Email me (David Moore) . . . . . DINOSAUR FILMS - The Page that Reviews Old British B Films
Studios: Brighton Islington Gate . Merton Park New Elstree

My Star * Rating is based on my own taste: 10 is brilliant, 4 is average, 0 is truly dreadful.

SQUARING THE CIRCLE
(1941, Burgh Island Studios, 2*)

An RAF information film, marking the cinematic debut of Trevor Howard. He plays Bill Saunders who joins up with his pal Charlie.
His dad (Ian Fleming) explains how they wanted to join up, but Bill fails his eye test and has to content himself with being a flight mechanic.
He attends a school providing technical training, and after a serious chat with his dad, he resolves to undertake even more training, "one of my best mechanics," his reports states.
Bill is made a sergeant and aims for a commission, He is interviewed by the station commander. His girl friend is thrilled by his progress. Charlie is also doing "the job that fits him best," as the film looks ahead to a post war era, when the benefits of this training will be many

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Islington Studios
The home of Gainsborough Pictures, opened after the first war, finally closing in 1949.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS (1935 Islington Studios, directed by Tom Walls, 5*)- To me, Tom Walls became a little too indulgent when he was directing as well as starring. Compensation in this Ben Travers comedy is the omnipresent Ralph Lynn as Jefferson, one of two relations competing for an aunt's inheritance. As the other is "henpecked" Robertson Hare, there's plenty of enjoyment. When Jefferson loses his last franc to the Captain (Walls) and they try to make ends meet, they somehow end up in court charged with faking jewellery. The delicious Martita Hunt has one uncredited scene as wife of the immortal Basil Radford

WHERE THERE'S A WILL (1936, directed by William Beaudine, Islington Studios, 4*) - Incompetent solicitor Benjamin Stubbins disgraces himself by getting plastered, but redeems himself when three American crooks trick "the mug" into using his office- to gain a quick way into the adjacent bank, "boy, does thay guy slay me!" Will Hay carries the film through its many weak moments, and the dry ones when he is off screen, but the script deficiencies are hard to hide, and the supporting cast disappointing, especially in the tiny part allocated to Graham Moffat. Even the music is stock material, I noticed one scene that utilised the song Where There's You from Jack Hulbert's Jack of All Trades. Suspected of the robbery, Stubbins bumbles out of trouble at a Christmas Party dressed as Santa Claus

GOOD MORNING BOYS (1937, directed by Marcel Varnel, Islington Studios, 6*)- Will Hay plays Dr Benjamin Twist, his stock bumbling schoolmaster, "I know what I'm doing." A new governor rightfully has grave doubts, though Lady Bogshott (Martita Hunt) has every faith in him. To priove his competence he must enter pupils for an exam, which after a lot of dubious practices results in 100% marks, earning a trip to Paris. In the party is one Arty Jones, looking even older than the other schoolboys, he's an art thief who steals the Mona Lisa. The pace slows in the night club scene which resorts to slapstick. but though Twist is found with the stolen picture, somehow his boys see him through, "gosh you are in a mess"

OH MR PORTER (1937, directed by Marcel Varnel, Islington Studios, 8*) - Remote Buggleskelly is where incompetent stationmaster Porter is sent, the sixth to hold this office in the past year. Though the gun running plot is central, all the fun is at the crumbling station with ancient deputy stationmaster Moore Marriott and Albert the boy portrayed by Graham Moffatt, who "plays with the pixies." Not forgetting Gladstone the 1854 locomotive. They make a fine team, never finer than here, where no self respecting train dare stop. The climax is the train for Buggleskelly Wednesday, a wild finish with the gunrunners to a juddering crash at the terminus

CONVICT 99 (1938, directed by Marcel Varnel, Islington Studios, 4*)-despite Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt's support, this is not one of Will Hay's better films. He is Dr Benjamin Twist, sacked headmaster, who is appointed in error as a prison governor. He is mistaken for an inmate, but eventually escapes with Jerry the Mole, "crazy as a coot." After "the ghastly blunder" has been rectified, he institutes a thoroughly liberal regime, funded by a football pools winning, and shrewd investments in the stock market. By the time we reach a party with lots of girls, the charade has worn too thin. However a forged cheque leads to near disaster, solved by breaking into his bank to restore the prisoners' funds IN to that institution. A final farce sees the prisoners dressed as policemen pursued by real policemen

I THANK YOU (1941, directed by Marcel Varnel, Islington Studio, 4*)- Askey and Murdoch go into service as husband and wife, but only to find a backer of their show. Moore Marriott and Graham Chapman offer some support with a healthy dollop of slapstick with things like wet paint. Of course in the end, the show must go on, somehow. Lily Morris sings Waiting at the Church, while the opening song Up With The Lark offers a breezy start which is sadly not maintained

BACK ROOM BOY (1942, directed by Herbert Mason, Islington Studios, 5*)- An uncredited Philip Friend introduces a man performnig a vital function at the BBC, making sure the pips are pressed on time. After he gets the pip, he is transferred to a lonely Scottish lighthouse where "they all go mad." Here are all the traditional ghostly happenings, but it's endearingly done with Arthur finding a cheeky foil in young Jane (Vera Frances). Perhaps it's Arthur's dialogue with his lonely self that makes the charm, until that is the place is overrun with women, and enlivened by Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. The mystery of the disappearing guests is all to do with the war in a protracted flag waving ending. The running Scottish gag, Och Aye, I liked, plus this snippet of dialogue:
Moore Marriott: "I remember this lighthouse when I was a boy."
Arthur: "Did they have lighthouses then?"

TAWNY PIPIT (1944, directed by Bernard Miles, Gainsborough Studios, 5*)- "proper goings on" in an idyllic village, where a rare bird has been spotted. The locals, headed by the colonel (Bernard Miles) set out in typical British fashion, to see that the nest of their visitors jolly well receives "fair play." Unscrupulous twitchers are not the only enemies, the army want the area for manoeuvres, and a farmer wants to plough up his land, don't you know. Keep off this slice of British life, and even though the plot be thin, a charm of characterisation allows you to forgive much

HELTER SKELTER (1949, directed by Ralph Thomas, Gainsborough Studios, 7*) - A film that grows on you, about Miss Susan Graham who has a plethora of admirers, and an antipathy for radio hero Nick Martin (David Tomlinson), who in real life is but a mother's boy. This zany film attempts plenty of cinematic novelties, not always successfully, following Susan's attempts to get cured of hiccups. These include haunting by a ghost (Richard Hearne) and consulting a mad psychiatrist (Jimmy Edwards). Such a storyline makes for a mighty thin plot, so pastiches are added, one with King Charles II and a maid, another a silent film chase, plus Terry "Toothbury" Thomas on the radio, singing along to records. There are also surprise stills from contemporary films. Here's some pre-Goon humour which would go down well today, with a host of familiar British faces bringing on the laughs. But for unknown Carol Marsh with the malady, this was her finest hour. Perhaps hiccups don't make for stardom

DON'T EVER LEAVE ME (1949, directed by Arthur Crabtree, Gainsborough Studios, 6*)- Old lag Harry (Edward Rigby) attempts one big job, the kidnap of 15 year old Sheila (Petula Clark), daughter of stage star Michael Farlaine. Too late, Harry realises the job is not for him, but she shocks him by saying she actually wants to be kidnapped. Craving some excitement, she makes him take her to his home, the flat of his grandson Jack (Jimmy Hanley). A promising premise that conjures some happy moments as Sheila phones her dad to demand 2,000 ransom, and as she forces Jack to take her out on the town for some excitement. The police can't find her because she's altered her appearance, because her father sees the kidnap as a chance to get much needed publicity, and because neighbour Jimmy (Anthony Newley) has wildly misled police in his description of the desperate gang. "She must be giving them absolute torture," though she's having a "super duper" time herself. But how does Jimmy explain her away to his girl Joan? Pleasant characters they are, though without much bite to the comedy, at least until Jimmy decides to be kidnapped also, "did your father ever slap your head, I hope?" Sheila's stage managed reappearance ensures a "super" ending

A BOY A GIRL AND A BIKE (1949, dir Ralph Smart, Gainsborough Studios, 5*) - T' grand an' healthy outdoor cycling life, men in short trousers, vying over Diana Dors and Honor Blackman. Aye, in't North, wi' Yorksheer accents, aye home life is claustrophobic, a stifle to romance. Honor's pursued by Patrick Holt, but there's a rival in posh John McCallum. As for Diana, playing the improbably named Ada, is she part of the eternal triangle? Another storyline involves Anthony Newley who steals a bike to pay off his gambling debts. There's a lot of trouble at mill sorting out problems, the climax the Whit Monday cycle race, Wakeford Warriors need t' reserve to win t' race through t' cobbled streets, up hill and down dale, "hey, what's t' hurry?" That was actual dialogue, but at least t' romance doesn't quite end as ye meet expect

IT'S NOT CRICKET (1949, directed by Roy Rich/ Alfred Roome, Gainsborough Studios, 5*)- Major Bright and Captain Early (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) somehow have been enlisted in the Intelligence Corps. Their failure to capture Otto Fisch (Maurice Denham- too over the top) results in their bowler hatting, so they set up a detective agency. Their first long awaited client is actress Virginia Briscoe, who's lost her dog in the theatre, where they inevitably ruin her performance in the chase. The Rothstein Diamond has been hidden in a cricket ball which is to be used at a country house weekend. After the usual nighttime frolics, "probably burglars," Bright and Early distinguish themselves on the field of play, and also recover the diamond

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Brighton Studios
37 Nicholas Road Brighton (phone 24477, later 29935/8).
Opened about 1948, closed 1966.

CHILDREN GALORE (1954, Brighton Studios, directed by Terence Fisher, 3*) - Must have been a team of men producing this study of a village where the family with the most grandchildren by a set date will win a new house. Whilst the men take it all in their stride, the gossipy women have most of the best lines and all the bitchiness: "all women's queer, one way or t'other." Sadly there's not much fun to be read in the faces of the cast and it's all too starchy and lacking any humour, black or otherwise, a sort of Whisky Galore without any of the spirit

THE FLAW (1955, directed by Terence Fisher, Brighton Studios, 5*)- Monica (Rona Anderson) is rich, and infatuated by ace racing driver Paul (John Bentley), and she ditches steady Jack to marry suddenly. It's all too soon clear he only married her for her money, he has a mistress on the side and when she informs him she is leaving him, he has to resort to baiting Jack with a story of how he is going to poison him. It's "the perfect crime," but, as Jack points out, there must be "a flaw." There certainly is and it provides quite a shock!

THE GELIGNITE GANG (1956 directed by Francis Searle, Brighton Studios. 4*)- The mysterious Mr G is boss of a gang undertaking daring safe robberies. Jimmy Baxter (stodgy Wayne Morris) of Anglo American Investigations is on his trail, or as his boss (Patrick Holt) informs him: "I shall send a wreath to your funeral." Clues lead to the Green Dragon where the manager (Eric Pohlmann) is able to assist Jimmy. Also on the trail is feeble Inspector Felby (Lloyd Lamble) who "wants this lot badly" after the theft of Lady Wilshaw's daimond tiara ends in murder. Says Baxter to him: "As soon as we round up the gang, I'll let you know so you can make the arrest." The showdown is at a pawnbrokers where the crooks send the police a hail of bullets. "Shall we arrest them sir?" Felby is optimistically asked! But naturally it's Baxter who finally tracks Mr G to his lair. This is a routine thriller with perhaps the best part being the role of a 22 year tearaway played by James Kenney.

ROGUE'S YARN (1956, Brighton Studios, directed by Vernon Sewell, 7*)- The old story of the rich invalided wife, her husband John (Derek Bond) infatuated by the younger woman, Michelle. Tired of waiting, Michelle demands "she must die," but vacillating John needs some persuading. Their plans are meticulously laid and perfectly executed. However on the case is Inspector Walker of the Yard (Elwyn Brook-Jones, the real star of the film) who questions everyone efficiently and very thoroughly trying to break down "the obvious suspect" who has his watertight alibi based on an automatic boat pilot. How can John's guilt be proven? "That's very clever," as is this absorbing detective story as Walker desperately searches for that one elusive clue

SHADOW OF FEAR (1963, directed by Ernest Morris, Brighton Studios, 3*)- Oil man Bill Martin (Paul Maxwell) is asked to deliver a message from Baghdad to British Intelligence in London. But after obeying orders- to the enemy- the information is "highly dangerous," and he must be silenced. He gets away from the spies to join his girl Barbara, whose Uncle John puts them in touch with the real MI5. They persuade him to act as decoy to lure the gang into the open. But they are captured at gunpoint, and taken out to the open sea

SMOKESCREEN (1964, directed by Jim O'Connolly, Brighton Studios, 8*)- Over Seaford Head a car descends in flames. Assessor 'Ropey' and insurance salesman Bayliss investigate John Dexter's 100,000 policy. Where's his corpse? In his smart suit and bowler, Peter Vaughan meticulously probes the facts, with some humour too, particularly in his tight fisted attitude towards his expenses, but what makes the film of special note is the scene which reveals the reason for his miserliness, as we glimpse his home life in a scene which speaks volumes. Then there is his unorthodox "hollowleg treatment" of a suspect's secretary Helen (Penny Morrell) at The Grand Brighton, with champagne cocktails, quite out of character. One of many well observed vignettes, great fun with interesting location shooting, particularly at the now defunct Hellingly station with Deryck Guyler, an absorbing little mystery

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Gate Studios
Originally the Whitehill Studios, latterly owned by the Rank Organisation, situated in filmland at Elstree (phone 2080). Two sound stages were available. It opened in 1928 and closed in 1954 after the last film, John Wesley,see below, was completed.

LILLI MARLENE (1950 directed byArthur Crabtree, Gate Studios Elstree, 2*)- American journalist Steve (Hugh McDermott) and his British mates volunteer to capture a Nazi who has come to North Africa to gain a propaganda victory by using the pinup girl who inspired the song Lilli Marlene. Unfortunately this Nazi reminded me too much of Frank Randle, and Lisa Daniely in the title role, though appealing, is no pinup and terribly exaggerates her face in singing the famous song. She becomes a tug of war twixt the Allies and the Nazis, who almost succeed in snatching her during an overlong ENSA concert. So Steve moves her to the relative safety of Cairo, romance follows, before she is captured by the enemy, tortured, brainwashed` and made to broadcast Nazi propaganda, to the dismay of Steve and his buddies, "the end of a dream." In a final scene, after the war, Lilli is vindicated though it stretches ones credulity more than a little

WOMEN OF TWILIGHT (1952, directed by Gordon Parry, Gate Studios Boreham Wood, 5*)- After no-good Jerry is convicted of murder, his pregnant girlfriend Vivianne (Rene Ray) finds herself homeless until she takes refuge in a home for unmarried mothers. "Most of us had something better once." Presiding over it is Mrs Allistair, a typical role for Freda Jackson. At first she appears motivated by kindness, but her veneer soon fades. All the characters are well drawn, particularly Vida Hope as Jess, Allistair's loyal helper, and Christine (Lois Maxwell) who befriends Viv. Dora Bryan is there too, naturally. This is soap opera, dreary but well observed. The main drama is Chris' baby dying, strangely understated. But the death hides a grizzlier tale as the matriarch's empire thankfully crumbles

STREET CORNER (1953, directed by Muriel Box, Gate Studios Elstree, 5*)- What starts as a semi documentary portrait of London's policewomen ends with a less satisfactory focus on the flighty Bridget (Peggy Cummins) who falls in with a jewel thief and general all round bad egg (Terence Morgan). The mistake the film makes is that although the sub plots are well done, the original focus on women's police work is almost lost and we get no deep character studies of them. The policemen seem mere also rans, though I liked the final chase in which no human catches the thief, but a dog. The best of several good scenes is early on, when an innocent but neglected baby is rescued from a narrow ledge atop an old block of flats. And there are plenty of small character roles to please, mostly female and typecast, such as Thora Hird as a nagging mother, Marjorie Rhodes as the brusque landlady, Joyce Carey as a nervous lady being stalked, and Dora Bryan (who else?), "if I have to be pinched, I want to be pinched by a man"

INNOCENTS IN PARIS (1953, directed by Gordon Parry, Gate Studios, 3*)- A disparate collection of passengers on a weekend flight to Paris include: Ronald Shiner as a Cockney bandsman, Alastair Sim as a cold politician, Jimmy Edwards as a know-all English gent, a kilted Scotsman- cue numerous jokes, Claire Bloom as an English Rose picked up by an older Frenchman, all very naive and only faintly believable, plus one old dear of an artist, played by Margaret Rutherford. A host of smaller parts include uncredited Christoper Lee, Kenneth Williams and Sam Kydd. Frankly, most of the montage is wearingly dull, but with a certain, yes innocent charm, with pleasant moments such as Sim plied with vodka. But it's all too obvious, a waste of many talents

JOHN WESLEY (1953, directed by Norman Walker, Gate Studios Elstree, 4*)- The young boy's early experience is dominated by a fire at his home, Epworth vicarage, as he's rescued from the flames like "a brand plucked from the burning." This rather episodic but well written picture of the "idealist" (Leonard Sachs) is never very profound, but shows how Wesley finds a real personal faith when talking earnestly with a condemned criminal (John Slater), confirmed as he listens in Aldersgate to a Luther sermon. "The enthusiast" gathers to him the "riff raff," to the horror of the established church, and in Bristol begins open air preaching and, with his brother Charles' hymns, opens the first Meeting House. Despite opposition, for example in Bath from Beau Nash (Philip Leaver), soon the first building is opened in London, one follower (Patrick Holt) being the first unlicensed preacher. Soon all over the country there is "a new hope, the joy of knowing God," bringing the Good News "into the hearts and homes of ordinary folk." Very dated now, but sadly that is the spirit of our age. John Wesley concludes happily, "how the tide has turned!" An ironic comment today!

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