Gladstone Road. Two sound stages 125x50ft, 25x50ft. Telephone Southall 3281.
JUST WILLIAM'S LUCK
(1948, directed by Val Guest, Southall Studios, 2*)- William's first appearance after seven minutes has been well prepared, but though we get a well defined story line, William and his outlaws are very little like I imagined from the books. Garry Marsh as longsuffering Mr Brown is occasionally entertaining, whilst there is some fun in the brief appearance of "it isn't even a girl, it's Violet Elizabeth." The Nites of the Square Table plan to marry off their elder brothers, Douglas and Henry trying Ethel Brown whilst William approaches an "atomic bombshell" film star (Hy Hazell). To get him a house to live in, the outlaws haunt the old manor house, which just happens to be being used by crooks as a hideout. In a very drawn out wordless sequence, the fur thieves are caught and William is proclaimed a "community hero"
WILLIAM AT THE CIRCUS
(1948, directed by Val Guest, Southall Studios, 4*)-
The second film with William Graham uses the same formula to start: a glazier, and Muriel Aked as the frustrated maid serving at a grumpy breakfast table.
William raises ten shillings to get to London, and at 10 Downing Street breaks in (security officials please watch carefully!) and meets a government treasury official (AE Matthews, a tramp in the last film!), who kindly takes note of William's rambling on the economonic situation. Thus William becomes front page news and letters pour into the Brown home, plus one crate containing a monkey. Though William tries to keep him a secret, there's a lot of chasin and hidin with William ending up in the doghouse. So he returns to the government minister who is visiting Olympia and after more chases round the circus there's one fine moment as AE Matthews sedately drives a dodgem car. Though he's caught, William redeems himself by rescuing the minister's specs, and, with his dad, is guest of honour at the circus.
This was an improvement on the earlier william film, with the cast more comfortable in their roles, Garry Marsh in particular is given a more central part, but the over-reliance on silent film-type sequences is obtrusive and William himself never comes near to being the impish rascal of the books
THE TWENTY QUESTIONS MURDER MYSTERY (1949, directed by Paul L Stein, Southall Studios, 4*)-
"Nice bit of stuff" Mary (Rona Anderson) is writing about the popular radio series Twenty Questions, whose cast appear in person in this film. Her rival is Bob (Robert Beatty) of The Daily Record. Prompt at 8.30pm we see the broadcast from the Paris Cinema, with one special listener's challenge, Rikitikitavi. The panel guess it, but what is the link between this and the murder of Mr Ricky Tavey? Next week, the panel guess The Hanging Judge, and lo and behold a judge is soon garotted, "I think it's queer, very very queer." Getting too near the truth, Mary is almost the next victim, nearly burnt alive. Killer Strikes Again. The next radio conundrum is Woodcock Jin, and the wrong person is identified as the target! Really it's Mary, "you saw something," and is Bob too late to save her?
CHEER THE BRAVE
(1950, directed by Kenneth Hume, Alliance Studios Southall, 1*)-
This may have been a comedy once, but surely that fine star Elsie Randolph made a mistake in returning to the big screen in this one.
Gossip at the wedding between mild mannered William and widowed Doris. It seems Rose (Vida Hope) still carries a torch for him. And oh yes, as Doris proves a real dragon, it's only a matter of time before he rebels. Even their 'honeymoon,' a day at London Zoo she finds "common," her favourite word. At last the downtrodden one cries, "Doris, shut your face!" when she slams the door on him when he brings home a pup. But despite this he's incredibly patient with her, and her mother and sister who are definitely of the common variety. His only fun, exercising his dog, which Rose has taken in. Finally Rose pops the obvious question, why did you marry her? His chance comes when Fred turns up, Doris' first husband, who had been presumed dead. Neither, to be honest, wants her, "I'm the one that ought to go," in a nice scene that's a sad comment on Doris' character. Bill cleverly leaves Fred in her unloving clutches
THE PAPER GALLOWS (1950, directed by John Guillermin, Southall Studios, 4*) - The eternal triangle with a neat variation: Jim (John Bentley) and Cliff (Dermot Walsh) are both crime writers, sharing the same secretary Joan (Rona Anderson). They make "a pretty unbalanced pair," Cliff's latest novel is to be based on their own lives, is he trying to drive his brother mad? For what has happened to their crime adviser Curly Wilson? It's all down to the fact that Cliff can't have Joan, she is in love with Jim. Cliff taunts his brother and then forms a devious scheme that sends Jim off on a fool's errand to Curly's lodgings, after he has got Joan to write down a suicide note, ostensibly for his novel. This is the prelude to the tensest scene when he locks her in her room, why he doesn't do her in immediately isn't clear. Jim's car has been fixed, and all Cliff has to do is smash in the door that she has barricaded, and murder her. This scene might have been developed, rather than the director opting for the usual shooting showdown. Of course love wins through, though Jim is kind enough to allow Cliff to complete his semi-autobiographical story before calling the police
LAXDALE HALL (1952, directed by John Eldridge, Southall Studios, 5*)-
this starts beautifully but doesn't know how to see it through. Bowler hatted MP Pettigrew is appointed to investigate an extraordinary outbreak of "anarchy" in Laxdale, near Skye. The five motorists there, led by The General (Ronald Squire at his most charming) are refusing to pay their road taxes since their road is in such a poor state of repair. The pompous Samuel Pettigrew (Raymond Huntley) takes the mistaken approach of promising to rehouse everyone in a fantastic New Town, and "leave the sinking ship." His suggestion is not well received. Kynaston Reeves as the cleric preaching on the plumb line in Amos chapter seven is fearsome, though over the top in his production of Macbeth. The film offers a lot of nice character studies but which could have been developed much more
YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG TWICE (1952, directed by Terry Bishop, Southall Studios, 4*)-
Dated, naive and corny, but with a few pearls of lines in the scriptwriting. Some students, typically looking rather mature, at a Scottish university seem acting on the verge of out of control as they greet their new rector.
Heads are turned by new secretary Miss Shaw (Diane Hart) to the principal (Patrick Barr), or to put it more poetically, the place was "like a wet Sunday on Crewe station before you arrived."
She's niece of Dan (Joseph Tomelty) who runs a place of "debuachery", The Plough and The Stars. Charles Hawtrey
as the unpopular Adolphus, son of the prim even more unpopular clerk Prof Hayman (Duncan Macrae, "two yards of misery") has the best role when he gets drunk at The Plough, gets fresh, and when he comes to, finds himself engaged, "there's a lot of the beast in all of us." After a police raid, the senate, led by Prof Hayman debate this "unruly" affair, while the students meet to plan a protest at "Haywire's" high handed rustication of student Sheltie. It's Adolphus who leads the protest, "this is too much," cries Hayman. Dan is made new rector, "this is an outrage," protests Hayman who resigns and so they all lived....
THE BRAVE DON'T CRY (1952 directed by Philip Leacock, Southall Studios, 3*)- In heavy rain, in a typical coal mining village, tragedy when a tunnel collapses, trapping a hundred miners. Some fine studies of ordinary folk in the crisis, "we're to wait, that's all." Rescue comes, but dangerous gases close the escape route. John Cameron (John Gregson) brings the men this bad news, and averts a riot, "it's our lives we're fighting for." This is a very dour film, even though the rescue is successful
THE FRIGHTENED MAN (1952, directed by John Gilling, Alliance Studios, 5*)- Julius (Dermot Walsh) has been sent down from Oxford, to his doting father's dismay. He's no good, making eyes at a new lodger Amanda (Barbara Murray) luring her with the promise, "I'm going to make money, and I'm going to make it fast." He starts by helping himself to his dad's cash to buy a flash Packard. He works for Alec (Martin Benson) driving a getaway lorry, which he crashes. £10,000 worth of diamonds is the next target for the gang, but a crossed woman is but one flaw, others being a distressed wife and disillusioned dad. "You think I'm a washout," Julius tells Amanda, and he's not far wrong
BRANDY FOR THE PARSON
(1952, directed by John Eldridge, Southall Studios, 5*)-
Bill and Petronilla's seafaring holiday begins when they crash into "the ruddy boat" of Tony (Kenneth More) who is on a "bit irregular" trip to France. Owing him a favour, they transport him there, pick up his cargo and find themselves unwittingly sucked into his brandy smuggling. English customs officers are on to them, but the trio are always half a jump ahead, hiding the barrels in a creek, where they are joined by downtrodden driver George (Charles Hawtrey). A travelling circus is another refuge- could have made more of this- then "most irregular" the circus' pack horses carry the brandy along the old Roman Road. With the aid of a gallant helpful farmer the brandy is nearly all sold to eager buyers. This is almost Enid Blyton for gentle grown-ups, a meandering mildly amusing and ultimately endearing snapshot of an innocent but just ever so slightly anti-authority post war Britain
TIME GENTLEMEN PLEASE! (1952, directed by Lewis Gilbert, Southall Studios, 3*)- Daniel Dane be the only lazy yokel in a sleepy Essex town. The forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister might about bring "a revolution," but to keep their only unemployed person out of sight, Dan is consigned to an almshouse where 400 year old regulations are still in operation. The problem with the film is that old Dan be a not too likeable tramp, not exactly unlikeable, but perhaps his long beard hides any facial expression he might offer. The changes are rung by a new vicar, who makes Dan suddenly very wealthy. He becomes something of a philanthropist as his character changes. Marjorie Rhodes as a Mata Hari is a sight to behold, and we have the usual fine supporting cast, Sid, Dora et al. A council election brings in the revolution, even a job for the now congenial Dan
MISS ROBIN HOOD (1952, directed by John Guillermin, Southall Studios, 8*)- This fine comedy doesn't quite glow as it ought despite a wonderful cast, maybe it tries to be a black comedy when it's really a children's fantasy. In The Teenager youngsters read the adventures of Miss Robin Hood. Oldest and biggest fan of author Henry Wrigley (Richard Hearne), who has "invented a whole new world for children," is Miss Heather Honey (Margaret Rutherford). She recruits Wrigley to thwart the odious MacAlister (James Robertson Justice), who has stolen her family recipe for whiskey, but she also helps herself to his money, following the principles of robbing the rich to help, at least not the poor, but children. She also helps Wrigley who is sacked from the magazine and replaced by Cyril who introduces an alien intellectual theme into the tale of Miss Robin Hood. But after a mass demo of angry young fans at The Teenager's main office, ("keep your dignity," cries Miss Honey, a dove on her head), Miss Robin Hood is restored to her creator. Sid James and his knitting is just one lovely incongruous touch, as is the police raid on Miss Honey's Hampstead paradise for children. Among those youngsters are Susanne Gibbs and Lesley Dudley, but someone who worked on the film ought to compile a list of all the names
THE FAKE (1953, directed by Godfrey Grayson, Southall Studios, 3*)- It's only thanks to security agent Paul Mitchell (Dennis O'Keefe) that the priceless Leonardo Madonna and Child in transit to the Tate Gallery is not nicked at the docks. He suspects painter Henry Mason (John Laurie) of painting forgeries of Leonardo's work, which have been substituted for the real article in several galleries. Despite the security, the Leonardo is removed from the Tate, replaced with a good fake. "For a detective, you're not very smart," the reason being he's fallen for Mary, pretty daughter of said painter. "He's a fool." It's a good storyline but the central characters are wooden, except of course for Mr Laurie. So we never really care who is the master thief, or even that he intends to dispose of Mary
DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1954, directed by John Gilling, Southall Studios, 6*) John Bentley plays his usual role in a raincoat, which he rarely takes off, this time Peter Fleming, private eye working for Garry Marsh. The two of them offer a smattering of nice humour together, and Bentley plays deadpan a familiar scene of sleeping in the bath- without his mac. He is after the killer of a female company director, en route picking up Barbara (Rona Anderson) who unknowingly has taken a photo containing vital evidence. She is used as bait to trap the murderer
ONE JUMP AHEAD (1954, Southall Studios, directed by Charles Saunders, 5*)- 'R Snell 1A' is murdered. Reporter Paul (Carpenter) gets to realise Snell's friend ought to have been killed as he's learned the secret of the Ruined Church. "How'd you like to come and see some old ruins with me?" is his novel chat-up line to girlfriend Maxine. There they stumble on a woman's corpse. It appears she's talked of some "buried treasure" in this bombed out church. But Paul soon finds the crooks are always One Jump Ahead of him, mainly because of his two-timing girl Judy. In the ruins there's a dramatic conclusion to a sometimes poignant story (as when the dead child's family are interviewed) and sometimes fun (Paul C smiles through this role), though Jill Adams as Judy is, I'm afraid, unconvincing
BEHIND THE HEADLINES (1956, directed by Charles Saunders, Southall Studios, 5*) - Paul Carpenter stars, clearly enjoying his role as a freelance reporter on the case of a blonde strangled with her own stocking. With the assistance of Pam, Chelsea 1657 (Adrienne Corri), and some rivalry with secretary Maxine (Hazel Court), Paul traces the girl's contacts- an insurance agent (Trevor Reid), her theatrical agent (Harry Fowler) and her ex-husband. A complex cipher leads them to the killer, but then Paul's car is smashed up before he finally comes face to face with the killer, at the wrong end of a gun!
THERE'S ALWAYS A THURSDAY (1956, directed by Charles Saunders, Southall Studios, 4*)-
George Potter leads a most ordinary existence as a stockbroker's clerk, but an enforced drink with Vera (Frances Day in her last film) changes all that. Every week George pays her £20 to keep her quiet, but it's not what you think, he's paying on behalf of his boss (Patrick Holt). It's just bad luck that the police have to know his whereabouts, and loyal George can't give his boss away. When forced to reveal the truth his undeserved reputation as 'Valentino Potter' opens a door for him as manager of Cosy Curves Ltd, £1,000 a year and a third of the profits. The actors try hard, and the storyline is a good one, but the film is a slow starter though Charles Victor as Potter has a dazzle in his eye when he goes up in the world. The last quarter of the film shows him a huge success, but the film doesn't quite achieve this itself, and Vera can topple his empire with but a word
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
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
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!"
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"
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"
THE SUPREME SECRET (1958, directed by Norman Walker, Southall Studios, 3*)
- Cockney kids in Liverpool slightly mar a fair drama of Mike who dreams of getting away from his life with sister Tess (Suzan Farmer) and emigrating to Canada. He gets mixed up with the crooked gang of Bluey (Harry Fowler), who are on "a big job," nicking 20 pounds from newsagent Kesson (Meredith Edwards). Police nearly catch them, and frightened, Mike runs off and takes shelter in a mission run by the vicar (Hugh David). Here he listens to Mr Kesson's testimony, but decides he is "crackers." Another job is robbing a wagon but police catch them this time. But a constable is shot. Mike goes into hiding, scared. He tries to pray and tells Tess, "there might be something in it." At the mission he feels "safe," for here, as the vicar tells him, "you've found the Father." He walks to the police station to turn himself in
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."
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Beaconsfield Studios (1922-1970)
Station Road. 1 sound stage. Telephone Beaconsfield 1371, later 1563-5.
In 1963: Executive Producers: Julian Wintle and Leslie Parkyn. Publicity Director: John Southwood.
SPORTING LOVE (1936 Beaconsfield Studios directed by J Elder Wills, 3*)-
Billed as a 'Hammer Film' the horror here is that the surviving copy has been badly hacked about. So final judgement is a little difficult to provide. What I can say is that some excellent comic support is forthcoming from, as usual, Laddie Cliff, with the addition of Bobby Comber. Musical numbers include a tap dance by Laddie and Stanley. They also sing In the Springtime. Near the end there's a medley of songs commencing with the Victorian After the Ball is Over; then briefly, Stanley reprises his I Lift up My Finger and Laddie his Coal Black Mammy before the chorus render The Derby. And the plot: bankruptcy faces the Brace family, Peter (LC) and Percy "the Prince of Mugs" (SL). That is, unless Aunty Fanny can be persuaded that the brothers are both married. Unless wives can be produced she "won't sign any cheque." Attempts are made, unsuccessfully you can guess, so the only hope seems to lie in Moonbeam who is to run in the Derby. But Moonbeam is impounded until bills are paid. Finally aunty stumps up the money and there's a race, not on Epsom Downs, but to the bank as Percy gets her cheque cashed. The cash goes awol so Moonbeam is scratched. However a bet on a hot tip, the outsider Cold End could put everything to rights, but since Percy forgets the name and bets on Winterbottom will he lose his shirt?
Perhaps the best scene is when Percy removes the "sliding roof" (ie toupee) to expose the baldness of his 'wife's' real fiance
THE CHINESE BUNGALOW (1940 version, directed by George King Beaconsfield Studios 3*) - Chinese Millionaire Marries English Showgirl, read the headlines. Sadie (Kay Walsh) takes up residence in his up-river bungalow, full of ancient treasures: "I know I'm going to be happy," she declares. But loneliness drives her into the arms of the nearest white man, Harold. "I could never hurt you, "her suspicious husband warns her, "unless you deserve it." He starts to prefer Sadie's sister Charlotte (Jane Baxter): "you'll never get her," an embittered Sadie tells her husband. The ending is typical of George King's melodramatic style, using the old poisoned chalice routine
CONFLICT OF WINGS (1954, directed by John Eldridge, Beaconsfield Studio, 4*)- What rotter is buying The Island of Children? No less than the RAF to make it a firing range. Apparently the birds here are the souls of Roman children, so of course we have the old tussle of the locals pitted against authority, though it could hardly be called Conflict. Both sides are depicted, even handedly. An eel catcher put there by Henry VIII nearly decides the issue, then it's all down to this seagull sacrificing his Roman life. Finally the locals stage a sit in, on the lines of a very mini Dunkirk. "You might have been killed." The message seems to be that the little man can win
(1954, directed by Daniel Birt, Beaconsfield Studios, 4*)
- Financial difficulties for Jack who's "no businessman," being "too soft."
Duncan Lamont plays him with his usual sympathy, and he needs it with his wife Diana
(Jane Hylton) playing around with Jimmy (Donald Gray). Jack, she has in her hands like putty-
"if ever I'm going to run away, I'll give you plenty of warning."
In his workshop, Jack has it out with Jimmy and accidentally the place is burned to the ground.
The tension builds as we await identification of the charred body inside. Diana identifies it as Jack-
but is she lying? Since Donald Gray had only one arm, one would have thought the answer should be obvious.
However the police take their time about it. Meredith Edwards gives a nice performance as the new inspector, aided with his usual
dry wit by Cyril Smith.
In fact, the early dialogue in this Ted Willis script is often wooden, though it improves as the film goes on.
And it's Irene Handl who has the best part of Caroline, with her ultra-posh accent
JOHN AND JULIE
(1955, directed by William Fairchild, Beaconsfield Studios, 3*)-
"Coronations don't happen every day," so two children run off from Dorset to London to see it, because they want to see it "properly," ie not on television! Watching it today, brought home how much suburban respectability has vanished from the movies since Elizabeth became queen, in those innocent days John and Julie pottered round the country with no idea of any danger. Nice Sir James (Wilfrid Hyde-White) is the first to befriend them, then there's a passing motorist, Judge Davidson (Joseph Tomelty). In London the pair get separated in the vast crowds, and with the story dragging, Julie is befriended by a tart (Moira Lister), whilst John is helped by a youth leader (Colin Gordon). Reunited on the big day, the last quarter of the film shows them arrested, but only so they can have "the best view in London" of the procession. The director gets the best out of Lesley Dudley as Julie, as she at last manages a glimpse of Her Majesty.
It's a puzzle why the film wasn't made in 1953 to cash in on the impetus of the coronation, As it is Richard Dimbleby begins by reminding the audience of that summer two years back... and how it rained!
Also a puzzle is the route of the children's 150 mile trip. The map shows Julie's school is in North Dorset, though they board their train at Minster- this certainly looks like the station in East Kent- then are seen in a London North Eastern train before ending up at some unspecified town in Wessex, with distances stated to such odd places at Haverfordwest, Penzance, Edinburgh. Nearest to Southampton, but
mathematically not possible to be anywhere!
THE LOVE MATCH (1955, directed by David Palentchi, Beaconsfield Studios, 5*)-
Bill Brown (Arthur Askey) is driving his train like a lunatic so he can get back in time for City's football match. Evidently hooliganism was rife in those days, for he climbs over the fence to get in, then assaults the ref. A sympathetic magistrate (Robb Wilton) has to fine him, and Bill dips in to railway club funds to pay. However the plot is always secondary to the characters and the light comedy and perhaps even more nostalgic than the steam locomotives is the ballroom where Bill's daughter Rose (Shirley Eaton) competes in the Come Dancing competition with gauche partner (Danny Ross). Even more nostalgic are the terrace houses and the scenes of (fairly) contented family life. I thought William Franklyn's part as the put upon ref could have been developed to good effect, the finale is the City v United derby with Bill running a book, but who does he want to win? Surely City, but what's this, his son Percy is playing for United!
GUILTY? (1956, directed by Edmond Greville, Beaconsfield Studios, 1*)-
Frenchwoman Victoria Martin pleads not guilty to killing Julian Welles. She'd been his lover, borne his child but had been separated for years. They'd met up in a hotel room where he is found shot. Thus her "chances aren't very good" in this court case in which flashbacks relating to the murder are jumbled in with lawyer Rumbold (John Justin) turning detective. In France he is pursued by an attractive lady in "underclothes" to Avignon where he encounters "an atmosphere," more hostility in truth. The characters never really engage you, but if you care about the outcome, this is in the best tradition. The jury have returned, about to pronounce their verdict when Rumbold's fresh evidence dramatically arrives
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."
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
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
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
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
VIOLENT MOMENT (1958, directed by Sydney Hayers, Beaconsfield Studios, 4*)- 'Moment' is very apt, there's only a brief strangling scene at the start, Daisy Hacker (Jane Hylton) is done in by her boyfriend Doug (Lyndon Brook) after she adopts their two year old son Jiffy, just when the doting Doug had bought him a talking doll for his birthday. The film shows Doug starting a new life, since the police inspector (Bruce Seton) is pretty un-Fabian like in failing to track down the murderer. Doug works his way up the business of garage owner Bert (Rupert Davies) and makes his secretary Janet (Jill Browne) his fiancee. He's a success, but that toy is, indirectly, his undoing. The denouement is slow and inevitable, but well done, for when Janet's flat is burgled,
Doug cannot but give himself away, with hardly a whimper
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 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
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
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?
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?
HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Beaconsfield Studios, 4*)- Orchard Cottage in Devon for sale at a bargain price. "A big snag we don't know about," is perhaps a ghost. A lady (Jane Hylton) tells the story of late electrical engineer Mark Lemming whose wife Stella disappeared along with their lodger Clive. The house had been purchased by newlyweds Harry (Maurice Kaufmann) and June (Nanette Newman) who see Mark's ghost. "Really shaken," they call in a ghost hunter (the enthusiastic Colin Gordon), who arranges a seance, "how awful." The film winds down to more of a crime thriller than a horror tale. "You can't frighten me," but the director has a fair stab at it
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
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
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