ACCOUNT RENDERED (1957, directed by Peter Graham Scott, Southall Studios, 6*) -
Well defined main characters with tensions at breaking point. Banker Robert (Griffith Jones) has been tipped off about his wife Lucille's infidelity, and he follows her first to artist Clive's studio, then to
a tryst on Hampstead Heath.
It's bad luck that he trips up and comes round only to be told his wife has been found strangled.
Inspector Marshall (Ewen Solon) sifts through the red herrings as "attractive unmarried" Sarah (Honor Blackman) consoles the widower in this very typical British thriller, done so well. "I'm beyond making sense out of anything any more," cries Robert as he learns of another of his wife's lovers, then another... "This is going to ruin us!"
THE ADVENTURES OF HAL 5 (1957, directed by Don Sharp, Halliford Studios, 6*)-
A stylish children's film, set in an idyllic rural world, this is almost the Black Beauty for vintage cars, "never had this trouble with horses." She's a 1928 Austin that Dicey, new owner of Netherwood Farm has to reluctantly sell. At the garage bad Mr Goorlie (John Glyn-Jones) gives him only £40 then sells it for £100 to the vicar Rev Hayward (the personable William Russell), "what a mug." Though his nephew Charles (Peter Godsell) and niece (Janina Faye) love it, "it seems a very noisy car," and several dubious repairs later the vicar has to sell it back to the "cheat" for a mere £20. But Hal 5 teaches the crooked Goorlie a lesson or two, forcing him into Dicey's pond. It all ends happily with Hal restored like new
THE BIG CHANCE (1957, directed by Peter Graham Scott, Southall Stduios, 4*)-
Bill (William Russell), a disillusioned travel agent takes his chance to start again in Panama, calmly robbing his employer's safe and smuggling his fortune through customs. It all goes so well until he is thwarted by that bad old standby, London fog. His flight postponed, having met up with Diana (Adrienne Corri) who is running away from her rich husband, they seek refuge in an isolated weekender's cottage, "you don't look like a murderer." They are spotted here, police called, and they have to dash away, it's a drama of frustrating problems, a poor man's 39 Steps. Moment of truth for Bill, this life of adventure is not for him. An exciting car chase brings on the crisis, but the ending is well done, not as obvious as I'd expected
BLACK TIDE (aka Stormy Crossing-
1957, directed by C Pennington Richards, Alliance Studios Southall, 6*)
- Griff (John Ireland) is training his brother Danny (Sheldon Lawrence) for a go at the record on the Cross Channel swim, but improbably, his main rival, appears to be Kitty, a model. They have one thing in common however, wanting "result without the effort."
Bad fog thwarts their joint swim, and worse Kitty is drowned, though we know that it's her secret lover, her manager Seymour (Derek Bond) who has murdered her.
When Inspector Parry (John Horsley) and the coroner declare Death by Misadventure, Danny turns detective, as he'd fallen for Kitty's charms, though his big mistake is definitely informing Seymour. When he's disposed of too, Griff takes up inquiries, breaking Seymour's alibi by unearthing a speedboat named Hell Cat. But Seymour has now got to silence a third victim, Shelley Baxter (Maureen Connell), who's quietly fallen for Griff, giving us the tensest part when she is kidnapped, "I'm afraid you know too much to be good for you"
CAT GIRL (1957, directed by Alfred Shaughnessy, Beaconsfield Studios, 5*)-
The doomed Miss Leonora (Barbara Shelley) has been sent for by her uncle to pass on to her the family curse and "a life of horror." This darkly sinister moody film has all the looks of Hammer but isn't, "you cannot escape your destiny!"
Possessed by the shadow of a leopard, Leonora is badly in need of a shrink, enter her former admirer Dr Brian (Robert Ayres), now married. He vainly tries to delve her split personality, "the leopard was my other self." She can make it kill her husband, and why not Brian's wife? Along London's ill lit streets stalks the leopard, the ending is poetic,which the doc takes with extraordinary calmness
CLOAK WITHOUT DAGGER (1957 Nettlefold Studios, directed by Joseph Sterling, 2*)- Philip Friend was always an ideal B film suave lead- here he's Felix alias Enrico, a waiter in a London hotel. Once a major in the war catching spies, he's now finally about to track down his quarry who eluded him ten years ago. Now, as then, his ex-girl Kyra gets in the way! When she stumbles over a corpse which later is seen alive she realises "something phoney going on here." She breaks into a top secret nuclear base to thwart the spy before learning, what we all guessed, that Felix is going to catch him anyway. Leslie Dwyer as a detective gets the last laugh, literally
DANGER LIST (Exclusive Films short directed by Leslie Arliss in 1957, 4*) 3 outpatients at Wolseley General are given a dangerous drug in error. Dr Bennett (Philip Friend) and Miss Freeman (Honor Blackman) race to contact them, finding an old man and a girl. However Mr Ellis (Mervyn Johns), knowing there's "no hope" for his wife, turns this into an early drama on mercy killing.
DEVIL'S PASS (1957, directed by Darcy Conyers, Viking Studios Kensington, 4*)-
Young Jim (Christopher Warbey, who made a few CFF films) has stowed away on board The Cascade, frightened of some of his mates at the Orphan Boys' Home in Brixham. He overhears the captain (Archie Duncan) planning to wreck the 70 year old trawler to claim the insurance. But the former owner Bill Buckle (John Slater) has longed for years to reclaim the vessel for himself. There are pleasing touches of humour and sentiment in the film's plodding way, though not much drama as Bill tries not to go down with his first love, and with help from "Jim boy" The Cascade be a-saved from crashin' on the rocks
THE FLYING SCOT (1957, directed by Compton Bennett, Beaconsfield Studios, 3*)- On board the night London express are young newlyweds, but their luggage is unusual: tools to remove parts of their compartment. Target, the adjacent section which is full of bags of money. These are chucked overboard at a pre-arranged point- easy! It is twelve minutes before there is any dialogue, what we have seen is the plan for the job. Inevitably the real thing hits problems: the compartment is slightly different in construction, a drunk interrupts, not to mention the obnoxious boy, and the boss Phil's ulcer perforates. This is one of those films of frustration, just too protracted to enjoy
FORTUNE IS A WOMAN (1957, directed by Sidney Gilliat, Shepperton Studios, 8*)- Unjustly neglected among Jack Hawkins' films, this is a stylish enigmatic thriller adapted from a Winston Graham novel. It starts so well with a nightmarish car drive in driving rain into the extensive grounds of Lowis Manor Sussex. This dark sequence recurs several times through the film. A fire has destroyed a valuable painting in the house, and insurance adjustor Oliver Bramwell, that's Hawkins, has to make his report, even though it's Christmas Eve. In fact Sarah, the wife of the owner is an old flame, and after a meal out, in pouring rain she gets soaked and has to dry out, the expression is, in Oliver's flat.
Hawkins adds his usual integrity to a man caught in a marital dilemma, his professional role compromised when he stumbles on to the fact that the painting was faked, but then worse as a second more disastrous fire ravages Lowis Manor, the object seemingly the murder of Sarah's husband (Dennis Price). Worst for Oliver is the probability that Sarah is responsible.
"I shouldn't think she'll stay a widow for long," as she inherits the fortune, and indeed, despite the typical attack of conscience from Jack Hawkins, Oliver convinces himself that Sarah is innocent and marries the woman.
All could have been happiness and light except for a messenger, smooth and unpleasant (Bernard Miles), who delivers a blackmail threat. But some neat detective work leads to the blackmailer, though the murder proves harder to solve.
Oliver does admit his failings to his employer in a frank confession, typical of Jack Hawkins, then there's the denouement in the ravaged Lowis Manor, one final twist.
Though the ending is rather too optimistic, this is an absorbing film noir, typified by lines such as, "did you do anything but hide the truth?"
THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE (1957, directed by Don Chaffey, 4*)- Evening Echo crime reporter John Deering (Donald Houston) is on to the unsolved murder four years ago of PC James Keith. A photo of the stolen car LMM302 is printed in his paper, and in it a girl is waving at the driver. Deering traces the location of the picture, then the girl, a model named Pat Dryden, while Det Insp Bliss is also hot on the trail. Pat leads John to the driver of the stolen vehicle, Bates, whose boss Rod has to silence. That only needs Pat to be done in. A neat little thriller, though the characters are disappointingly colourless
HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE (1957, directed by Nigel Patrick, 5*)-
Sir Henry (Nigel Patrick) prepares for a visit from Uncle George, his brother who had emigrated to the USA and become a millionaire. His "mad scheme" to pay for death duties, is to be effected via George's death. 'Tis a tale of failed accidents, shooting- twice- poison, drowning, trip on the stairs, "something might easily go wrong." Of course it does each time, Henry's extended family gradually decimated, the fun being in who will be next to go. Though it's all too too obvious, this light black comedy is saved by endearing acting, specially from Katie Johnson and Athene Seyler. I liked the final scene too
THE KEY MAN (1957 directed by Montgomery Tully, 3*) - Wide boy Lionel Hume (Lee Patterson) sets out to write the story of Arthur Smithers who'd been arrested for the murder of his confederate on VE Night. Several people tell him Smithers is now dead, so Hume tries to locate Mrs Smithers (Hy Hazell), who is a stage star. When she is found she introduces Hume to her husband, still breathing, who offers a share of his robberies if he'll collect it. There's a car chase through some pretty quiet London streets before a very long final explanation
KILL ME TOMORROW (1957, directed by Terence Fisher, Southall Studios, 4*)- Jaded reporter Bart Crosby is a "self pitying drunk," a widower. His life changes when he learns his son has contracted a fatal eye disease, only a delicate and expensive operation can save him. Needing a grand, he leans on the gang whom he knows killed his boss. As he has motive, Bart is ready to take the rap, in exchange for the cash to help his boy. I'm not sure which is the more embarrassing, his twee son Jimmy cuddling his teddy, or Tommy Steele gyrating at the El Rico Club. It also takes some suspension of your faculties to see the iconic but ageing Pat O'Brien as Bart knocking out ex-boxer Freddie Mills single handedly, marginally less believable than his romance with Lois Maxwell
A LADY MISLAID (1957, directed by David MacDonald, Welwyn Studios, 5*)- Not for cinema purists, since this is a condensed version of a Kenneth Horne play. "Supporter of the unlucky," Esther (Phyllis Calvert) and her sister Jennifer move into lovely Manor Cottage for "peace and quiet." But local gossip suggests Mrs Smith, wife of the previous owner is dead, buried somewhere in the house. The police commence digging. Observes the plaintive Esther of Inspector Bullock "it isn't as though he's any good!" Then Mr Smith appears with an explanation- "everything you say seems so improbable." Whilst there is nearly an element of whodunnit and horror, this remains a gentle and rather nice little comedy.
MAN-EATER (1957, directed by Compton Bennett, Beaconsfield Studios, 0*)- Playgirl Betty and her drunken husband George (Lee Patterson) go on safari with "the best" John Hunter (Rhodes Reason). First part of the film with some stock footage, interspersed with the actors crawling round the studio bushes, is almost a travelogue. For patrons who haven't quit the cinema, finally the drunk somehow manages to get lost in the studio and Betty makes eyes at Rick (Patrick Holt): "I aim to please." Still awake?- then see the lion hunt after "a crazed cat," more a dummy actually, but maybe Betty is the real Man Eater. One of the many grimly awful lines is this neat one from Lee Patterson: "If a man is going to go on living, he might be able to do one thing right, even if that's just dying." Incredible, but they made a tv series, White Hunter, on the back of this trash
MAN FROM TANGIER (1957, directed by Lance Comfort, 2*)-
Armstrong has nicked a valuable case. Michele (Lisa Gastoni) is sent to London to retrieve it. Stuntman Chuck Collins accidentally takes Armstrong's coat at Victoria Station, becoming embroiled in the hunt for the case and the mystery of Armstrong's death falling out of a hotel window. "What kind of mess are you in?" Michele pals up with Chuck, but she gets kidnapped. Robert Hutton plays the lead, ideal you might say, as he's well suited to the dull script. The best part I would say, goes to Jack Allen, who adds a touch of comedy with his role as Rex
MARK OF THE PHOENIX (1957, directed by Maclean Rogers, Walton Studios, 3*)-
The world's greatest jewel thief, Chuck Martin, flies in to Brussels to flog a necklace to Maurice Duser (Eric Pohlmann), A rare stolen alloy is planted in Chuck's hotel room, one that Duser is hoping to sell to a foreign power. Duser's improbable fiancee Petra (Julia Arnall) ditches Duser for Chuck, "now there's a man," while Inspector Schell (Anton Diffring, for once a goodie) tries to thwart the plot which apparently would make a mockery of Western defences. Duser's two cronies (George Margo and Michael Peake) make bungle numerous attempts to retrieve the alloy ("what went wrong this time?"), as the story stumbles along until Chuck does the decent thing and stops the Commie plot. Best lines:
Anton Diffring: You don't know much about international crime, mademoiselle. Julia Arnall: But I do know about men
THE NAKED TRUTH (1957, directed by Mario Zampi, Walton Studios, 8*)- A host of fine stars are perhaps upstaged by Terry-Thomas as Lord Mayley, a deserving victim of a suave blackmailer (Dennis Price, ideally cast). In this light black comedy, his Lordship is only one of the many victims who vainly attempt to do away with their nemesis. Miles Malleson as a vicar makes an improbable fiance for Peggy Mount, and Joan Sims is the only one who really hams it up as Peggy Mount's petrified daughter. "Murder is so unEnglish," Terry-Thomas comments after another botched attempt but the film itself is no botch, rather a delightful example of English humour with Lord Mayley finally solving the dilemma: "we've just been killing ourselves trying to murder him!"
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957, directed by Jacques Tourneur, ABPC Elstree Studios, 5*)-
A night monster attacks the petrified Prof Harrington in an impressively photgraphed opening.
A sceptical psychologist Dr Holden takes over the prof's attempted expose of the dark Julian Karswell, he of
the black arts. You have but three days to live, Karswell warns the good doctor.
The weakness of the film is the lead, Dana Andrews, whose typical bland acting style takes this threat without batting an eyelid, dismissing Karswell
as "a harmless faker." I don't like the brash style of Columbia's films either, nor could you treat with anything except as a laugh Peter Elliott's anticipation of
Peter Sellers' Indian character.
More endearing, and a fine contrast to the evil around her, is Athene Seyler, dear mother of the wicked Karswell, while Peggy Cummins is adequately attractive as the vulnerable heroine Joanna.
Creaking doors, howling wind, bayi ng hounds, flashing lightning convey the chilling mood, with other familiar features such as the clutching hand, the black cat and a lunatic driven mad by the sinister Karswell.
"All evil must end" and it does on the 9.45 to Southampton. Fate intervenes in another impressive black/white sequence of hokum. Yes, "maybe it's better not to know"
ROCK YOU SINNERS (1957, directed by Denis Kavanagh, 3*)- If you are into films from the Fancey stable, this is their high(ish) spot. Interesting rock scenes in a huge dance hall, some aspiring imitators, primitive maybe, but really wild, chick. The worst song sung by actor Colin Croft is simply embarrassing, and other songs are simply semi-rock versions of calypso, blues, dixieland, and even music hall, with I Do Like To be Beside The Seaside in rock. Nevertheless some enjoyable numbers, including Don Sollash with some style in Rock n Roll Blues, a lively little Pat Barry in Stop It I Like It, Art Baxter with the title number and the best known Tony Crombie. The storyline, such as it be, is the familiar one of putting on a show, this one for tv.
Best of the awful lines are, to the tv producer: "What do you think of it sir?" His incredible response is, "Very good, very good indeed." Perhaps posterity isn't so kind
SECOND FIDDLE (1957, directed by Maurice Elvey, Shepperton Studios, 4*) - "Dignity, discretion and decorum" is the motto of an advertising agency. In the hands of old timers Bill Fraser and Richard Wattis this story is given a lively start, but the contemporary question of employing married women at the firm is given such stodgy treatment that the film starts to flounder. It picks up again in the hands of the first married couple allowed to work for the company, Charles (Thorley Walters) and Debs (Adrienne Corri) but when He has to play second fiddle to Her burgeoning career, He nearly ends up in the arms of His secretary Pauline (Lisa Gastoni). But of course he doesn't quite, like the film itself, which, though quite fun, never quite hits the mark
SMALL HOTEL (1957, directed by David Macdonald, AB Elstree Studios, 5*)-
Head waiter Albert at the Jolly Fiddler "came before the electric light," but now he's to be replaced by "jumped-up
trollop" Miss Mallett (Billie Whitelaw). Gordon Harker, in his penultimate film, acts with his usual efficiency and sparks off well
with veteran Marie Lohr as a resident guest. As a contrast Janet Munro in her first film plays a new waitress shown the ropes by wily old Albert,
whilst Irene Handl holds the downstairs, and the film together: "I rule the roast here!"
Albert proves too wily for the new girl in this stagey play that harks nicely back to "more comfortable days." Comments Albert when his wiles have been a success,
in a steal from George Formby:
"turned out nice again!"
THE SOLITARY CHILD (1957, directed by Gerald Thomas, Beaconsfield Studios, 3*)-
Captain James Random (Philip Friend) has remarried after being acquitted of shooting Eva his first wife. His 16 year old daughter Maggie is the image of her mother, "I'm backward," though she never very convincingly conveys this to us. She draws violent scenes of shooting, the truth surrounding Eva's death gets lost however in a surfeit of dialogue. "Get away from this place, before you run into any more accidents," Maggie warns second wife Harriet (Barbara Shelley), who is finally told all that Maggie witnessed the fateful night of Eva's death. James gives a rather different version. Alone, at home, Harriet is very vulnerable
THE SPANIARD'S CURSE (1957, directed by Ralph Kemplen, Walton Studios, 5*) - Guy Stevenson is convicted of murdering Zoe Taylor. "I didn't kill her," he swears, also condemning his judge and jury to another trial in the Assize of the Dying. The judge's ward Margaret believes him innocent, as does Mark Brett (Lee Patterson), Zoe's half brother.
Though the judge's wayward son Charles (Tony Wright) cannot take life at all seriously, the judge himself (beautifully played by Michael Hordern) takes the threat very calmly, matching the stately pace of the film. The characters are very well drawn, but at the expense of the potential tension from the executed man's promise. There is a slightly sinister shooting in a churchyard as the killer is exposed, "you would find it wouldn't you?" The judge's final dilemma is the best part of the film
THE SPANIARD'S CURSE (directed by Ralph Kemplen, Walton Studios, 1957, 4*) - A condemned prisoner says he'll meet his false accusers and his judge at "The Assize of the Living." The foreman of the jury is promptly run over and death stalks the other recipients of this curse. Unusual, but largely
unsuccessful thriller with Lee Patterson, Michael Hordern and Tony Wright
THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X (1957, directed by Gilbert Gunn, National Studios Elstree, 3*)- Dr Laird's new assistant into research in magnetic fields is Michelle, a woman, "this is preposterous!" More welcoming is Dr Gilbert Graham. Electrical storms are created by the experiments and one local tramp is so affected by cosmic rays that he attacts a local woman. The effect on insect life is more alarming for a schoolgirl finds a giant egg, "I don't like the look of it." Nor does the local teacher. Michelle isn't too happy either since she is entangled in a huge spider's web. The army all guns blazing somehow put an end to these non-frightening monsters. The mysterious Mr Smith from another planet
helps destroy Dr Laird who has transformed into your traditional crazed scientist
A STRANGER IN TOWN (1957 directed by George Pollock, Alliance Studios Southall 4*)- The "row" that a pianist is making as the film starts during a storm deserves to end with his being bumped off. Musician David has allegedly committed suicide, depressed, though unfortunately- for us- his music lives on in his recording of his concerto. Reporter John (Alex Nicol) sets out to disprove the suicide theory, for "life couldn't have been sweeter for him." Snooping, the death of Miss Smith, and a fight lead John to Matthews Farm and the secret od a young girl bewitched by the romantic pianist. That turns out a red herring in this intermittently absorbing film in which another brooding storm ushers in the finale, "you won't leave here again, ever"
STRANGERS' MEETING (1957, directed by Robert Day, Twickenham Studios, 1*)-
Harry (Peter Arne) fights with fellow trapeze artist Johnny, but though it's Rosie who kills him, it's Harry who is sent to Dartmoor. To find her, he breaks out of prison, is shot in the leg, and has to be treated by Dr David Sanders (Conrad Phillips). "Feels fine, doc," Harry's payment consists in doping him. Here's one of those frustrating storylines in which Harry searches for Rosie, the doctor's distrustful wife (Delphi Lawrence) tries to locate her husband, while he chases after her, the story going round in circles, headless chickens is the phrase, until there is Rosie, no great actress, in a final dubious showdown of cliches. The implausible story is summed up in the question, "why didn't you tell them at the trial?"
THE TROLLENBERG TERROR (1957, Alliance Studios, dir Quentin Lawrence, 2*) - In 2006 we reviewed a few of Robert Baker and Monty Berman's films. Here's another, with the traditional American star, in this film Forrest Tucker. The Terror is a radioactive cloud hovering over a Swiss mountain. A mind reading act provide the two most absorbing characters: Janet Munro is taken over by some alien body whilst sister Jennifer Jayne acts as a model of normality: "It's insane, we should try to get out." As so often, the terror is largely understated until the end when we meet a tentacled monster, and then it's a matter of trying not to laugh. "What do you do against these things?" Of course the answer to that is you get your American genius to kill the beast
UNDERCOVER GIRL (directed by Francis Searle, Twickenham Studios, 1957, 3*)- Johnny (Paul Carpenter) investigates his brother-in-law's death. He uncovers a racket where perpetrators of car accidents are blackmailed by an evil gang whose boss is played by Bruce Seton
THE VICIOUS CIRCLE (1957, directed by Gerald Thomas, Beaconsfield Studios, 6*)- The body of a German actress is found by mild Dr Latimer (John Mills) in his flat. The blunt instrument of death turns up in the boot of his Daimler: "this is fantastic." Inspector Dane (Roland Culver) receives Latimer's explanations with a deadly calm. "Unless I can prove to the police my story is true, I'm in a jam." Here's the familiar Francis Durbridge plot of an innocent sucked into a cunning frame-up he cannot fathom. "Leave the country now, before it's too late," advises one of his lying patients. But it is too late, for he stumbles over her dead body. Forged passports are behind the subterfuge and the good doctor cooperates with the police to catch the rignleader.
Perhaps this line sums it all up neatly: "suppose you stop talking in riddles and come to the point."
YOU PAY YOUR MONEY (1957, directed by MacLean Rogers, Nettlefold Studios, 3*)-
Steve has a new admirer in Mrs Delgado (Jane Hylton) but his pals Bob and Susie (Honor Blackman) can see she's "the feeblest liar in the business." She's in league with the shadowy League of the Friends of Arabia. Bob is sent by Steve to collect a consignment sent by boat, as the rendezvous is at three in the morning, it's evident some dirty work is afoot. The League grab the goods, valuable books, as well as Susie, and this could allegedly "set the whole of the Middle East aflame." The film moves at a stately pace, nice and straightforward, eking about a half hour plot into an hour, with Hugh McDermott as Bob occasionally threatening to add some spark to proceedings
THE YOUNG AND THE GUILTY (1957, directed by Peter Cotes, AB Elstree Studios, 4*)- Bright physics student Eddie "lives in a dream", but has just discovered Girls, or more precisely one girl, 16 year old Sue. A very innocent friendship, but Sue's overbearing father (Edward Chapman), who wouldn't survive these days, sees evil in this "affair." "I haven't done anything wrong," protests the innocent Eddie. After all, he goes to chapel every Sunday. A storm in a teacup, and a very tedious one too, not one of Ted Willis' better scripts. "All you can see is filth," rightly complains Eddie- "maybe he's working too hard," is the best line, this from his mother, who has the best cameo, played by Hilda Fenemore, though Phyllis Calvert as her opposite number is the official star. After a surfeit of words, a smattering of action when, Romeo-like, Eddie announces himself at Sue's window, a tender scene well acted, though ultimately too wordy in keeping with the whole film. Of course they're found out: "ring up the police!" So does Sue's father know best? The ending can't really resolve the situation in this piece of Fifties' social history of the generation gap, that concludes with a roundabout discussion of "that"
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