about Gay (Peggy Cummins) who, though she has inherited a small fortune, has to take in paying guests with her husband Pelham (Donald Sinden). There's a dancing mistress (Georgina Cookson) and a lunatic foreigner (overplayed by Peter Reynolds), the former is just plain dull while the latter is merely irritating. What passes for more fun is model Juliet, to whom Pel is more than a little attracted. Now a divorce would enable Gay to get hold of more of her inheritance, so this is the theme of the second part of the film, which has the best moment when the reluctant Pel tries his false seduction of the dancing teacher, "you dear good man," as she starts to seduce him. No, he really can't go through with this, but Juliet makes a much more appealing subject, and look, he's "kissing her like a wild beast"
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My reviews of Films from 1960
(In alphabetical order)
THE BOY WHO STOLE A MILLION (1960, directed by Charles Crichton, Pinewood Studios, 5*)- Paco's dad's taxi conks out. 10,000 pesetas to repair, so Paco helps out by helping himself at the local bank. Now the film is a long chase not merely by police, but by everyone villain in Valencia. A blind man is first to catch him, but it's easy to elude him. The stolen money is lost in a dust cart, retrieved, nicked by another lad, before the baddies snatch Paco, a fine study in human greed. The chase is far too protracted and the ending was always going to be difficult, but several moments of unexpected charm are compensation
DENTIST IN THE CHAIR (1960, directed by Don Chaffey, Pinewood Studios, 3*)-
Bob Monkhouse hasn't worn well, and dentistry is an edgy subject anyway. But offering expert tuition in the comedic art are Reginald Beckwith as The Lecturer, and Eric Barker as The Dean. For some reason "the laughing stock of the London underworld," Sam (Kenneth Connor), steals some dental equipment by accident, and this has to be "reburgled," not to mention other nefarious deeds which raise the occasional smile, and of course a sequence with laughing gas mustn't be missed out
DOUBLE BUNK (1960, directed by C Pennington-Richards, Twickenham Studios, 3*)- Sid James and Liz Fraser singing the title song set the mood for this nautical jaunt! On Christmas Island,
Jack (Ian Carmichael) and his fiancee Peggy buy an old houseboat, which proves to be dreadfully leaky, like the script, when they begin their honeymoon.
Another "catastophe" is Sid who persuades Jack to take his wife on a honeymoon cruise. This is a mildly amusing plot, pleasant, not uproariously funny,
but then Jack would have needed an actress wife more suited to comedy, such as Liz Fraser who almost
livens up the second half of the film when she accompanies Sid on the cruise. In the fog they end up in France, and some rather forced arguments and misadventures
flounder the film, even Liz's stripstease not reviving it. The boat returns to England in a race with rival captain Dennis Price (sadly wasted),
with Noel Purcell providing the best humour as a drunken sailor
THE GENTLE TRAP (1960, directed by Charles Saunders, Walton Studios, 2*)-
Johnny and Sam collect a nice little haul of diamonds in a safe job but are then attacked by rival crooks.
Their boss Ricky (Martin Benson) has had wind of the job via Johnny's girl Sylvia. Old Sam is killed but Johnny gets away.
The search is on. He hides with two sisters Jean and Mary: "heads Ricky gets you, tails the cops."
If the main lead had been a bit more charismatic, or even convincing, the film might have turned out less seedy:
"I never dreamt I'd help a murderer." If only Inspector Stevenson (the wonderful Trevor Reid here oddly billed as Colin Reid)
had been given a larger part! He enjoys an acerbic interview with Ricky as the two master actors exchange pleasantries.
Then Ricky catches up with Johnny "in a funeral procession", the police not far behind, as a feeble finale is reached
THE HAND (1960, directed by Henry Cass, Walton Studios, 4*)-
"Pretty fantastic, not very convincing," but though this threatens to become a grisly horror it never does. Charlie is found drunk in the street, £500 in his pocket, and an amputated hand. Inspector Munyard (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) questions Dr Simon Crawshaw who had performed surgery on Charlies with "gross incompetence." The doctor's cousin (Derek Bond) is behind a sinister plot, something deriving from his wartime cowardice, and he is only tracked down after several witnesses have been silenced. Script was co-written by Ray Cooney who plays the inspector's assistant Dave. The background music is typical early 60's beat, and good to see old favourite police car 892 FPC. I liked the final twist
HIS AND HERS (1960, directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst, AB Elstree, 4*)- Reggie Blake (Terry-Thomas) is a celebrated explorer and author, though his wife Fran knows he is really something of a fraud. When he returns home from his latest desert exploit, his pomposity drives her to write her own book, an expose of the real Reggie. As a result, they fall out, and divide their house in two. An added complication is the arrival of Simone who is deflected, if that is the word, by Reggie's publisher (Wilfrid Hyde-White), "fun is my middle name." Perhaps this is the best part of the film, WHW utterly out of character. By great good fortune, Reggie comes to see he has been "an absolute Charlie"
THE HOUSE IN MARSH ROAD (1960, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 3* aka Invisible Creature) -
A penniless writer, David and his wife Jean (typecast Tony Wright and Patricia Dainton) inherit Fourwinds, a large house, surely the ideal retreat for an author who needs peace.
But a poltergeist called Patrick is also in residence. David starts an affair with his typist Valerie
(Sandra Dorne), "quite a dish." They fall in love and the removal of the wife will complete their happiness. But Patrick has other ideas! When David tries to push Jean, Patrick intervenes, when David tries poison, the bells start wildly ringing.
She tells her solicitor who can't fathom her fears. "You make it all sound so silly." Which is perhaps exactly how it is! With Jean away, Valerie and David make love, but the last say is Patrick's, who causes the house to burn down, locking them in to burn to their deaths.
THE IMPERSONATOR (1960, directed by Alfred Shaughnessy, Pinewood, 3*)- Jane Griffiths always conveys an innocent vulnerability, as in this fine opening scene, of Anne walking home alone at night. Is it a stalker? When a local is killed, Jimmy from the US Air Force base is suspect, and anti-American feelings run high. Regrettably, it's spoiled by unconvincing acting from the dead woman's son Tommy, who tries to cry as he wonders where his mum is. Juxtapposition of the pantomime dame, who is the killer, on stage as Mother Goose and holding Tommy on stage, whilst police uncover the corpse is cleverly done, and John Arnatt's familiar sobering tones as the detective saves the film from complete ridicule. "Does Mother Goose really lay Golden Eggs?" asks Tommy in a line which sums this film up. Or perhaps it's "they're all gangsters, them Americans." The showdown exonerates the American as Tommy follows Mother Goose up to the gods, though, for me, he must win an AAA, Awful Acting Award
INN FOR TROUBLE (1960, directed by Pennington Richards, Walton Studios, 7*)-
For once an improvement on a tv series, a rather touching adventure of The Larkins who are transported to Devon to run a country pub,
The Earl Osbourne. It's a failing inn that is put "right back on the map," mainly through the "forceful personality" of Ada (Peggy Mount), conquering the
machinations of the likes of Alan Wheatley. A jolly theme tune by Phil Green and plenty of drinks, plus some gems of cameos from
the likes of Gerald Campion, Frank Williams, AE Matthews, Irene Handl, Willoughby Goddard,
Graham Moffatt and Stanley Unwin, with only Leslie Phillips disappointingly wasted
JACKPOT (1960, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 4*) - Though William Hartnell is billed as the star, he is hardly in it, as the police officer investigating a safe robbery at the Jackpot Club. £6,000 has been stolen, but a vigilant policeman had spotted the thieves and been shot dead for his troubles.
The club is run by crooked Sam (Eddie Byrne) who had used Karl to do his dirty work. Karl is now out of prison and wanting his pay, but Sam won't cough up and so Sam, with the help of Lenny, had helped himself from Sam's safe. Sam guesses what's happened and seeks his revenge, and after some rough stuff Karl is chased to the Arsenal football ground, a match v Burnley. This is a routine crime caper, the heist told in good detail, the most interesting character is reformed criminal Lenny (Michael Ripper unusually good), who is tempted by the money into helping Karl, and horrified when he's caught up in a murder hunt, "they hang you for killing coppers." Betty McDowall adds some class as Karl's estranged wife and Hartnell can always be relied upon to put in a few good touches
JAZZBOAT (1960, directed by Ken Hughes, MGM Studios, 6*) -Way out. Spider's Mob includes Bernie Winters as the appropriately named Jinx ("I'm not as dumb as I look") and David Lodge as a bearded leatherclad religious weirdo. While they are busy robbing 15,000 fags for peanuts, Bert (Anthony Newley) is dancing with "not a nice girl," jealous Spider's girl in fact. After the gang, adding his own nice dry humour is Lionel Jeffries as the rather jaded police inspector. Then there's the mainly square music supplied by Ted Heath and the like, but the film also includes lively dance numbers, one on location. The mix is rather uncomfortably stirred with occasional social comment on teenage hoodlums, but somehow the tongue-in-cheek fusion of genres works. Bert lays claim to being notorious thief The Cat and takes Spider's greenhorns to rob a jewellers, main interest being why he is doing so. "I'm top of the hit parade," he explains, or as Jinx remarks, "I suppose you know what you're doin'." Still, it doesn't matter why that much, for in a long showdown on the jazzboat, Spider tries to snatch the jewels from Bert, Anthony Newley dancing in drag with David Lodge the most incongruous part. "You're all man," Spider's doll tells Bert as the chase escalates and romance rises, though jollity is slightly marred by Spider's slashing and on to the surrealistic violent ending in a chamber of horrors- "how do you get out of here?" asks a tired old man, "is Chamberlain back from Europe?!"
NEVER LET GO (1960, directed by John Guillermin, Beaconsfield Studios, 8*)-
A crooked garage owner, that's the unsual role for Peter Sellers, with Adam Faith as his stooge who steals cars to order. He regrettably is the one weak link, unconvincing, not the accomplished actor he turned into.
Into this ruthless world steps mild family man Cummings (Richard Todd) for his brand new Ford Anglia is stolen. This is a breaking point for this salesman, his car essential for his job, now "we couldn't even afford to hire a bicycle." His work suffers in his single minded determination to find his car. He finds an eyewitness, newspaper vendor Alfie who is violently assaulted to keep his mouth shut. But Alfie has pointed Cummings to Tommy (Adam Faith) and his motorcycle gang and thence to Lionel Meadows (Sellers, unexpectedly effective in his evil looks). Cummings' doggedness riles Meadows whose relationship with tart Jackie deteriorates as Cummings in his plight grows closer to Anne his wife (Elizabeth Sellars). "I want my car... I've got to hang on to what's left." Here's the impressive theme as he simply has to "see it through."
Jackie can provide the vital lead, bringing on a tense standoff as Meadows bursts into Cummings family home. An ultimatum from Anne as the sense of evil grows, a disintegrating Meadows swearing to kill his nemesis and set fire to his wretched car, him inside. The theme is summed up in the one line from Anne, "so what makes your car so important?"
'Tis the High noon of the final clash, only as this is a film noir, 'tis blackest night. After that bloody showdown will the tortured salesman find his wife at home?
NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER (1960, directed by Cyril Frankel, Hammer Films, 5*)- A new high school principal (Patrick Allen) is told by his nine year old daughter Jean that she has been made to undress by an old man (Felix Aylmer), a founding father of this prosperous Canadian town. How can it ever be proved he"attacked her innocence" when it's her word against his? There's nothing at all smutty in this story, but I did find it too episodic, issues needed to be thrashed out more fully, before we reach the harrowing trial where Jean is interrogated by the nasty defence council Slade (Niall MacGinnis). Partly because Jean's corroborative witness is persuaded not to testify, the case is not proven, and this leads to the last part which is far more scarey (though it's hard to see how Britain gave this an X rating) as Felix Aylmer imitates a zombie chasing after Jean and her friend through the woods
THE NIGHT WE GOT THE BIRD (1960, directed by Darcy Conyers, Shepperton Studios, 10*) - Though not perfect, this is Brian Rix at his best with support from old stooge Leo Franklyn, plus Brighton's finest Dora Bryan. Lovely cameos from Irene Handly as the ma-in-law, dear Reg Beckwith as Champagne Charlie and John le Mesurier and Kynaston Reeves in a travesty of courtroom justice. The story revolves round green Bertie Skidmore who's called in to authenticate Brighton knocker-boy Cecil's fake furniture. When Cecil is killed Bertie marries Cecil's wife only to find his wedding night interrupted by "dementia peacocks" in the form of a parrot, which is Cecil reincarnate. Knocked by many, I just love this absurd piece of farcical nonsense, British cinema at its innocent best
NO KIDDING (1960, directed by Gerald Thomas, Pinewood, 4*)- Master David (Leslie Phillips) and his wife open a holiday home for rich children. The child actors aren't all bad, a bunch of children with their own spoilt problems, mostly their absent parents. Julia Lockwood and Francesca Annis are two of the older kids, the sombre storyline perks up with the arrival of Joan Hickson as the inebriate cook, as well as, briefly, Esme Cannon as an "interfering busybody" of a nurse. It's a mildly amusing study of Liberty Hall, a clash between freedom and discipline for children with some heavy serious interludes. A prank too far with a car brings about the crisis, "I'll murder them!" David and family "muddle through," via some light hearted fun, though the finish sums up the film, which tries to be a comedy but is always oddly veering in the direction of some moral point. Weirdest of all is the introduction of Michael Sarne, while Irene Handl is cast in a part strangely out of character
OCTOBER MOTH (1960, directed by John Kruse, Beaconsfield Studios, 2*) -
Finlay (Lee Patterson) rescues a woman from a car smash and carries her to his farmhouse bed. He decides she is his dead mother, but he is an utterly demented soul, seriously ill, cared for by his sister Molly (Lana Morris), who is a sympathetc character, though her actions are never entirely plausible. She meets Tom who tries to get the woman to hospital, Molly desperate to get Finlay to admit the truth about his tortured past with his father. The inevitable crisis, as Tom and he come face to face, the unremitting blackness bringing on the inevitable ending, too obvious, implausible, corny too
OFFBEAT (1960, directed by Cliff Owen, Shepperton Studios, 6*)- "I'll have the key to your safe please," a daring one man bank robbery, committed by Layton (William Sylvester), actually a policeman undercover. His task- infiltrate a highly organised gang, "I can't afford to make mistakes." But maybe he does just that when, after getting into a "firm," he falls for Ruth (Mai Zetterling). He admires the organisation so much, the interest is whether he will change sides, as the tunnel into Imperial Jewellers. Of course, he's found out, will Ruth expose him after the successful job, clean getaway with three quarters of a million?
PICCADILLY THIRD STOP (1960, directed by Wolf Rilla, Pinewood Studios, 2*)-
"Society jackass" Dominic (Terence Morgan) hasn't got "good form even in crime," an unlikeable minor rogue, interestingly foreshadowing the coming amoral Sixties. Having made love to an East Indies music student, he seizes his chance of joining the big league by planning to rob her rich dad's safe of £100,000. With her blinkered assistance, and help from Chrissy who's also in love with him, her down-on-his-uppers husband ropes in The Colonel (William Hartnell), the safecracker who brightens the film with his confidence in his own ability. But he has little to be confident about, the venture, like this film, is doomed. We watch them tunnelling in (why not simply use the front door?), the safe blown, the loot, then betrayal
THE PROFESSIONALS (1960, directed by Don Sharp, Pinewood Studios, 5*) - 'Inspector Cooper' (Stratford Johns) does "a really beautfiul job" at a bank, a preliminary to to bigger crime, for which he needs expert Phil Bowman (William Lucas), who's just been released from prison. "I thought I'd settle down," Phil begins. "You can settle down when you're dead!" Phil's fiance Ruth (Colette Wilde) wants him to go straight, but his well worn excuse is "it's my last job." Meticuluous planning, so what can go wrong? Entry into the City Bank is the traditional route via the sewers, explosives bust the safe. Anyone could do this, you feel. Except the emptying of the safe has to be done to split second precision, the alarm ringing. Whilst police flash in through the front door, the thieves exit the way they entered. The perfect crime. A routine caper, but it's police routine that puts the Yard on to Bowman, just after his wedding too. Panic: "that's the way it goes," says Phil to Ruth. Nice final scene as she removes his figurine from their wedding cake
THREE ON A SPREE (1960 directed by Sidney J Furie, Walton Studios, 3^)- A forgotten version of Brewster's Millions which provides some delightful fun for Jack Watling, but the film, after a lively start, sadly loses its drive in a poor second half. Mike Brewster has been saving for five years to get married to Susan (Carole Lesley). At last he's got enough, but then he's told he will inherit eight million, if he can fulfil his uncle's bequest- spend one million in 60 days- this so he can "learn to hate spending money." With his two bemused ex-work mates (Colin Gordon and John Slater) he starts his spree- "which bank did you rob this morning?" They set up Brewster and Co with schemes to lose money on roulette, horses, shows, anything- but somehow they all win Brewster more money- "everything I touch turns to gold!"
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My reviews of Films from 1961
(In alphabetical order)
THE BREAKING POINT (1961, directed by Lance Comfort, Walton Studios, 3*)-
As Eric Winlater (Peter Reynolds) owes cash, it's rather handy he works in his uncle's engraving firm, which has just won the new currency contract for the Middle Eastern state of Lalvadore. Ripe for blackmail by smooth embassy worker Peter, his wife is two timing him with journalist Robert (Dermot Walsh). The characters are built up well enough, but too slowly for a one hour film. Eric passes details of the contract to Peter who then offers Eric even more for hijacking the van carrying all the cash to Gatwick. Snatching the fortune almost works, only Robert has tailed Eric. "You incompetent fool!" But the fool shows a final spark of decency bringing on an exciting fight outside a plane in flight
DENTIST ON THE JOB (1961, directed by CM Pennington Richards, Shepperton Studios, 1*)- Dreem versus Glow, a battle of the toothpastes. JJ (Eric Barker) of Proudfoot Industries is running Dreem's failing advertising campaign, which he revives by using two second rate dentists, from the film Dentist in the Chair, Cookson and Dexter, with the help of their dodgy pal Sam. They invent an improved product, en route with the odd good gag, and some cringing ones. Their biggest coup is getting their ad broadcast from outer space. There is also an interesting scene from the quiz Take Your Pick. But the film lacks any sparkle or even direction, and fades miserably
DURING ONE NIGHT (1961 directed by Sidney Furie, Walton Studios, 0*)- a modest film that thinks too much of itself, with sickly music that drowns the angst of the actors as well as me. In the war pilot Mike is injured so that, as he puts it, "I'm not a man any more." This is double speak for if I can say it sex, but it turns out he never has been 'a man' anyway. His co-pilot Don hasn't either and proves the point in a salacious scene with a prostitute, where he can't do it. A barmaid (Susan Hampshire) consoles him with "sometimes when you talk about something you feel better," but all this talking in veiled tones about "trying the product" is very wearing and her own motive was perhaps the only interest I could find. "I don't want to die without ever being a man," he tells her, so in a deserted barn at the "don't tell me, show me" point, very unromantically she strips off. However "nothing happened," as she tells her mum later, he really can't. If you can follow this tragedy to the end you get to a discussion about love and the surprisingly moral conclusion for the Sixties that love is the answer, which of course he finds and becomes etc etc, in this film truly of its age and awful
FIVE GOLDEN HOURS (1961, directed by Mario Zampi, MGM Borehamwood Studios, 3*)- I love all Zampi's films- except this one. He excelled in studies of British eccentrics, but here he turns his attention on one Italian funeral director Aldo (Ernie Kovacs) who befriends lonely widows, until he meets his love in the attractive shape of the Baroness Sandra. Her late husband had devised his own investment swindle, which Aldo recreates to woo his widow. He uses the fortunes of his other widows to pay off Sandra's debts, only to find out she is nothing but a swindler herself. He feigns amnesia as the story drags on in a mental home, until one of his widows expires, almost leaving him a fortune. It is then that Sandra reappears...
GIRL ON APPROVAL (1961, directed by Charles Frend, 5*)-
Fourteen year old Sheila is a teenager nobody wants for she is aggressive, wilful, "what's going to happen to her?" Fostered with an ordinary suburban family, her social worker "doesn't expect miracles." The film is constantly on edge as she threatens to ruin the happy family and their marriage. After yet another bitchy row, Sheila runs off into the night, easy prey. However she is found by her foster father in the nick of time. The final scene is quite touching, though maybe does not answer the deeper questions
HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Beaconsfield Studios, 5*)- For sale, the idyllic Orchard Cottage for only £2,500, "it's fantastic." A "dream house," but there must be some catch. There is. Mark, a previous inventor owner had been electrocuted here. The Trevors had purchased the property, and were horrified to see Mark's ghost. They call in a psychic (Colin Gordon) who introduces them to a medium who reenacts the tragedy. Mark's wife had attempted to electrocute her husband in his bath. When this fails, his revenge makes him wire up the entire sitting room to kill her and her lover, "he's insane, he must be"
INFORMATION RECEIVED (1961, directed by Robert Lynn, Shepperton Studios, 5*)-
Stevens is shipped to England for some big job, but police pick him up. Rick (William Sylvester) takes Stevens' place, and is sprung by Vic from jail in a dustbin. Just avoiding a roadblock he reaches a hideout cottage. Here the action slows as Rick gets pally with Sabina, Vic's wife. Soon they are kissing, "gosh, you're beautiful." Vic is to drive Rick to Paterson's garage to meet the boss Harry Drake (Edward Underdown), but Sabina warns him it's a trap, and Rick drives there on his own. She then shoots Vic and claims Rick did it. She seems to be planning a world cruise with Drake when this job's done. An enigmatic character she is, but sadly her part is not well acted and the film falls as a result. Rick's part of the robbery is to open a factory safe and here the action is more straightforward, as a valuable blueprint is nicked. But it is Drake who is nicked, and Sabina is also caught, "a notorious character"
JOHNNY NOBODY (1961, directed by Nigel Patrick, Ardmore Studios, 5*)-
"God will punish him," Father Carey prophesies of an American blasphemer (William Bendix). When a stranger shoots him for openly defying God, popular sentiment is with him when he goes on trial. The question posed to the priest is, was this Johnny Nobody or God responsible? Father Carey's religious questioning turns into a more obvious murder story, when the killer's wife comes on the scene. It's almost The 39 Steps, as the priest is arrested, handcuffed and has to avoid the law in order to see justice done. This change of pace is uncomfortable, with too long a delay before the final dramatic courtroom denouement
JUNGLE STREET (1961, directed by Charles Saunders, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
At the Adam and Eve Club, I'm Only a Girl is the lively song that starts off this film, echoes of MM.
"The lovely Sue" (Jill Ireland) has many admirers, including Terry (David McCallum) a yob who attacks a 65 year old man for a few quid. "This is a hanging case."
Johnnie (Kenneth Cope) had been his partner in crime until the latter got caught. Now he's out of the Scrubbs and they plan to rob the club, "a pushover." But it's not, since Terry doublecrosses his pal, all on account of Sue. The alarm goes off. It's an exciting showdown- "he's got a gun!"
THE MAN IN THE BACK SEAT (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Beaconsfield Studios, 3*) - NTE718 is the car. Two tearaways have nicked it, the evil Tony, and his underling Frank. Their victim is Joe, greyhound bookie. They snatch his money bag, but there's one problem, they have to snatch him also, it's chained to his wrist. From hereon this is one long frustration for the crooks, and the audience. No key to unlock it, car parked in someone's way, Frank's wife Jean suspicious, puncture, Joe beaten up, Joe dumped but spotted by a policeman, quack doctor diagnoses a punctured lung, "he's dead." Crooks scarper scared, "you've got yourself into a fine mess." Well does this prove crime does not pay, or what?
MARY HAD A LITTLE (1961, directed by Edward Buzzell, Walton Studios, 4*)- Failing theatrical agent Scott Raymond (Jack Watling) bets with Dr Mal Nettel (John Bentley) that he can't make a woman produce The Perfect Baby via hypnotism. Really. Scott cheats by persuading a can-can dancer from Cannes, Mary, to be the subject of this improbabe medical experiment. The treatment of this deception is too plodding as Mary is set up in Shakespeare's cottage, with, er, "a better plot than you ever had." Obviously, with scenes such as Scott hypnotised into believing "I'm going to have a beautiful baby." Weirder is Mary's dream when the bard comes to life. But the film finishes with a flourish with Scott hiding Mary in his bedroom to avoid the eyes of his long time fiancee Laurel (Hazel Court). A shotgun wedding nearly follows, with a finale in the police station with Terry Scott sorting out the wild muddle
MURDER ON THE CAMPUS (1961, Marylebone Studios director Michael Winner 5*)- "Why should he fall out of his own window?" asks reporter Mark Kingston of Tony, his brother, a scholarship student at Leicester College Cambridge. Mark plays "boy detective"
while Insp Wills (Donald Gray) holds a nonchalant watching brief as masonry falls on one witness and another is strangled, "he may be on to something."
The theft during the war of antiques is behind this run-of-the-mill adventure but Terence Longden as Mark gives it all some integrity, even coping with a couple of dud actresses. There's an odd apppearance "indubitably" unrelated to anything in particular by Robertson Hare, and the location shooting in the university city gives it some credibility
THE NIGHT WE DROPPED A CLANGER (1961, directed by Darcy Conyers, National Studios Borehamwood, 3*)-
A top RAF wallah, the insufferably superior Wing Commander Blenkinsop (Brian Rix), must go on a secret mission to France to learn the secrets of the flying bomb. Like Monty, he needs a double to throw the Nazis off the scent in North Africa, but the only lookalike proves to be a cackhanded lavatory attendant. The contrasts between the two characters is unsubtle, though the attempts to turn one into t'other produces some funny moments, as when the private returns to inspect his old late superiors. With bungling Sir Bertram Bukpasser (Cecil Parker) nominally in charge, it's no wonder there's a mix up and it's the real Blenkinsop who is despatched to Africa. Comedy with a war theme is never easy to bring off, and even the pleasing cameos from Leslie Phillips, William Hartnell, Hattie Jacques and Irene Handl fail to lift this one. That said, the improbable triumph of the idiot against the Nazis is assured, even if the the film then takes a bit too long to wind down
THE PAINTED SMILE- (1961, Shepperton Studios, directed by Lance Comfort, 4*) -
Mark (Peter Reynolds) and Jo (Liz Fraser) run a blackmail racket: she picks up a likely man, this time student Tom at a club. But Mark has been knifed, Tom won't be seduced, instead he helps her dispose of the corpse in his car. Not a good idea as he's half drunk. Tom's two pals and his fiancee Mary help trace the killer, the man with the inevitable limp, the sinister Limey, not too tough a task as he's after Tom too. At one point this film is more akin to Room at the Top, but mostly it's a 50s crime chase with 60s music. "We're going to look after you," Limey promises Tom and Jo once he's got them, "you've just got to disappear." Motivation not clear, but there's always the catchy theme song to enjoy, sung by Craig Douglas
PAYROLL (1961, directed by Sidney Hayers, Beaconsfield Studios, 8*)- Villains are planning to snatch the large payroll from an armoured van. As we meet the van drivers and their families, what follows is moving, as the crooks' Jag forces the van to swerve and crash. It is rammed mercilessly until it yields its contents. Several deaths follow in this tensest of holdups. The aftermath is impressive also, as the villains fall out over the distribution of their dead colleague's share. We see the devastation of ruined lives, except for the insider's wife, who provides "the sex angle," making off with the boss of the gang. Then there's the ice cool widow of the dead driver, who causes the insider to crack up, before she hunts down her late husband's killer. Only thing wrong with the film is the extraordinary lack of any local accent- it is set in Newcastle
PIT OF DARKNESS (1961, directed by Lance Comfort, Twickenham Studios, 7*)-
why is Logan (William Franklyn) lying unconscious on a Wapping bomb site? His wife Julie tells him he has been missing for three weeks. He can't remember anything. He is phoned by Mavis, but who is she? It seems she lives at Nightingale Cottage, so he goes there, and is nearly killed by a bomb. Minor flashes of memory take him to the Blue Baboon Club and a dance with the elusive Mavis. She is soon dead. His business manufactures safes and the mystery clears when he is required to open another safe in this excellent thriller. Footnote: a young Dave Clark can be seen on drums in the nightclub sequence
POSTMAN'S KNOCK (1961, directed by Robert Lynn, MGM Borehamwood Studios, 6*)- Tho' Spike Milligan is the star, this is really only a run-of-the-mill British comedy, and no worse for that. Spike gets plenty of opportunity for visual comedy, such as grappling with an automatic door, but the script gives him little scope with verbal gags. However, others are given brief chances, such as Warren Mitchell as Rupert, leader of the crooks, and his assistant cockney Arthur Mullard, who has one fun moment with Milligan where he pretends he's French! Archie Duncan as the police inspector does his
usual marvellous portrait of bumbling incompetence: "we're not as stupid as we look"
SHE KNOWS Y'KNOW (1961, directed by Montgomery Tully, Twickenham Studios, 4*)- Cyril Smith plays his traditional henpecked husband, a good foil for the great Hylda Baker. The northern setting and storyline seem pure 1950s, though the music like the chacha is more withit. For a while the comedy is drowned by the pop singer made good motif, as Terry is offered his big chance in London- indeed he has talent and does well, though in real life this singer (Tim Connor) didn't make it to the top. Also 1960s is the teenage pregnancy, the best part the sparring between rival grandmothers, Hylda v Joan Sanderson. A victim has to be found to admit paternity, but you feel Hylda isn't quite at home without a live audience, and the fun never finds its potential, though it's pleasing enough
STRONGROOM (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Twickenham Studios, 4*)- Easter Saturday, three crooks wait for the bank to close for the holiday at lunchtime. Mr Spencer the prim manager (Colin Gordon) and his secretary (Miss Taylor) are last to go, and they don't for in walks a postman and the keys are sntached to open the vault. Tensely told, all goes really well until the arrival of two cleaners, the thieves leave their two prisoners locked in the strongroom and escape. They develop a conscience of sorts and their leader Griff (Derren Nesbitt) orders his mate to tip off the police. But he is accidentally killed as the film loses some momentum, and as Griff and Len decide to break back into the bank to rescue their hostages. Good character studies, but a very frustrating storyline
TWO LETTER-ALIBI (1961 directed by Robert Lynn Shepperton Studios, 4*)
- Charles Hilary (Peter Williams) is separated from Louise his wife. Now she hates him and won't give him a divorce so he can marry TV personality Kathy. When Louise is shot dead, he is the obvious suspect for the acerbic Supt Bates (Stratford Johns). When Charles is picked out at an identity parade he is arrested. The film moves to his trial, shown in some detail. The verdict... Guilty. In Brighton, Kathy discovers a hotel where Louise had stayed with a male lover. Unwisely Charles makes a break for it but is recaptured. Kathy then proves Charles' questionable alibi so he is happily pardoned and the killer caught. Perhaps the film tries too hard to cover too many bases
TWO LIVING ONE DEAD (1961 directed by Anthony Asquith, 4*)- A study of the aftermath of a Swedish post office robbery in which an employee is killed. Fellow worker Anderson (Bill Travers) emerges as a hero, whilst Berger (a typical Patrick McGoohan role) is a "cowerd." You might think it would be difficult to sustain this for over 100 minutes, but you'd be wrong. It's impossible. But nonetheless interesting, when Berger's befriended by one of the thieves- "it needn't have happened at all," Berger is told. Is this a comment on Two Living, which concludes with the hero exposed in a second 'robbery' staged by the coward himself?
THE UNSTOPPABLE MAN (1961, directed by Terry Bishop, 6*)-
Kidnap of young Jimmy at Hyde Park Corner, a routine story but Jimmy's dad is self made business millionaire James Kennedy (Cameron Mitchell) and he's not just a doting dad, he also has his own unorthodox methods, "I have my own way of handling things." Thus he don't see eye to eye with Inspector Hazelrigg (Marius Goring) and their uneasy relationship is at the heart of this drama. "I'm not working with the police," he announces, and Hazelrigg, more experienced in such matters than Kennedy can credit, plays along. The last half is the tense drop of ransom money, twice what the crooks demand, the tracking of the kidnappers to their hideout in Hampstead, and the final recovery of Jimmy with the aid of a lethal fire extinguisher
WATCH IT, SAILOR! (1961, directed by Wolf Rilla, Bray Studios, 2*)- The great Bobby Howes gets us off to a good start with his drunk cameo, and Frankie Howerd as the organist and Arthur Howard as the vicar add pleasing touches in the opening. As a belated follow up to the film Sailor Beware, this has a mostly different cast, Irene Handl making a fine replacement for the irreplaceable Esma Cannon, though Marjorie Rhodes in the Peggy Mount role of Emma tries to dominate, but only makes herself less comic, a shade too unpleasant. Her husband Henry again turns at the end of the too predictable plot, a tedious story is about Shirley and Albert's postponed wedding. Even the arrival of Dennis Price half way through fails to liven things up, too much bickering until at last the couple "fly in the face of Emma," and thus they live happily ever after, though the memory of this film doesn't
WHAT A CARVE UP! (1961, directed by Pat Jackson, Twickenham Studios, 5*)- To Blackshaw Towers, remote on the moors, goes Ernie (Kenneth Connor), accompanied by his mate Honest Sid (Sid James) at the behest of late Uncle Gabriel. "There's something creepy about this place," as other relatives are bumped off, in the traditional mix of secret passages, screams and creaking doors. There are even baying hounds a la Baskerville. Yet it's all performed with zest by the principals, ably assisted by the deadpan Dennis Price and the "zombie" Donald Pleasence. All overacting, "nutty as a fruitcake," especially the understated mad butler (Michael Gough) and dear Aunt Emily (Esma Cannon)
WHAT A WHOPPER (1961, directed by Gilbert Gunn, Pinewood, 5*) -
Here's the story of a down-at-heel writer (Adam Faith) who attempts to convince the world that the Loch Ness Monster is real. Adam Faith wasn't a proficient actor as yet, Terence Longdon (plus thick-set glasses) wasn't a comedy natural and Carole Lesley was just a pretty face. But there's plenty of professional comedy to admire: Spike Milligan fishing and nearly catching a Monster, Freddie Frinton at his inebriate best and Sid James (who else?!) as a slightly crooked landlord. And then there are the usual caricatures- the incompetent police (Terry Scott) and the belligerent Scots (Archie Duncan). Adam sings the title song and one other love song to prove he really was quite talented
A WEEKEND WITH LULU (1961, directed by John Paddy Carstairs, Shepperton Studios, 4*)- Lulu is "a mobile love nest," ie an old caravan for Tom (Leslie Phillips) to borrow for use with Deirdre (Shirley Eaton). The caravan is "a bit intimate," ie cramped. The only snag is that her mother (Irene Handl) comes too for "quite an adventure."
Stranded in France, the plot becomes a mildly enjoyable romp taking them slowly home, "who's that girl?" Pursued by rozzers, one haven is a chateau owned by an amorous count. Cash is raised by various dubious means, and spent as quickly, including a betting swindle on the Tour de France
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My reviews of Films from 1962
(In alphabetical order)
BAND OF THIEVES (1962, directed by Peter Bezencenet, Pinewood, 6*) - What starts as a cheapskate imitation of Two Way Stretch continues as a more conventional rags to riches showbiz musical with plenty of jolly numbers from Aker Bilk. Finally it decides to be a crime caper, but although a muddle, I found it a pleasant muddle with its generous points, such as the opportunity for the also-rans to shine for a second, as for example when the cleaning lady dusts as Aker plays. Michael Peake has a ferocious part as chief warder and Geoffrey Sumner reprises his Army Game role as the trad loving prison governor
THE BREAK (1962, directed by Lance Comfort, Shepperton Studios, 1*)-
Prisoner Jacko (William Lucas) has escaped and is holed out in a remote Dartmoor farmhouse hotel. "Expect trouble," but it's very tedious with a dull collection of guests: writer Greg Parker (Tony Britton), private detective Pearson, and Sue, Jacko's brother, who falls for Greg. One dead body later, "the Lord will punish you," says a religious simpleton, but in trying to wreak vengeance on Jacko, only gets killed himself. Greg is made of sterner stuff and after a slightly exciting chase, persuades Sue not to flee abroad with her brother, who almost gets away, but not quite. Revenge all but ends this sick tale which never quite manages to get you hooked
DANGER BY MY SIDE (1962, directed by Charles Saunders, Shepperton Studios, 4*)- There's a fine opening sequence showing a bank robbery, successful except Bernie Hewson trips and is caught. After a spell behind bars, he naturally wants his boss, Nicky Venning (Alan Tilvern at his nasty best) to come good, and Hewson is given a job at Venning's Acme Warehouse. The police are investigating this front, and undercover cop Terry is killed in a hit and run accident. His boss Det Insp Willoughby tries to give Terry's sister Lynne (Maureen Connell) a little help in exposing the gang as she gets a job at Nicky's nightclub, where the catchy title song is sung. Yes, this is very typical early Sixties fare, slightly seedy, redeemed by the electric guitars in the background music. Lynne is befriended by the kind club manager Sam (Bill Nagy) who amazingly knows nothing of Venning's shady activities. But Hewson rumbles Lynne, and she is tied up on Venning's boat Harlequin, where the police hunt ends rather tamely. The best bit for me was the little scene as the crooks are rounded up, and the honest gatekeeper at Acme, played by Wally Patch, is escorted into a police car protesting his innocence
DILEMMA (1962, directed by Peter Maxwell, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
One of those frustrating films, well done, about Harry, a teacher embarking on his summer hols. He returns home from school to find Jean his wife has gone, and, worse, a corpse in the bathroom. He has to cover up for her, and does so by digging a hole for it under the floor in the lounge of his modern suburban semi. All along the line he is thwarted by interruptions, particularly his nosey neighbour, but also his mother, two nuns, a blind piano tuner, a piano pupil, and finally the police. They call about a seemingly unrelated matter, "a nasty piece of work," actually the corpse, who has been blackmailing people. Then Jean comes home, though we know she had been intending to flee the country, alone. She claims not to know anything about the dead man, but what is the truth?
JIGSAW (1962, directed by Val Guest, AB Elstree Studios, 8*) - The opening scene is pure 'kitchen sink' but thankfully this quickly transforms into an impressive thriller effectively using Brighton as its backdrop. An absorbing account of how the police, led by a fairly rotund Jack Warner, track down a murderer. Two mysteries in the jigsaw are: 1. Why has someone stolen the only copy of the lease of the cliff house where the killing took place, and 2. Why had the killer stopped half way through dismembering the corpse? The biggest puzzle however is tracing who the dead girl was- clues include an A55 saloon and the trunk in which the corpse was found. It's a tough case to crack with a lot of dead ends- "I am not Agatha Christie, so we'll have to start again at the beginning."
LADIES WHO DO (1962, direced by CM Pennington-Richards, Twickenham Studios,4*)-
The Colonel (Robert Morley) has a gem of a cleaning lady in Mrs Cragg (Peggy Mount), who also happens to work at the offices of Jim Ryder (Harry H Corbett), a flash property developer. Inadvertently she brings The Colonel a scrap of paper relating to a takeover and he buys shares. "It isn't right." But maybe it is since the ruthless Jim's scheme is to demolish the houses where Mrs Cragg and her fellow chars live.Together they rummage in the waste paper baskets of their employers, passing a heap of rubbish on to The Colonel. He moves into posh premises as their business booms. Jim's demolition plans encounter setbacks when "a few old bags" hold up the destruction of the houses, overlong but a fun climax
LUNCH HOUR (1962, directed by James Hill, Marylebone Studios, 1*)- A secret tryst in a seedy hotel, the first half of the film shows how this couple have ended up here, the scene is nicely built up, a portrait of two very normal ordinary people, he 13 years older than her. Having got them ensconced in their love nest, the film then fails to build on what it has begun as she changes character. By a devious deception, to protect their innocence he has booked this room, but frustration is all they, and we, receive. Peculiarly, she brings his lies to life, despite his protests, turning the film into the kitchen sink. Sorry, all credibility has gone just as they have lost all hope of fulfilment. "It's all over"- thank goodness
NIGHT OF THE PROWLER (1962, directed by Francis Searle, Shepperton Studios, 2*) -
Robert (Patrick Holt) is estranged from his lovely wife Marie (Colette Wilde). His partner in their racing car engineering firm is murdered, and Robert is warned that he is next on the list. It must be the work of Don Lacey, whom the three of them had testified against, getting him sent to jail. Inspector Cameron (good old John Horsley) is on to the criminal almost as soon as I was. The title might imply a tense drama, which this certainly is not
OUT OF THE FOG (1962, directed by Montgomery Tully, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
George Mallon is a "prison regular," kindly Tom Daniels (James Hayter) offers him a room in his hostel for ex-cons. However, this doesn't develop on predictable lines, offering a sad picture of his rejection by a girlfriend when she learns of his past, and even sadder, his own mother spurning him. Though he seems on the path of reform, when a blonde is murdered, he is the top suspect. John Arnatt as Supt Chadwick investigates with his usual dry humour and gets a blonde policewoman to go undercover and befriend George. She ends up alone with him in a foggy isolated place...
THE PRIMITIVES (1962, directed by Alfred Travers, Pinewood Studios 4*)-
Jan Holden got her first starring film role with a fine part, an attractive intelligent boss of a gang of jewel robbers, travelling undercover as variety artists, Cheta and her three male partners. Having successfully eluded Inspector Wills and his Canadian assistant Bob Henry, they are planning that one last job. It's the big one, Hatton Garden, and it's a piece of cake. Only one slight hitch, the flat the gang borrow to gain entry into the diamond merchants isn't empty as planned, journalist John Turner needs to be distracted by Cheta. But the one hitch opens up further complications, in that she falls for him. That brings on jealousy from one gang member who places a bomb in John's case as he flies off from London Airport. The police have almost tracked down the gang, though questioning John is unnecessarily long and the drama loses its edge. However the last scene is effective, as Cheta has to break airport security in order to tackle John on the tarmac to prevent a tragedy
SERENA (1962, directed by Peter Maxwell, Shepperton Studios, 5*)- Det Insp Gregory (Patrick Holt) investigates the murder of an artist's estranged wife. Rogers had separated from her three years ago, his alibi is his model Serena Vaughan, whom we only see in her portrait. She has disappeared. But we do meet Ann, his wife (Honor Blackman) who isn't dead after all! "It's a complicated story," the search for Serena the key to solving the case. A neat little drama with a good final twist
SEVEN KEYS (1962, directed by Pat Jackson, Beaconsfield Studios, 2*)-
Group Captain James Jefferson is killed in a car crash, coincidentally his father, in jail having robbed £20,000, also dies. Thus prisoner 7866 Fred Russell (Alan Dobie) inherits the dead man's seven keys, obviously a clue to the missing money, and the film moves pedestrianly through the motions as Russell works out what the keys are for, shadowed by rival crooks.
Jefferson's loyal secretary Miss Steele (Jeannie Carson) helps him trace one key to a safe deposit, another to his house where Fabia Drake and Robertson Hare give us a moment's comedy relief as the frightened new occupants. ORW120 was Jefferson's car, and new owner Colin Gordon adds another moment of fun, but only a moment in this tedious and very complictaed search. The key to James' flat leads to fiancee Natalie, a model, who had been blackmailing Jefferson after a drink driving road accident. Russell makes love to her before blackmailing her in return, he's no moral hero though somehow, under the gentle influence of Miss Steele he emerges as one
TOUCH OF DEATH (1962, directed by Lance Comfort, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
William Lucas is typecast as Pete, the leader of a gang who rob a garage safe. In a dramatic opening, one of the thieves is killed while Pete and Len run off with a cool £17,000. What they don't know is that the notes have been covered with cyanide, stored in the safe. Len starts going downhill, poisoned, as the pair hide on a boat. This is their escape route, taking as hostages the tenant and a little girl. You can guess how it will end as Inspector Maxwell (Ray Barrett) corners them, but there is a twist in the tense chase, even though A Touch of Death lacks A Touch of much Excitement
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