My reviews of Films from 1960
(In order of my own ratings, best first)
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
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?
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
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?!"
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?
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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!"
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 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
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
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