My reviews of Films from 1947
(In alphabetical order)
BLACK MEMORY (1947, directed by Oswald Mitchell, Bushey Studios, 3*)-
Michael Cruff is executed for the murder of a moneylender, with the result that, unfairly, his young son Danny is sent to approved school. Now a grown man, Danny (Michael Atkinson) brushes with his old enemy Johnnie Fletcher (Michael Medwin), "I don't fight with rats," he tells him. In fact he'd vowed to his late mum that he would never fight, even when the children of his adoptive family, Sally and Joan, start mixing with the evil Johnnie, who with snack bar owner Eddie (Sydney James) is planning to rob the place where the girls work. A possible interesting study of a lad with a chip on his shoulder is discarded in favour of a more traditional crime caper with well defined spiv types. The robbery is quite tense, our hero saving Sally from her life of crime with a final impressively staged dark confrontation with Johnnie, forcing a confession that exonerates Danny's late father. "I ain't got a soul," concludes Johnnie pathetically
CASTLE SINISTER (1947, directed by Oscar Burn, 3*)-
Mostly shot on location, a hooded figure pushes Major Matthews over a Scottish cliff. Dirty deeds are afoot at Glennye Castle, "they're a queer lot," where the eternal triangle burns between Jean, the Laird Michael and Nigel her true love. With the disappearance of Cpt Fairfax, the army sends Cpt Neil to investigate, "marooned in a haunted castle, how exciting isn't it?" Not really, primitive is more like it, though with a certain charm, a tale of Nazi spies, "you swine," stealing British wartime secrets. Interesting film starring the forgotten Mara Tavernan
DEATH IN HIGH HEELS (1947, directed by Tommy Tomlinson, Marylebone Studios, 4*)- The detective introduces the seven suspects in a novel intro about Death in a Regent Street dress shop. Stilted dialogue, not aided by some weak acting spoil the effective start. Things do improve when the inspector (Don Stannard) questions the staff, one of whom hides the poison "down the who-ha"(!). An odd Laurel and Hardy-like joke with the detectives' trilbies is only one of the pecularities of this oddball short which ends with the usual "your denouement is brilliant inspector." Yes, he spotted that clue on the shoe with the pale green paint!
FLY AWAY PETER (1947, directed by Charles Saunders, Highbury Studios, 6*) -
Here's Maple Avenue, cosy suburbia, all very comfy, though now Arthur at age 24 wants to fly the nest. He's been offered a job in Nigeria by his boss John Neilsen (Patrick Holt), who is really only after Arthur's sister Phyllis. "John has asked me to marry him," she announces, and they are to live in Norway. More fun and certainly more innocent is younger sister Myra's rapport with 'Pie Face' (Peter Hammond), they provide the comedy, specially when he awkwardly attempts to kiss her. But the story is more soap opera for mother refuses to countenance Phyll's marriage to a divorcee. The film moves on two years, in time for Arthur's first home leave and Phyll's news, "you're going to be a grandma," and Myra, now 18 is now getting engaged to Pie Face. The happy family reunion ends an old fashioned, heartwarming and somehow rather nice story
THE GREED OF WILLIAM HART (1947, directed by Oswald Mitchell, 2*)- This film has a surfeit of dialogue and a paucity of any excitement, menace or even sparkle. Tod Slaughter was of the Victorian school of acting, subdued here, and outdone in weirdness by Aubrey Woods as the simpleton Jamie , while Edward Malin is wildly eccentric as the father of the dead girl. In an "ungodly neighbourhood" of Edinburgh, young Mary Patterson is lured to the den of the body snatchers, her corpse bound for Dr Cox. Dr Hugo Alston seems to be the only one to care about the disappearance of so many locals, "be careful how far you go doctor." Cox wants to examine Jamie, but before he is "sliced up on the doctor's table," a witness, Mrs Docherty, is done in. The notorious Burke and Hare are the thinly disguised characters, though even the originals would probably have had difficulty recognising their pasty selves
THE HILLS OF DONEGAL (1947, directed by John Argyle, Nettlefold Studios, 1*)-
Singer Eileen has given up her career to marry Terry, who seems to us rather a smooth rogue, unlike his cousin Michael, Eileen's former leading man. This film introduced the fine pairing of Dinah Sheridan and John bBentley, though they're not exactly comfortable here, and Eileen's miming is hardly impressive. Further the director seems uncertain of his mix of classical music, Irish folk numbers and gypsy airs.
Our couple move into an Irish hillside mansion "not fit for man or beast." Buried treasure is hidden somewhere inside it, and what's the mystery of Eileen's late parents whom she hardly knew? There are altogether too many strands to make a satisfying whole. Then there are Moore Marriott and Irene Handl to add a spot of comedy, young Paddy to add some squirming sentimentality and Carole, Michael's new leading lady to blackmail Terry, who descending to drink kills her, goes beserk. Sure, 'tis melodrama as the treasure is found, Eileen's past revealed and two deaths ensure a happy conclusion
HUE AND CRY (1947, directed by Charles Crichton, Ealing Studios, 7*) - Post war Britain was in need of imaginative fantasies like this, with Harry Fowler given his best role to date. Children's story paper The Trump describes the adventures of Selwyn Pike. But it seems the stories are becoming reality when Joe spots lorry GZ4216, exactly as in The Trump, delivering crates of stolen furs. Alastair Sim has a lovely cameo as the author whose stories are being used by "master criminal" Nightingale (Jack Warner) to tell his gangs where to rob next. Over nostalgic London bomb sites an army of bloodthirsty eager boys trap the villains
PENNY AND THE POWNALL CASE (1947, directed by Slim Hand, Highbury Studios, 3*)-
"Being drawn in the nude," that's Penny Justin (Peggy Evans), though she's really only a model who hankers after being a detective. She finds the next best thing, getting hitched to Inspector Michael Carson of the Yard (Ralph Michael) whom she meets via her roommate Molly (an unblonde Diana Dors). Penny's boss (a very young Christopher Lee) is the artist who is using his strip cartoon to send messages which relate to the smuggling of war criminals. Penny helps Carson, "might be dangerous," only for him to save her from her boss' clutches. "How'm I doing Michael?" An unambitious little film with a hint of style above its station
A PIECE OF CAKE (1947, directed by John Irwin, Highbury Studios, 5*)-
Cashing in on Cyril Fletcher's Odd Odes, this fantasy brings his ode to life. His character Mr Mound (Laurence Naismith) materialises at a party, answering his every need as the pains of rationing are wished away, his dinner party fit for a king, and his wife's wardrobe fir for a queen. After the feast, such apparent extravagance leads him into trouble with the prim Food Officer (Jon Pertwee) who wants to know where his rationing coupons came from, and, perhaps the best part, a reckoning from "great big bully" spiv (Harry Fowler) from whom the food had apparently come. Mound ought to sort it out but he now takes on a mind of his own as he kidnaps Cyril's wife, takes her to a showdown in Doomsday Hall as the film gets wilder and wilder, like a dream, in its pre-Goon-like madness. Made after the end of the war, the film reveals the shackles of the dark years being lifted
QUIET WEEK END (1947, directed by Harold French, Welwyn Studios, 7*)-
"isn't it romantic?"- a cosy family cottage retreat bathed in the confident glow of the post war middle class. Oh so slight is the plot, mostly romance tinged with a touch of rivalry, held together by a strong cast headed by busy mother (Marjorie Fielding). But the films's origins as a play are well disguised. There are such harmless pursuits as toffee making, blackberry picking, the village concert, oh plus some poaching, all linked by Charles Williams' soft music, nearly all prim, proper and yes, pleasant. Stealing the show as the appealing Miranda is Barbara White
THE SILVER DARLINGS (1947, directed by Clarence Elder, Welwyn Studios, 4*)- or the title could have been The Adventures of Catrine (Helen Shingler),
whose husband is pressganged in the Scottish Highlands. She cannot countenance her son Finn going to sea in the booming herring industry under
captain Roddy Sinclair (Clifford Evans), "the best skipper in the north."
But a cholera epidemic changes her opposition. Of course she contracts the disease though she is cured by a forward thinking doctor. Despite her misgivings,
the herring fleet booms and expands into the dangerous waters of the North Atlantic. Of course Catrine decides after twelve years she must marry Roddy, though
Finn cannot countenance this, as the plot drifts onwards towards a final storm at sea in which Finn saves Roddy, so perhaps the title should have been
The Sea Shall Not Have Them, or even The Cruel Sea
TO THE PUBLIC DANGER (1947, directed by Terence Fisher, Highbury Studios, 3*)- Opening music is pure British, rather tuneless, slightly dramatic, pleasantly cosy. Reggie and Captain Cole are two drinkers who have a lesson to learn, as we all still have, for this film failed to get across its message. Cole (Dermot Walsh) picks up bad time girl (Susan Shaw of course) in a pub and rather the worse for booze, they race off in his speedster. From her passenger seat, Nancy is encouraged to take the wheel- "it's dead easy." When a man on his bike is hit, happiness changes to hysteria and the film now explores their consciences in a tedious fashion, with Fred, Nancy's girl, arguing for the right, and being beaten up for his trouble. In an anticlimas, he learns no one has been injured, though for the rest, the drunk, his floosie and the inebriate Reggie, their end is predictable. "I can't drive properly until I am tight." A film only slightly redeemed by Susan Shaw and by Roy Plomley as the most unlikely drunk ever
WHILE I LIVE
(1947, directed by John Harlow, MGM Boreham Wood Studios, 5*)- "Your whole future depends on it," Olwen's that is and her need to complete her haunting musical composition. When she dies tragically young while sleepwalking, her sister Julia (Sonia Dresdel) keeps her memory alive, thereby smothering her cousin Peter and his fiancee Christine. Then a mysterious stranger appears, here is the reincarnattion of Olwen. In fact the girl has lost her memory and is Sally, a journalist writing Olwen's story. You can rely on faithful old fruity retainer old Nehemiah (Tom Walls) to sort her out. The film overplays the haunting tune, making the most of the heartstrings, though in a very sympathetic old fashioned way
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13 EAST STREET (1952, directed by Robert S Baker, Alliance Studios, 7*)- Another customer for the Scrubs, Gerald Blake (Patrick Holt), but "a nice train ride" gives him the chance to escape with his pal Joey. Actually he is an undercover policeman, out to infiltrate a gang run by Larry Conn (Robert Ayres). The only snag is that Conn's girl Judy (Sandra Dorne) falls for him and she "swallows men alive." After his first job stealing nylons, it is time for Larry's big final job, nicking a haul of furs. One problem- Blake has been rumbled, but a good twist ensures it is not he who is shot
BRANDY FOR THE PARSON
(1952, directed by John Eldridge, Southall Sytudios, 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
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
CASTLE IN THE AIR (1952, directed by Henry Cass, AB Elstree Studios, 5*)-
The Earl is heir of an impressive Scottish castle, but is heavily in debt, forced to stoop to making the place a (very draughty) bed and breakfast. Arthur of the National Coal Board (Brian Oulton) might consider requisitioning it as a hostel fo his tired workers, "he must be an escaped lunatic?" "No, just a civil servant." Mrs J 'Clodhopper' Dunne of Denver (Barbara Kelly) is a better proposition, for she's rich. The greatest asset of the castle is Ermyntrude, a genuine ghost, who impresses but isn't really integrated effectively into the story. Nor is Professor Veronica who has proved, to herself, that the Earl's ancestry means he is in line for the Scottish throne, pay close attention you Scottish Nationalists! But as the prof, this is not one of Margaret Rutherford's memorable creations, though David Tomlinson as the silly ass earl excels, in his wavering love for Mrs D and the lady he calls The Boss. All terribly British, sold to the American for £90,000
COSH BOY (1952, 4*) -Best known for its starring role for Joan Collins, this film is prefaced with a warning about the dangers of lack of parental control, which 50 years on clearly hasn't been heeded. A nasty young piece of work (James Kenney)
inexorably rides for a fall - and in those days that meant 'the strap'
CURTAIN UP (1952, directed by Ralph Smart, Isleworth Studios, 1*)-
Perfect teamwork is never quite in this repertory company, kingpin King Windbag I (Robert Morley). The only strength of this film is the strong characters as they rehearse a new play by Jeremy St Clair (Margaret Rutherford), who tries to keep the film from completely flagging with her delicate touches of humour. But in the end, this is a bad film about a bad play, as a play the original might have had some merit, but the portrait of amateur players only serves to make an amateurish film with little plot that never gets into motion even when the author takes over as producer. The best scene, quite touching, is when the experienced Maud (Olive Sloane) dissuades green Avis (Joan Rice) from the lure of greasepaint, the rest of us were already put off in this nostalgic backwater
DEATH OF AN ANGEL (1952, Exclusive Films, directed by Charles Saunders, 5*)- Dr Boswell (Raymond Young) arrives at Oakwood to help the practice of ailing doc (Patrick Barr). He finds it a happy place until the doc's wife dies suddenly, poisoned. The old doc disappears. Spt Walshaw (Russell Napier) investigating, heads straight for the medicine cabinet. After that he flounders whilst Boswell and his nurse succeed in finding their missing boss. There's a final chase round a dangerous looking water mill as the mystery is solved. The contrast is well done between the doc's idyllic start and the tragic ending.
DOWN AMONG THE Z MEN (1952, directed by Maclean Rogers, Carlton Hill Studios, 5*)- HS as Bats of The Yard, MB as a prof "camping it up in a field," SM as Private Eccles "not one of them," and PS as Col Bloodnok. Goons fans might value zany moments such as the laughing gas sketch, HS hoovering during a hush hush meeting and PS's skit as two US soldiers, but for me the film doesn't quite make it as a story about the quest for the prof's missing secret formula- it's all a rather typical EJ Fancey (pleasant) muddle
ESCAPE ROUTE (1952, directed by Seymour Friedman and Peter Graham Scott, Nettlefold Studios, 5*) - Steve Rossi (George Raft) creeps into England avoiding airport customs, in order to track down the elusive Michael Grand, who's in charge of a gang smuggling top scientists over to (where else?) Russia. Rossi enlists the help of British agent Joan (Sally Gray in her final film)- "you are a woman after all." Together they spend the film in a long slightly tedious chase across London, occasionally exciting. Raft moves as though he's seen all this many times before, only difference being, this is a British movie
FLANNELFOOT (1952, directed by MacLean Rogers, Nettlefold Studios, 3*) - "Who is Flannelfoot?" the Yard are asking. A Fascinatin' man perhaps, according to the song sung at the start, a gentleman thief that Inspector Duggan (Ronald Adam) is desperate to arrest, with the aid of his colleague Sgt Harry Fitzgerald (Ronald Howard). Getting some "good copy" on the crook, Mitchell (Jack Watling) of the Daily Comet is hoping "Fleet Street shows Scotland Yard what's what." They all join forces to catch him at a weekend house party at Wexford Court, home of the owner of the Comet. There Duggan makes an arrest, but he's proved wrong when there's another robbery "the game's up... this'll take some explaining." After many plodding scenes, the identity of Flannelfoot is finally revealed after a rooftop chase when the crook goes over the top in traditional fashion. Of course the whole thing, an EJ Fancey production, is over the top, with Fancey's usual slightly inappropriate stock background music and somewhat jarring continutity. But that's all part of the fun
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
GIRDLE OF GOLD (1952, directed by Montgomery Tully, Nettlefold Studios, 3*)-
Unassuming film, needing tighter editing in the outdoor scenes. We're in Wales, allegedly. Griffiths the Undertaker keeps his secret nest egg sewn into his wife's corset. It's his bad luck she runs off with Evans the Milk. Griffiths chases after, and disrobes her, discretely in the bushes. The cash has gone. A too long court case can't establish if Evans has stolen the money, there are a plethora of obvious underwear jokes. Mrs G, in honour of the occasion, had bought a new corset, so who has her old one? Mary is in London on honeymoon with Dai, Evans rushes there first and buys the garment for £20. After unseemly scenes, but no cash, the search moves back to Wales where one of the church choir, currently at practice, apparently bought the corset. Another obvious scene, nicely understated, and it all ends in smiles
GLAD TIDINGS (1952 directed by Wolf Rilla, Nettlefold Studios. 4*)- "The finest golf course in the country" faces losing its 13th to airport expansion- quite a modern theme! Here's a project for retired Colonel Tom who's just returned home with his fiancee (Barbara Kelly). But his four children's fraternisation with the RAF undermines his position. Sadly, what begins as a promising comedy in the hands of such experts as Raymond Huntley and Terence Alexander descends to soap opera.
HER THREE BACHELORS (1952 directed by Maclean Rogers, 3*) aka ALF'S BABY, the tale of Alf Donklin (Jerry Desmond) whose unusual legacy is a baby girl, "yer joking!" With the help of his pals Cedric and Will, Alf brings up little Pamela, the film not exploiting the motif but racing to her 21st birthday, and trouble is now starting with Tim, "you're different somehow." He is, he's a car thief. Policeman Bob's on his trail, and in love with her also. To prevent Pam's doubtful liaison her foster fathers have only one way of saving her... marry her. After a lot of argument, Cedric draws the short straw, the best part of the film, as he reluctantly has to try and propose. Patchily enjoyable, the film ends tediously with Tim's trial, before a bit of farce. Somehow Cedric's proposal has ended up at the door of the wrong lady
THE HOLLY AND THE IVY (1952, directed by George More O'Ferrall, Shepperton, 8*)-
A stagey family Christmas with snow inevitably constantly falling. A motley collection of guests assemble at a Norfolk parsonage, Ralph Richardson is the long serving Irish incumbent, with perhaps too variable an accent for comfort. But everything else is near perfect, Celia Johnson as Jenny wrings of course the tears from her dilemma of whether to look after her ailing parson father, or marry David. Her less attractive sister Margaret can't fit the bill, since she is "frozen over inside." We learn why, for "life does change you," and she has been through the mill. There are lots of insightful character studies who raise not only Christmas memories, but intensely spiritual questions. As truths emerge, we encounter deepening questions of life and death, not heavily treated, but making for a seasonal masterpiece
HUNTED (1952, directed by Charles Crichton, Pinewood, 4*)- Little Robbie is missing, in the hands of killer Lloyd (Dirk Bogarde). The police are for ever chasing them, and narrowly missing them most excitingly at a boarding house. The slight charm is the developing relationship between the two hunted, the cold(ish) killer and the abused child, Lloyd's humanity a contrast with that of Robbie's adopted parents. After trekking miles and miles, Robbie is piggybacked before they borrow a boat, on which Robbie succumbs to some illness. A cast of hundreds line the quayside as Lloyd returns to shore, an ending as abrupt as the beginning
IN THE FOG (1952, directed by Sam Newfield, Riverside Studios, 4*)-
In thick fog, bad hat Danny McMara is run over. His sister Heather meets American Philip Odell, who in his laid back way helps her prove it was no accident: "you never know when clues are goin' to turn up," he tells her, "haven't you seen any private eye movies?" First clue- Danny's girl friend, actress Marilyn Durant. Second, a recording in Danny's room shows he was involved with blackmail, centering on film producer Christopher Hampden (Geoffrey Keen).
The trail leads to the Glendale Sanatorium, and an inventor who tells a tale of murder, or is he "off his rocker"? It matters not, he's run over too. Heather is next for the chop, another road accident in a pea souper, but though this fails, she's used to lure Odell to his fate. This brings us to the finale in a film studio.
A good script, based on a radio series, but the actors don't give it their best, and I found three cameos the most enjoyable part of the film, namely, Jean Bayliss as a receptionist, Peter Swanwick as a fireman, and Katie Johnson as Mary Stuart, Mad Mary say the credits, for she is an inmate of the loonybin
IS YOUR HONEYMOON REALLY NECESSARY (1952, directed by Maurice Elvey, Nettlefold Studios, 6*)-
Wartime ace Laurie 'Skip' Vining (Bonar Colleano) is back in Britain on honeymoon with Gillian (Diana Decker) in a "luxury joint," 63 Grosvenor Square. But his first wife Candy (Diana Dors) turns up and it's up to him and his buddy Hank (Sid James) to keep 'em apart. Get a lawyer, but surely not the gauche Frank (David Tomlinson), "rather awkward isn't it?"
Here's a farce with plenty of door juggling, the best moments between DT the reluctant lover and DD allegedly his wife. Perhaps Sid in the lead role would have made a more accomplished comedy, but there are some nice lines, such as "Two wives on one honeymoon?" "One should be ample"
IT'S A STRANGER (1952, directed by Brock Williams, Viking Studios Kensington, 5*)- I like the start which introduces Greta Gynt who plays herself, "we go to see all your films," amateur detective Horatio Flowerdew (James Hayter) tells her. They strike up a fine rapport that is sadly mostly lost when a mystery is investigated by Inspector Craddock (Hector Ross), the two stars oddly becoming mere spectators in some scenes. The pair take an injured lady to Dr Westcott, but suspicious, they find a trail of blood leading from the home of a George Westcott, nephew of the doctor, who has just inherited his Uncle Eric's estate ahead of uncle's sister Anna and niece Mary. George had shot the girl mistaking her for an intruder, though it is in fact Mary. The film becomes a search for the missing will with "slippery" solicitor Cringle an enigmatic middleman. A good twist and a fight bring about a satisfying finish
IT STARTED IN PARADISE (1952, directed by Compton Bennett, Pinewood, 5*)-
Behind the scenes at a fashion house "in mothballs," so behind the times run by Madame Alice. Persuading her to take a long holiday, assistant Martha's flair revives the business in this pleasing study of ambition, enhanced by cameos from Ronald Squire, and Martita Hunt as the old harradan. Martha's downhill slide coincides with her falling for a French count, "a glamorous poodle," who introduces too many black market notions. Jane Hylton plays the doomed Martha with her usual broken tragedy of a "played out second rater," as the "genius" of her assistant Alison (Muriel Pavlow) eclipses her fortunes in a poetic parallelism that is a little too contrived
THE LARGE ROPE (1952, directed by Wolf Rilla, Nettlefold Studios, 3*)-
Three years Tom (Donald Houston) served for laying hands on Amy. He was innocent. Now he has returned to his village, where he's not welcome even by his father. The film tries to introduce too many characters- it happens on the very day his ex-girl Susan is to marry Geoff. it's a deeply depressing study of village gossipers. When the flirtatious Amy is strangled, there's a ready made suspect for Inspector Harmer and the zealous new local bobby. Old Ben is a key witness against Tom. It's the old lynch mob tale as the crowd get "restive," it's all too pat. When Tom breaks police custody, the crowd give chase, but he gives them the slip and confronts Geoff, "I've kept my mouth shut too long." Quite why I wasn't sure. Or how the real killer manages to betray himself
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
LOVE'S A LUXURY (1952, directed by Francis Searle, Manchester Film Studios, 7*)- Charles' wife Margaret has left him, and this impresario has taken an isolated cottage to forget, with comedian Bobby Bentley. Molly does for them. The cause of all Charles' woes, Fritzy (Zena Marshall) comes by and soon Dick (Michael Medwin), Charles' son is smitten by her. Complications start when Margaret turns up and various false names are handed out. "Why are you supposed to be...?" There's Derek Bond as Bobby in drag, hiding in the coalhouse, and in a less convincing subplot, Charles
posing as a Scotland Yard detective. "It's all so complicated." At the heart of the confusion is entirely innocent scoutmaster Mr Mole (Bill Shine). This is a straightforward stage adaptation, a good example of farce, which the competent star Hugh Wakefield co-wrote
MANTRAP (1952, directed by Terence
Fisher, Bray Studios, 3*)-
Fashion editor Thelma (Lois Maxwell) is anxious because her ex husband convicted killer Mervyn Speight (Kieron Moore) has escaped prison- does he want to kill her, as she has remarried? Lawyer Hugo Bishop (Paul Henreid) turns detective to find him, an easy task, since the murderer always returns to the scene of the crime. Speight informs Hugo that a man's gotta do etc, before he is recaptured. Despite the interesting characters of Hugo and Thelma, the early promise of menace is never realised, as the film becomes Hugo's hunt for the killer- of course Speight is innocent. Hugo Bishop questions Susie, sister-in-law of Joanne the murdered woman, then at a party arranges for Speight to identify the real murderer. "I wish I could understand you, Bishop," remarks one character, but it might have been me too, you can never really get into these people
MEN AGAINST THE SUN (1952, directed by Brendan J Stafford, 2*)- John Bentley Bentley plays John who acts for a railroad company building a line with Indian labour from Kenya to Uganda. He also helps Elizabeth (Zena Marshall), a doctor needing to travel into the hinterland, and a slight romance ensues. A man eating lion (or an obvious dummy), is the main danger. The good doctor saves some who are mauled, "it's between him and me," declares John in the best tradition, and the excitement such as it be ends naturally with a kiss
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
MURDER AT 3am (1952, directed by Francis Searle, 4*)-
Returning home late at night, a lady is murdered on her doorstep.
Chief Inspector Peter Lawton (Dennis Price) tracks down the killer known as X, who always strikes at three in the morning. His suspicion is fixed on his sister Joan's fiance (Philip Saville), who has even suggested
a clue as to where the killer might strike next. Aware of her brother's suspicion, a distraught Joan bravely acts as a decoy to draw the murderer. It can't go wrong declares Peter, a fateful prediction of course, for she is almost killed and the attacker escapes via the river. It's a long chase with a pleasing final twist
PAUL TEMPLE RETURNS (1952, directed by Maclean Rogers, Nettlefold Studios, 3*)- Who is The Marquis? He's killed three times, no obvious motive. Since the Yard detectives are a little slow, Paul Temple and his wife step in, finding one of the Yard men is top of their suspects list! A "prima facie case" can also be made against Sir Felix, especially since he's played by Christopher Lee. However he is found dead, so who is The Marquis? "There could be other suspects." The film rambles pleasantly enough, without undue excitement. "Temple, have you gone mad?"
SONG OF PARIS (1952 Nettlefold Studios directed by John Guillermin, 3*)- This isn't quite a comedy or a musical or even a romance. Mischa Auer overacts as so often, but Dennis Price lends his usual dignified charm as the most English of Englishmen facing French high spirits. To sort out a crisis in the Stomach Pills industry, Matthew has to travel to that "sink of inquity," Paris. "But in that sink," he's told, "there are some smashing pieces of crockery" including one Clementine. When she follows him to England along with her self declared fiance, the Count, everyone's lives are in turmoil. Finally it's pistols at dawn, but Matthew will surely be killed. "Do you want his life and his body delivered at your doorstep then, before even the milkman has called?" In amongst the story are four songs: Chanson de Paris, Just a Song of Paris, Mademoiselle Apres-Midi and Let's Stay Home
THE STRANGER LEFT NO CARD (1952, directed by Wendy Toye, 6*)- The loony (Alan Badel) now arriving at platform three Windsor Station causes quite a stir, signing in to his hotel as Napoleon Bonaparte, and quickly this "remarkable fellow" endears himself to one and all as a harmless eccentric. But why? Seemingly to show his magic to a Mr Latham, But then the comedy turns far more sinister, "recognise me now Mr Latham?" The piece de resistance, a knife in the end of an umbrella. This splendid film short needed one last clever moment, after this apparent madman gloats he has committed the perfect crime, but though there are hints, the ending is left to the imagination
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
TO THE RESCUE (1952 directed by Jacques Brunius, 3*)- Young George is given Candy a new poodle. "She's splendid," declares Mr Polly (Richard Massingham) the local shopkeeper, who believes she's a pedigree and should be entered into the Weald Show. However a rival, in the mould of a silent screen villain, is keeping watch, "she mustn't get to the show." Thus Candy is kidnapped, but luckily Joyce spots it and there follows a low speed car chase along the A262, and the villain ends in a muddy pond. A simple children's film, with local interest which includes shots of the then operational somnolent Kent and East Sussex Railway
TREAD SOFTLY (1952, directed by David Macdonald, SCF Studios, 4*)- Frances Day starts this off with glimpses of her prewar appeal as she sings the title song. In this revue show she's "nothing but trouble," and eventually storms out. Patricia Dainton takes over and sings There's No Time. But with the star gone, the theatre is too, and producer Gilbert (John Bentley) has to hire the defunct Regency Theatre, where forty years ago an actor had been killed. Then a modern murder as the film teeters between musical and crime, without succeeding at either. Norah Nicholson steals the acting honours as the erratic owner of the theatre. Of the other songs, Just Right As You Are is perhaps the pick, but even John Bentley has a go at singing, a la Bing, You're Lovely
TREASURE HUNT (1952, directed by John Paddy Carstairs, Teddington Studios, 8*) -
Martita Hunt steals the film as Aunt Anna Rose, who in her dreams travels in her sedan chair to Paris, Rome, even Honoulu. A splendid contrast to the tantrums of Jimmy Edwards in his second childhood as Hercules, who with his sister Consuelo (Athene Seyler) is determined to rid the family of paying guests at their bankrupt mansion of Ballyroden. Certainly guests Eustace (Naunton Wayne) and his family decide the family "are all raving mad" but they too gradually succumb to the draughty charms in this delightful piece of Irish whimsy. If only Aunt Rose can remember where she hid her rubies, they'd be "a ransom for Ballyroden". My favourite lines: Hercules in a fit of pique moaning "Ballyroden is bally rotten." And there's also the incongruous shouting of the winking reverend (Kenneth Kove) urging on his horse at the Conmel races: at the top of his voice he yells "Bikini!"
THE VOICE OF MERRILL (1952 directed by John Gilling, Alliance Studios, 9*)- A shadowy damp night street, a faceless man shoots a woman. Though this is a murder mystery, it's also a romance twixt Hugh, a penniless writer (Edward Underdown) and Alycia (Valerie Hobson) wife of author Jonathan, who in his own eyes at least, is "a genius," also an irrascible hypochondriac. Not unsurpisingly, James Robertson Justice adds some black humour, and Garry Marsh as Inspector Thornton gives able support- his investigative method is to wait and watch. He sees Jonathan getting Hugh to anonymously read his radio broadcasts, under the title Voice of Merrill, but becomes so popular that Alycia reveals the writer's identity as Hugh. In revenge, Jonathan writes Episode 12, A Confession, proving that Hugh must have done the murder. Bitter at her husband's vindictiveness Alycia poisons Jonathan, but still she is bested for he has written a letter to be opened in the event of his death accusing her of trying to kill him. The broadcast of Episode 12 ends the film, nicely back in the dark streets outside Broadcasting House. One line from Inspector Thornton: "The highway of success is full of men being pushed along by women"
WHO GOES THERE! (1952 directed by Anthony Kimmins Shepperton Studios, 2*)-
Miles (Nigel Patrick) thinks he's caught a burglar in his St James' Palace home. But she's only Christina (Peggy Cummins), jilted by guardsman Arthur (George Cole), but as they're alone in the hosue for the night, how can Miles explain this to his sister Alex (Valerie Hobson)? What could have been a promising farce instead veers towards romance with not entirely convincing characters. Trickery from Chris ensures that Arthur's court martial is cancelled and true love, if such it be, thus triumphs. None of the star cast are up to much, outstaged by brief appearances at the start and end by the happily doddering AE Matthews, "I must be going round the bend"
WINGS OF DANGER (1952, Riverside Studios, director Terence Fisher, 1*) - Nick (Robert Beatty) is a "heel," Vaness (Zachary Scott) in his hackeyned opening informs us, particularly as he blackmails our dull hero into allowing him to fly his grounded plane. It of course disappears. Several characters pose the pertinent question what is going on? Something to do with forgers and smugglers and Nick's faked death: "why don't you go back to the grave and stop bothering me?" asks Vaness... and I
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
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....
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My reviews of Films from 1953
BANG! YOU'RE DEAD (1953 directed by Lance Comfort, Shepperton Studios, 2*)- From the final scene where blame is apportioned, it seems this slow moving film is trying to find reasons for the appalling post war conditions some lived in. Even in those days all was not well, as children were allowed to roam free and even play with guns. Cliff lives with his widowed dad (Jack Warner) in a shack on an old air base, everyone is very matey despite the slum like conditions. As Edmund Hockridge sings on young Willie's gramophone Lazy Day, very aptly for that's the speed the film moves at, Cliff finds a discarded gun and shoots a nasty young man named Ben. It's so unfortunate that in an argument over Hilda, Bob Carter (Michael Medwin) had promised to kill Ben, though Inspector Grey (Derek Farr) is shrewd enough to know he's innocent. As Lazy Day drones for the nth time, you can't blame Cliff for smashing the record as the film looks more and more like a Children's Film Foundation though with bigger stars. A new record, Greensleeves, is at least an improvement, as Cliff runs away after Willie is accidentally injured. The tight community rally round to find the lad until Insp Grey learns it was all an accident, so they all lived etc etc
THE BLUE PARROT (1953, directed by John Harlow, Nettlefold Studios, 3*)- Supt Chester (the dependable Ballard Berkeley) gets the help
of Bob (Dermot Walsh) who's "American, they take over everything," in the Rocks Owen murder case. Sgt Maureen Maguire is a more than useful ally.
Their pondersome investigation centres on the Blue Parrot Club, exclusive but awfully cramped. Chester neatly sums it up when he remarks "there's plenty of time,
I'm not going to rush things." Ultra suspicious are Carson (John le Mesurier), owner of the club, as well as Taps (Edwin Richfield) and Stevens (Ferdy Mayne).
"It's a pity it has to end like this," as Maureen finds herself "in a tough spot." "Sleep well copper," the killer tells her
THE BROKEN HORSESHOE
(1953, directed by Martyn C Webster, Nettlefold Studios, 7*)- Mark Fenton (Robert Beatty) is a doctor sucked into a typical Francis Durbridge mystery after he operates on Constance, a hit and run case. "Never hold anything back from the police," his detective brother advises him, but he fails to tell what little he knows of the elusive Miss Freeman (Elizabeth Sellars) as he's infatuated with her, when she presents the patient with flowers in the shape of a broken horseshoe. When Constance is later found murdered, Fenton covers up for her. Constance had given into Fenton's safe keeping a railway ticket from London to Dover, for which a mysterious stranger then offers Fenton £500- rail travel was mighty expensive even in those days! Finally Miss Freeman has to confide in Fenton explaining that The Horseshoe organisation is, she admits to her admirer, the smuggling of illegal but worthy refugees from Poland. But though he swallows this at first, she's only "stringing him along" as it eventually proves to be a vicious racehorse doping ring. Robert Beatty manages to convey the doctor's greenness in a world of crime very well, whilst Elizabeth Sellars makes her usual darkly seductive villainess.
DEADLY NIGHTSHADE (1953 directed by John Gilling, Alliance Studios, 5*) - John Barlow is wanted by Cornish police for manslaughter. His double Robert Matthews is an artist. Or rather, was an artist, since Barlow kills him, accidentally, in a fight. Who can spot Barlow has taken his double's place? Miss Helen Farringdon (Zena Marshall) might, she has to board with Barlow, when the ship on which she is a passenger explodes- and once she had been his fiancee. Barlow soon finds out Matthews was about to be arrested as a spy. The threads of the story mingle improbably and not quite successfully
THE DIAMOND (1953, directed by Dennis O'Keefe, Nettlefold Studios, 4*) - today's US arrival at the airport is Joe (Dennis O'Keefe) of the US Treasury Department, who is after recovering $1m, with a little help from Inspector 'Mac' Maclean (Philip Friend). The pair enjoy a few good interchanges and healthy rivalry for Miss Marlene Miller, whose scientist father is missing, inventor of an incredible process that can created perfect diamonds. These are imported into the country, the Yard tailing the smugglers to a Hatton Garden dealer (Alan Wheatley almost inevitably). There is a well photographed shooting on the escalator at St John's Wood station, and a dramatic finale in which Joe rescues Marlene
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
GHOST SHIP (1953, directed by Vernon Sewell, 3*)- the steam yacht Cyclops is for sale but "in a bit of a mess." It has a reputation for being haunted, but this doesn't deter Guy and Margaret from buying this "fine little ship." They spruce it up, no expense apparently spared. However, first their first engineer quits, then his replacement- who is trying to force them to leave the ship, and why? After a serious demonstration of psychic phenomena, it is time for a seance, as Madame Arcati Mark 2 calls up the spirits to reveal to us in flashback the cause of the unrest, murder, and two rotting corpses. The build up to the mystery is far more satisfying than this denouement
GRAND NATIONAL NIGHT (1953, directed by Bob McNaught, Nettlefold Studios, 7*)-
If anyone ever deserved to get bumped off, it is the self centred Babs (Moira Lister), cruel to horses, an outrageous flirt. Her husband Gerry (Nigel Patrick) has to miss the Grand National because of her cruelty to his favourite horse, but his Star Mist wins, a cause for Babs to celebrate. In the early hours, when she returns home, wallowing in self pity, the couple argue. Next day her disappearance causes much speculation and when her body is found. the meticulous Inspector Ayling (Michael Hordern) starts to tighten the net around Gerry. Calmly and systematically, he dismembers Gerry's "plausible story," the accidental discovery of a railway ticket the nail in Gerry's coffin. A fascinating tale, how can a happy ending be manufactured?
I remember first watching this when it was screened during the ITV actors' dispute in early 1962, and it remains as absorbing so many years later
HEATWAVE (1953, directed by Ken Hughes, Bray Studios, 4*)-
Hack novelist Mark Kendrick (Alex Nichol) falls for a 'Lorelei' at a posh party on Lake Windemere.
Tall blonde Carol collects artists "like some people collect butterflies," that's the view of her lonely husband Bev (an improbably cast Sidney James), whose cardiac problems means he must have
"no excitement." Her latest conquest is pianist Vince (Paul Carpenter) and her infidelity decides Bev to alter his will.
Before he can do so, he has a fall in the mist on his new boat, an accident. But Carol pushes her unconscious husband overboard and Mark rather reluctantly covers for her. For he's besotted with her.
A detective (Alan Wheatley), despite a verdict of accidental death, ferrets out the truth by persistent "probing," and helping Mark see Carol for the tramp that she is. This is a moody brooding film that
occasionally grips despite its slowness. Perhaps writer Ken Hughes was better at shorts, witness his fine contribution to the Scotland Yard series.
HEIGHTS OF DANGER (1953, directed by Peter Bradford, AB Studios Elstree, 3*)-
John Burton's garage will be a "gold mine" as soon as the new bypass is open, but for now he's broke and Mr Croudson wants to buy the place for a snip.
Kind old Mr Henderson (Richard Goolden) pays for Burton's entry into the four day Mountain Rally and if he wins first prize, that'll see him through. Lots of vintage cars including Burton's MG compete, with Croudson's cronies out to nobble him with dastardly tricks like loosening the rear wheel, blocking the road with a cow and that failing, at the dangerous Eidelweiss Pass toppling a rock to cause the car to swerve... None too ripping an Associated British children's adventure, but pleasant enough family fun
IT'S A GRAND LIFE (1953 Manchester Studios, dir John E Blakeney, 5*)- Diana Dors is the young damsel amazingly paired with ageing Frank Randle in his last film of army life. There's little of the gawky continuity and poor acting of Randle's earlier films, but enough nonsequiters and daft sketchlets to keep us happy. Among them are: The New Recruit ("there's one born every minute"), On Parade ("politeness for a start"), Colonel Randle's Lecture ("what a shower!"), the good old slapstick Tea Trolley, The Car Mechanic ("it's a bit loose I think"), The Wrestler - grotesque!, and the dramatic Rescuing the Damsel in Distress. After a long finale with the unnecessary Winifred Atwell, a kilted Frank finally bows out: "there's a hell of a draught!"
(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!
LOVE IN PAWN (1953, directed by Charles Saunders, Alliance Studios, a Tempean Film, 3*)- Sporting an awful beard, Bernard Braden stars as painter Roger Fox alongside his wife Barbara Kelly as Gina, in a film they said later they wished had been buried, and stayed buried. They are broke, and old Uncle Amos will only give them £10,000 if Roger has made a go of his life. So to impress the go-between, a solicitor (John Laurie), they plan a slap up dinner. To pay for it, they have the novel idea of pawning Roger. Albert, the surprised pawnbroker does loan £5 on Roger, chiefly so he can entertain his family, especially young Amber (Jeannie Carson), who rather falls for him. Our solicitor has a wild night at Gina's, and promises the cash, but she loses the pawn ticket, and with that and Amber's charms, there's a marital bust up. The best moments are when the papers get hold of the story and there's a fantasy section, for example in parliament, a suggestion that the minister of war is pawned. But this is over all too soon and a burglary to steal Roger is planned, badly executed and Albert is nearly the victim in a frantic final act. Some good lines, and plenty of bad, such as this: "it's the wrong season for painting, brushes are moulting"
MARILYN aka ROADHOUSE GIRL (1953, directed by Wolf Rilla, 3*)- An early kitchen sink drama about George Saunders (Leslie Dwyer) who runs a garage/cafe. New hand Tom Price (Maxwell Reed) falls for the flighty Marilyn Saunders (Sandra Dorne), George's ill-matched wife. Her drab existence (despite "a gas fire in every room") she must escape from, and Tom is the means. It happens that George catches them at it and in a row Tom accidentally kills George. But soon Marilyn has found a richer admirer in Nicky Everton (Ferdy Mayne) who provides the cash to enable the cafe to transform itself into a night club. Happiness, fleeting, thanks to his riches, but Tom, seeing she is no good, promises to kill her. Instead Nicky in a repeat of the earlier confrontation kills Tom. One suspects it's what she always planned. However Marilyn has made one mistake too many, her confidente and friend Rosie (nicely understated by Vida Hope) can't stand by her, "I would have died for you." Yes Marilyn was no good.
One line: Marilyn, "it's a terrible thing to be gifted like I am"
MEET MR CALLAGHAN (1953, directed by Charles Saunders, Nettlefold, 10*)- You don't need to follow this sparkling private eye tale, for Eric Spear's music is catchy enough. Full of herrings, its about 4 nephews that dry detective (Derrick de Marney who relishes this role) blackmails in order to discover which has killed a millionaire. William, who's to marry Cynthis, donates £300, £200 comes from broke Bellamy, and £500 from Jeremy for a fake will. But it all is honourably used to pay off Paul for a fake confession. In between battling with Gringall of the Yard (the splendid Trevor Reid), Slim Callaghan throws away variations on his catchphrase: "Callaghan Investigations never lets its clients down"...then as an aside... "well hardly ever," "Callaghan Investigations never sleeps ... well hardly ever," "Callaghan Investigations never makes bargains with crooks... well hardly ever." Or this variation: "Callaghan Investigations never blackmails its clients-" no addition. And at the end a besotted Cynthis reminds him of his words "Callaghan Investigations never lets its clients down" to which Slim adds "certainly not this time."
MR BEAMISH GOES SOUTH
(1953, directed by John Wall and Oscar Burn, Carlton Hill Studios, 5*)-
A typical EJ Fancey film, but enlivened by an enthusiastic performance from John Laurie as Inspector Potter, the second of two films in which he played this role.
Society hostess Lady Amanda Frobisher has disappeared. Potter had been going off on leave for a holiday in Switzerland, but instead makes for Bowville in Sussex, where he books into a hotel with his cat Mr Beamish.
This is the latest in a series of murders of rich women, and Potter identifies Mrs Greenswood as the likely next victim. At the hotel she is courted by a major (Peter Bathurst), though Potter's attentions are diverted by another guest Miss Emily Carrington, who takes quite a fancy to poor Potter. He shakes her off and follows Mrs G who also shakes off her major to meet up with a young spiv. He takes her for a cuddle in a derelict hotel where Potter discovers a bath of acid.
There are nice moments of humour, as when Potter creeps into Mrs G's bedroom in search of clues, to be caught in flagrante, "it's not at all what you think." The manager (Charles Lloyd Pack) takes a dim view, and Miss Emily is mortally offended. In fact she is nearly mortally killed for in a nice twist it transpires she is a police decoy out to lure the killer and in the shadow of the crumbling hotel, by the acid bath, we reach an enjoyable showdown
OLD MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE (1953, directed by John Gilling, Nettlefold Studios, 6*)- Without Mother Riley's usual stooge, this film's better for that, with Dora Bryan a fine comic foil, it creaks and pleases with its sometimes nonsensical eccentricity. A mad scientist is suspected of abducting girls, who's next? "He drinks their blood" and sleeps in a coffin, of course it's Bela Lugosi who nicely hams it up. His latest Frankenstein robot is accidentally delivered to Old Mother Riley, "have I gone mad?" Lugosi asks. The old woman is kidnapped and fed plenty of liver- for elevenses, "I don't get it." But singlehandedly she rescues a maiden in distress, and grapples with the robot
OPERATION DIPLOMAT (1953 based on Francis Durbridge's TV serial, directed by John Guillermin, Nettlefold Studios. 4*)- A meandering tale that can't quite ignite enthusiasm. Mark Fenton (Guy Rolfe), a surgeon, is virtually kidnapped in order to operate on a rich diplomat. Following a trail of murders, he later conducts extensive enquiries to work out where this operation had been conducted. However when his patient has a relapse he gets a second chance but by the time he does solve the puzzle "they've cleared out." Only a final desperate chase prevents the diplomat from being smuggled to behind the Iron Curtain. Note- William Franklyn appears uncredited as a doctor.
PARK PLAZA 605 (1953, directed by Bernard Knowles, Nettlefold Studios, 5*)- Norman Conquest (Tom Conway) accidentally hits a pigeon on the golf course. On the dead bird is a message about a meeting in room 605 in a hotel. Here Norman encoutners the beautiful Nadina (Eva Bartok), plus one corpse. Supt Bill Williams (unusually Sid James) accuses Norman of murder. At the rendezvous, Nadina was expecting him to hand over diamonds, and to get them, Pixie, Norman's girl is kidnapped, then Norman. The film has pretensions of style with its catchy theme tune, nice touches of humour and Norman's Frazer Nash sports car, though it never utterly charms
RECOIL (1953, directed by John Gilling, Alliance Studios, 7*)-
Talbot, "a pretty old" jeweller, dies after he is attacked and robbed in a dark street. The cowardly thief Nicky (Kieron Moore) shelters in the respectable home of his brother Michael, a doctor. Miss Jean Talbot (Elizabeth Sellars) recognises Nicky and takes lodgings in the doctor's house, and of course falls in love with the gentle Michael in a charming sequence, though her target is Nicky and she selflessly makes up to him instead. He plans to double cross his former boss importer Henry Farnborough, who had been behind the Talbot robbery, and rob him of £10,000. "Let them have it"- at Gorings Depository there's a mini gangster shootout, Nicky wounded, Jean drvies his getaway car, and Michael treats him. But their mother shops him, leading to a dramatic ending at The Grange, "there's something I've got to say to him"
ROUGH SHOOT (1953, directed by Robert Parrish, Riverside Studios, 4*)- On the look out for poachers, The Colonel (Joel McCrea) fires at one, only to find he has killed him. Though he had not fired the fatal shot, the colonel thinks he has, and hides the corpse. The real killer is the sinister Hiart. But how is the shadowy Polish Commandant (Herbert Lom) involved? He says he's the colonel's best friend, "that should make everything clear." Perhaps not, but it is something to do with Mr Randall of the Cloak and Dagger Department. The Colonel and his wife are sucked into the world of illegal spies. On the London express, they fool the baddies and safely reach Waterloo where, good heavens, the poor station announcer (Joan Hickson) is attacked, "what's going on?!" I'll simply say that the chase ends, for no obvious reason, except the visual quality, in Madame Tussaud's
THE SCARLET WEB (1953, directed by Charles Saunders, Nettlefold Studios, 7*) -This blonde is waiting for Jake Winter as he is leaving Wormwood Scrubs. She has a proposition, but it's a trap, and he is drugged. When he comes to, he finds a dagger in his hand, a dead woman in the bedroom. He is actually an insurance investigator, and he needs help badly. His new boss 'Honey' is the girl to provide it, and the film perks up as Hazel Court as Honey has some good repartee with Griffith Jones. as Jake. He traces the mystery blonde, name of Laura, as he is pursued for the murder of another witness. By playing off Laura against the murdered woman's husband, Honey nearly gets done in herself. A satisfying film, with good supporting cameos from Ronnie Stevens as Simpson, and David Stoll
THE STEEL KEY (1953, directed by Robert S Baker, Alliance Southall Studios, 4*)- Posing as a Dr Metcalf is smooth talking con man O'Flynn (Terence Morgan).
He is after a secret formula called The Steel Key, "a process designed for the hardening of certain metals" which two scientists have independently developed.
One has now been murdered, the other, Prof Newman, has suddenly died too. O'Flynn checks out Dr Crabtree who signed the death certificate,
and, with the help of Nurse Wilson (Joan Rice), breaks into Crabtree's sinister sanatorium to find a very much alive Newman. There are touches of Baker and Berman's later Saint
in this ambivalent hero, who playfully calls our Man from the Yard 'Basil' and even escapes Insp Forsythe by nicking the keys of his police car
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"
THE STRAW MAN (1953, directed by Donald Taylor, Wembley Studios, 4*)-
A corpse turns up on Brighton beach, that of Celia Worth. Hunter, her ex-boy friend had recently married Ruth. An American is arrested and later found guilty, and as he has life insurance, Howard (Clifford Evans) is charged with finding out if he can save his company having to pay out when their client is hanged. Howard engages a local detective Mel Ferris (Dermot Walsh), the twist being Mel is in love with Ruth. An elderly meighbour named Lucy is silenced as she knows too much. When Howard gets too near the truth he has to be disposed of also, but Ruth is now sick of it all and, in her ultra posh voice, stops all this carnage herself
THERE WAS A YOUNG LADY (1953, directed by Lawrence Huntington, Nettlefold Studios, 8*)- Miss Elizabeth Foster (Dulcie Gray) is "for the moment just my secretary," according to Mr David Walsh (Michael Denison), but it is she who runs what little jewellery business comes their way. Whatever else, she is efficent. When she is kidnapped by four duff jewel robbers, she takes them in hand: Johnny (Sydney Tafler) the irascible boss, while the most aimiable is the dim Arthur. Him she softens up, and Basher and Joe and sets about reorganising their muddled lives, even pointing out the doubtful aspects of their next planned robbery. Here's a charming piece of dated whimsy, not sparkling but endearing, as at last the helpless David proves his mettle, and comes to her rescue
THOSE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR (1953 directed by John Harlow, Manchester Studios, 3*)- Working class values in the shape of the Twigs (Jack Warner and Marjorie Rhodes) versus the titled Stevens family (Garry Marsh and Grace Arnold): "it's enough to make a parson swear." Though this is a study of the working class in the war, it's also about the wartime spirit as social distinctions are forgotten, culminating in the nervous meeting of the two families, united by their offspring's desire to marry. However the film never quite succeeds on any front, and keeps missing opportunities both for drama and comedy
THREE STEPS IN THE DARK (1953, directed by Daniel Birt, Viking Studios, 3*)- It's familiar, Uncle Arnold has summoned his relations to Clarendon, his large mansion, Henry with his new girl friend Mlle Esme Rodin, Philip and his wife, and Sophie (Greta Gynt).
His will will have strings, his estate will only go to Henry if he does not marry Esme. Uncle does not like her as she has been on stage, and has already been married. "It'll probably finish in murder." Not probably, inevitably! So who killed him? This is too static with a surfeit of dialogue, straightforward except the usual revelation is hardly predictable
THREE STEPS TO THE GALLOWS (1953, directed by John Gilling, 6*)-
Gregor Stevens (Scott Brady) is on shore leave in London, and wants to look up his brother Larry, but where is he? The search starts in the shadowy Gay Mask Club, a wall of silence greets Gregor, but persistence finally brings him face to face with Larry, who's in prison awaiting execution for the murder of the manager at the club. Gregor can't seem to persuade Larry's play-it-by-the-book lawyer to get any stay of execution, but it becomes clear that the club is the base for a diamond smuggling racket. The elusive James Smith lures our hero into a trap at the club and Gregor finds himself framed for murder too, a real sucker. Only one thing he can do, elude the police! The tension builds well to the final chase at a crowded Olympia, as Gregor's best allies turn out to be the real villains, "OK boys, this is it." My favourite moment is when Gregor, a prisoner in the back of a car, fights with his captor causing the vehicle to crash. The pair totter from the wreckage, only to resume their punch up
WHEEL OF FATE
(1953, directed by Francis Searle, Riverside Studios, 4*)- The film that proves, for me, that star Bryan Forbes couldn't act well. He's Ted, "a bit of a lad." On his trail is laid back policeman John Horsley, an old friend of Ted's stepbrother Johnny (an excellent Patrick Doonan) who runs an honest garage. The pair vie for the affections of singer Lucky (Sandra Dorne)- "you look smashing baby," says the admiring Ted. But it's the sympathetic "ordinary and dull" Johnny who wins her with his chat up line of "a peck at the bus stop." Penniless, Ted robs his own invalid dad, having left him to die. The development of the plot isn't up to the fine opening character definition as our dour inspector confronts Ted with his villainy, in a final chase ("come on copper, you won't get me alive") across railway tracks....If the main role of Ted had been better cast, it might have all been more convincing
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My reviews of Films from 1959
(In alphabetical order)
BEYOND THIS PLACE (1959, directed by Jack Cardiff, Walton Studios, 7*)-
Paul has returned to his home city of Liverpool to discover his father whom he has not seen for 20 years is a convicted murderer. The film has the advantage of some fine location shooting, but the disadvantage of an unconvincing star (Van Johnson). The case against his father Patrick Mathry is by no means watertight, fixed according to one drunk ex-copper. The prosecutor, now Sir Matthew, has a lot to lose, and blusters, "I'll stake my career on it." The arresting officer, now Chief Superintendent Dale ditto. But one man, Oswald has fought to obtain Mathry's reprieve from execution. At the seedy Grapevine Club, Paul makes up to owner Louise whose money must have come from blackmailing the real killer. To prove the case, Paul has to elude the aggressive police, "I can't give up," he tells Lena, a librarian with her own problems. It's the power of the press that moves the case to a conclusion, perhaps changing the mood of this film, but it changes again with an unhappy reunion with his embittered dad, "I never did the murder, but it's what murdered me." Paul steals the vital evidence to bring on an emotional scene with the killer, "you are the avenging angel"
THE CHALLENGE (1959 directed by John Gilling, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
The opening music with its semi nudity puts this into the 1960s (it was released in 1961), another giveaway being that 'The Boss' (Jayne Mansfield) is a dame planning and getting away with many daring robberies. It's all been done before but the night photography, and the little touches like the cat are well done, as well as the car chase and crash, burying the loot. The fall guy is Jim (Anthony Quayle), but only he knows where the £50,000 is and he is shopped, presumably so the evil Kristy can make off with the Boss. But when Jim comes out, the gang want the cash, so do the police, "they'll break you," simple method kidnap Jim's boy Joey. To repeat, it's all been done before, Jim almost irrationally refusing to give up his money, and he slowly disintegrates, as do the crooks. Several good twists later, and I might include here JM miming the title song,
it ends in another chase, "I said I'd come for you." It's a pity the main characters are not more convincing and the ending is very contrived, but I enjoyed it
COVER GIRL KILLER (1959, directed by Terry Bishop, Walton Studios, 6*)-
Harry H Corbett looks sinister in his thick pebble glasses and combed down wig:
as Walter Spendoza he lures showgirl Gloria Stark to pose for photographs in the park (see picture).
Inspector Brunner (Victor Brooks) plods methodically through the evidence: "we're not completely
half-witted, you know." Some help comes from Johnny Mason, owner of the pinup mag Wow. Miss Torquay,
on the front cover like Miss Stark is next to be killed: "your nudity means nothing to me," the killer tells
her before strangling her. He even has the nerve to call at the Yard with some informnation on the murderer!
A trap is set. June, Johnny's girl friend model, poses for Wow. She's then "guarded closer than the Crown Jewels," in this neat little thriller,
but naturally June ends up alone with the madman...
DEADLY RECORD (1959, directed by Lawrence Huntington, Beaconsfield Studios, 4*)- Airline pilot Trevor (Lee Patterson) returns home to discover his wife Jenny, a dancer, is away. Next day police find her corpse at home, stabbed with Trevor's own knife. With help from Sue (Barbara Shelley), he discovers two suspects: Ramon her former dance partner, and her doctor who was having an affair with her. Though Supt Ambrose (Geoffrey Keen) seems sure Trevor is the killer, Jenny's "extremely frank" diary provides a deadly record as to the murderer's identity
THE EDMUNDO ROS HALF HOUR (1959, directed by Michael Carreras, AB Studios Elstree 2*)- This short is an excuse for a medley, I nearly wrote apology, of tunes by Ros' Latin American band, so popular at the time, though I confess I never succumbed to his charms. After a lively opening piece by the band, Ros introduces Mayfair Mambo. Ines del Carmen sings Ay Ay Ay, marginally less embarrassing than the start of the John Peel Samba, and both infinitely better than the alleged comedy in the next 'comedy' number by Morton Fraser's Harmonica Gang. Si Senor is more fun with ER singing and dancing with Ines, "you must bring your mother too." A mambo dance is more avant garde, almost, while Monte Carlo is ER's version of an old standard. ER sings the finale, something of a plug to come and see him at his London club
THE END OF THE LINE (1959, Southall Studios, directed by Charles Saunders, 5*) - Mike Selby, an American writer with a nice narrative line, is staying in a quiet Marlow hotel. He meets an old friend, now Mrs Crawford the manager's wife (Barbara Shelley). Says Mike- "the one thing, when you're close to her, your mind stopped thinking." She persuades him to steal her husband's fenced jewels. So what can go wrong? Well, there's a blackmailing private eye for starters, then Crawford is killed, and with Mike's automatic. Yes, in those days, films did show Crime does not Pay. This slow starting film develops a few pleasing twists. I ought to have known Fredy Mayne shouldn't have been trusted. "All you held," a repentant Mike tells himself," was the joker."
THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS (1959, directed by Maxwell Munden, St John's Wood Studios, 4*) -
Moody Jeff wants to be Alone, thus this provides an ideal part for Michael Gough. He and his wife Carol find the ideal country retreat but "there's a dark side to every man's heaven," and here the fly is Spencer (Ronald Howard) the owner of the cottage, an artist and an even more tortured soul than Jeff. What's his dark secret? It must be related to his late wife's early death, and that just before she would have inherited her aunt's fortune. "Spencer's going to murder you, "Jeff confides to Carol, and with their car immobilised, it gets quite exciting, ending in violent struggle, but somehow this 40 minute film is over before it has quite got going
HOUSE OF THE SEVEN HAWKS (1959, directed by Richard Thorpe, MGM Studios, 4*) - "I knock with seven" are the dying words of a Dutch policeman who'd chartered a ship piloted by a one man maverick Johnny (Robert Taylor). Victor Canning's novels are always complex and this film is full of shady double dealings as sailor, crook and cop try to unravel the dead man's secret. "I think you know more about my father than you told inspector." Another typical line is "you've been lying to me all along!" But unfortunately the characters aren't convincing enough to make a convincing story.
LIFE IN DANGER (1959, directed by Terry Bishop, Walton Studios, 4*)-
Alec Miller has escaped from a prison for "criminal lunatics." He's a murderer. The film has some good studies of differing reactions to the danger: the calm Insp Bennett (Humphrey Lestocq) has to catch him, while the veteran Major (Howard Marion-Crawford) has his own idea of tracking down the villain, with his gun. Tension builds as The Man (Derren Nesbitt) is sheltered by the naive Hazel (Julie Hopkins- her last film) and her little brother Johnny. They listen to his stories in a barn, not quite like Whistle Down The Wind since the 16 year old girl is making eyes at him. The Major leads his posse to shoot the madman, the expected twist is well prepared
THE MAN WHO LIKE FUNERALS (1959, directed by David Eady, Twickenham Studios, 5*) - a gentle charm exudes from this unassuming film about the well meaning Simon Hurd (Leslie Phillips), who hits on a novel idea for raising the £4,000 needed to save a Boys' Cub. He attends the funerals of successful people. Firstly General Hunter, then informs his relatives that the general wrote a book on ballet dancing. For a consideration, Simon agrees not to publish. Next a late bishop who wrote intimate love poems, a Commie who had written a capitalist romance, and the headmistress of 'Rowdean' whose book is Sex And How To Get It. Simon comes unstuck with gangster Nick's Fairy Tales, "what would you like to die of?" He spends the rest of the film eluding his own funeral, and there are some pleasing lines on the way
NAKED FURY (1959, directed by Charles Saunders, 2*)- Impressive London night scenes as crooks drive to a disused warehouse after a £50,000 robbery. Unfortunately they've had to "bring along" the night watchman's daughter (Leigh Madison). Whilst boss Eddy guards her, the film loses momentum, following the rest of the gang- weak link is Syd (Arthur Lovegrove) whose embittered wife (Ann Lynn) wants her share Now! Johnny (Kenneth Cope) is being blakmailed whilst Steve (Tommy Eytle) gets desperate too. Best cameo is Denis Shaw as a ship captain who's to help them all escape, playing it in his best You Will Obey Orders- style. But everything falls apart, Syd murders his wife, Johnny tries to steal the loot, and the girl ("let's get acquainted,eh?") before justice punishes 'em all when the warehouse falls apart too, a bit like this whole film
THE NAVY LARK (1959, directed by Gordon Parry, Walton Studios, 4*)-
"Underground skullduggery" aboard the Compton minesweeper. Captain Povey, Old Thunderguts, is out to stop it. Stock comedy with routines like the enjoyable Leslie Phillips defusing a mine that he knows is a dud, but isn't actually. Then there's feigning yellow fever, and "a tinpot revolution," only this pseudo battle ain't that funny. Leslie is the only survivor from the original radio series, which has little connection otherwise with this disappointingly bland film. I put it down to Twentieth Century Fox. Cecil Parker as officer in charge, and Ronald Shiner as the fiddler in stores provide adequate support, but look ill at ease, and not just because they're rumbled in the actual story
THE PRICE OF SILENCE (1959, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 7*)-
Roger Fenton (Gordon Jackson) has begun a new life after serving a prison sentence for embezzling. Evidently following a novel, the story rushes on, as he gains experience in his new life as an estate agent working for 69 year old H Shipley, whose young bored wife Maria makes eyes at Roger, but he's more interested in recluse Audrey. 'The Slug' (Sam Kydd) is an old lag and Roger "has to keep his filthy trap shut," but his increased demands force Roger to resort to the only way out. The tension builds, but he finally rejects his crazy plan, thankfully, only to find himself charged with the murder of a wealthy client, killed in his office. Supt Wilson (Victor Brooks) untangles events, misled by Marcia's lies, and salvation for Roger comes from an unexpected source, "it's beginning to make sense now." A well worn theme, but well built up to a fine conclusion
AND THE SAME TO YOU (1959, Walton Studios, directed by George Pollock, 3*)-
Impressive credits both behind the camera and in front somehow fail to live up to expectation, though the film starts promisingly with Miles Malleson as a bumbling bishop appointing a new vicar who finds his church hall is being used as a boxing venue. Leo Franklyn is the hapless vicar, assisted by his nephew theology student Brian Rix up against second rate boxing promoter William Hartnell and his useless helper Tommy Cooper, completely wasted. Sid James adds a pleasing cameo, though only a cameo, as does Terry Scott, while Dick Bentley is irritating as a bookie. The implausible plot gets too bogged down in the noble art, with William Hartnell, knowing the script is letting him down, overdoes it
SAPPHIRE (1959, directed by Basil Dearden, Pinewood, 4*) - Two kids at the start, underacting on Hampsetead Heath, rather set the tone for this early attempt to explore racial prejudice set against the murder of a young student, victim of a hate killing. Nigel Patrick adds authority as the shrewd investigating officer and Olga Lindo as the future mother-in-law of the dead black girl gives a memorable cameo, but some of the young supporting cast needed to learn how to act, even making Michael Craig's sergeant believable for once. He comments: "these spades are a load of trouble, I reckon we should send them back where they come from." Our superintendent firmly puts him down for that, yet the suburban bigotry is always just a little too transparent. Indeed the whole film seems uncertain how to proceed, culminating in the final silly melodrama which is saved only by Earl Cameron's dignified performance as the butt of the killer's deep prejudice.
STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL (1959, directed by Charles Saunders, Twickenham Studios, 3*)- The Major (William Kendall) and The Commander (Richard Murdoch) are two down-on-their-luck conmen who are just the "strong courageous gentlemen" that a young heiress wants to run her company. They are briefed to modernise her firm, but in fact she is using their incompetence to undermine the business. The plot meanders along, with nice parts for William Hartnell and Bruce Seton before the pair confess their past and the swindler is unmasked. Although the cast do their best, the script by Brock Williams needed a much tighter focus on the two main characters
THIS OTHER EDEN (1959, directed by Muriel Box, Ardmore Stuios Ireland, 4*)-
Leslie Phillips is the most English of Englishmen, Crispin Brown, who's travelled to Ireland to bid on Kilgarrig House, and maybe for Moira wilful daughter of the local bigwig, though there's a rival in Conor. This starts as a gentle comedy of Irish eccentricity but the erection of a statue of a patriot raises those questions deep in the Irish psyche. An "atrocity" is this symbolic statue, even Crispin says it should be "blown up." When it is, he is chief suspect, but facing a lynch mob, his oratory wins them over, "the English come out of everything well." But then, to quote, "the Irish are the strangest people," and this film nearly wins you over
THE TREASURE OF SAN TERESA (1959 directed by Alvin Rakoff, National Studios Boreham Wood, 4*)- Compulsory American in this one is Eddie Constantine as Larry, a poor man's John Wayne, who'd hidden a box of jewels in the war in Czechoslovakia. With the help of the enigmatic Siebert (Marius Goring) and high class tart Hedi (another dud role for Dawn Addams) they retrieve it from a nunnery now apparently a police station. There's no undue excitement at all, except perhaps when Larry has to smash through a frontier post, I didn't realise it was so easy to escape from the Iron Curtain. To prolong the film, 'Inspector' Jaeger (Christopher Lee) now wants his hands on the treasure and Siebert turns out to be nothing but a suave double crosser, which we'd guessed anyway. A few more twists before the climax on the atmospheric Night Train to Munisch, "mein Gott in Himmel!" There's enough local colour to make the film watchable, and almost despite the main leads, Larry and Hedi make an interesting if ill matched pair. Now Larry can give her "a little lesson in anatomy," that's one way of putting it.
THR TROUBLE WITH EVE (1959 Mancunian Films but now made at Walton Studios, directed by Francis Searle, 4*)- The Willow Tree Tea Rooms face a council inspection, during which upright chairman Maitland (Robert Urquhart) sits on some cakes. A policeman sees him in his undies, or rather those of the owner (Hy Hazell).
Romance blossoms, until he catches a "glimpse of a modern babylon" as her daughter Eve (Sally Smith) is caught up in a wild party. Gossip ensues, the cafe being less like "cosy teas" more "like striptease".
The cunning of Eve ensures it's all patched up.
THE WHITE TRAP (1959, directed by Sidney Hayers, Beaconsfield Studions, 5*)- Inside for "something I didn't do," Paul Langley (Lee Patterson) is being transferred to Dartmoor, when he yet again makes a break for it. He's desperate to see his wife Joan, who's expecting their child. The contrast between her fear of dying, as her mother did, and his desperation is well done. A friend helps Paul elude the police, but with maternity being closely watched, how can he ever get to see his wife? Answer- pose as a casualty case, his face bandaged! But Sgt Morrison (Conrad Phillips) spots him and there's a chase around the corridors before Paul takes refuge in a doctor's party. But "desperate men make mistakes" and when Paul learns his baby is doing fine but his wife "has not much hope" he frantically dons a doctor's white coat and finds his wife- they smile, but it's only for a moment. "Just lousy" is the only way this can end now.
WITNESS IN THE DARK (1959, directed by Wolf Rilla, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
Young Don (Richard O'Sullivan) is being helped to learn to read Braille by kind Miss Jane Pringle (Patricia Dainton), who is helping him adjust to his despairing blindness. She's a kindly soul who helps everyone, but she is blind too. One of her friends is old Mrs Temple, whose one treasure is a £2,000 Indian brooch, which an unpleasant thief has set his eyes upon. He fails to discover its hiding place, but kills the old lady. The one witness is bound to be Jane, the classic story of the blind witness to a crime. It's frustrating for the police inspector (Conrad Phillips) who nevertheless persists in painstakingly reenacting the crime in a bid to turn up with a clue- or is he secretly attracted to her? This film also provides sharp observation of human ghoulishness in the slightly macabre. The climax is inevitably the return of the killer to steal the brooch that Jane has now inherited
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR WIFE (1959, directed by Anthony Simmons, Twickenham Studios, 2*)-
A muddled comedy that at least finishes fairly well, about Gay (Peggy Cummins) who, though she has inherited a small fortune, has to take in paying guests with her husband Pelham (Donald Sinden). There's a dancing mistress (Georgina Cookson) and a lunatic foreigner (overplayed by Peter Reynolds), the former is just plain dull while the latter is merely irritating. What passes for more fun is model Juliet, to whom Pel is more than a little attracted. Now a divorce would enable Gay to get hold of more of her inheritance, so this is the theme of the second part of the film, which has the best moment when the reluctant Pel tries his false seduction of the dancing teacher, "you dear good man," as she starts to seduce him. No, he really can't go through with this, but Juliet makes a much more appealing subject, and look, he's "kissing her like a wild beast"
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THE BOY WHO STOLE A MILLION (1960, directed by Charles Crichton, Pinewood Studios, 5*)- Paco's dad's taxi conks out. 10,000 pesetas to repair, so Paco helps out by helping himself at the local bank. Now the film is a long chase not merely by police, but by everyone villain in Valencia. A blind man is first to catch him, but it's easy to elude him. The stolen money is lost in a dust cart, retrieved, nicked by another lad, before the baddies snatch Paco, a fine study in human greed. The chase is far too protracted and the ending was always going to be difficult, but several moments of unexpected charm are compensation
DENTIST IN THE CHAIR (1960, directed by Don Chaffey, Pinewood Studios, 3*)-
Bob Monkhouse hasn't worn well, and dentistry is an edgy subject anyway. But offering expert tuition in the comedic art are Reginald Beckwith as The Lecturer, and Eric Barker as The Dean. For some reason "the laughing stock of the London underworld," Sam (Kenneth Connor), steals some dental equipment by accident, and this has to be "reburgled," not to mention other nefarious deeds which raise the occasional smile, and of course a sequence with laughing gas mustn't be missed out
DOUBLE BUNK (1960, directed by C Pennington-Richards, Twickenham Studios, 3*)- Sid James and Liz Fraser singing the title song set the mood for this nautical jaunt! On Christmas Island,
Jack (Ian Carmichael) and his fiancee Peggy buy an old houseboat, which proves to be dreadfully leaky, like the script, when they begin their honeymoon.
Another "catastophe" is Sid who persuades Jack to take his wife on a honeymoon cruise. This is a mildly amusing plot, pleasant, not uproariously funny,
but then Jack would have needed an actress wife more suited to comedy, such as Liz Fraser who almost
livens up the second half of the film when she accompanies Sid on the cruise. In the fog they end up in France, and some rather forced arguments and misadventures
flounder the film, even Liz's stripstease not reviving it. The boat returns to England in a race with rival captain Dennis Price (sadly wasted),
with Noel Purcell providing the best humour as a drunken sailor
THE GENTLE TRAP (1960, directed by Charles Saunders, Walton Studios, 2*)-
Johnny and Sam collect a nice little haul of diamonds in a safe job but are then attacked by rival crooks.
Their boss Ricky (Martin Benson) has had wind of the job via Johnny's girl Sylvia. Old Sam is killed but Johnny gets away.
The search is on. He hides with two sisters Jean and Mary: "heads Ricky gets you, tails the cops."
If the main lead had been a bit more charismatic, or even convincing, the film might have turned out less seedy:
"I never dreamt I'd help a murderer." If only Inspector Stevenson (the wonderful Trevor Reid here oddly billed as Colin Reid)
had been given a larger part! He enjoys an acerbic interview with Ricky as the two master actors exchange pleasantries.
Then Ricky catches up with Johnny "in a funeral procession", the police not far behind, as a feeble finale is reached
THE HAND (1960, directed by Henry Cass, Walton Studios, 4*)-
"Pretty fantastic, not very convincing," but though this threatens to become a grisly horror it never does. Charlie is found drunk in the street, £500 in his pocket, and an amputated hand. Inspector Munyard (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) questions Dr Simon Crawshaw who had performed surgery on Charlies with "gross incompetence." The doctor's cousin (Derek Bond) is behind a sinister plot, something deriving from his wartime cowardice, and he is only tracked down after several witnesses have been silenced. Script was co-written by Ray Cooney who plays the inspector's assistant Dave. The background music is typical early 60's beat, and good to see old favourite police car 892 FPC. I liked the final twist
HIS AND HERS (1960, directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst, AB Elstree, 4*)- Reggie Blake (Terry-Thomas) is a celebrated explorer and author, though his wife Fran knows he is really something of a fraud. When he returns home from his latest desert exploit, his pomposity drives her to write her own book, an expose of the real Reggie. As a result, they fall out, and divide their house in two. An added complication is the arrival of Simone who is deflected, if that is the word, by Reggie's publisher (Wilfrid Hyde-White), "fun is my middle name." Perhaps this is the best part of the film, WHW utterly out of character. By great good fortune, Reggie comes to see he has been "an absolute Charlie"
THE HOUSE IN MARSH ROAD (1960, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 3* aka Invisible Creature) -
A penniless writer, David and his wife Jean (typecast Tony Wright and Patricia Dainton) inherit Fourwinds, a large house, surely the ideal retreat for an author who needs peace.
But a poltergeist called Patrick is also in residence. David starts an affair with his typist Valerie
(Sandra Dorne), "quite a dish." They fall in love and the removal of the wife will complete their happiness. But Patrick has other ideas! When David tries to push Jean, Patrick intervenes, when David tries poison, the bells start wildly ringing.
She tells her solicitor who can't fathom her fears. "You make it all sound so silly." Which is perhaps exactly how it is! With Jean away, Valerie and David make love, but the last say is Patrick's, who causes the house to burn down, locking them in to burn to their deaths.
THE IMPERSONATOR (1960, directed by Alfred Shaughnessy, Pinewood, 3*)- Jane Griffiths always conveys an innocent vulnerability, as in this fine opening scene, of Anne walking home alone at night. Is it a stalker? When a local is killed, Jimmy from the US Air Force base is suspect, and anti-American feelings run high. Regrettably, it's spoiled by unconvincing acting from the dead woman's son Tommy, who tries to cry as he wonders where his mum is. Juxtapposition of the pantomime dame, who is the killer, on stage as Mother Goose and holding Tommy on stage, whilst police uncover the corpse is cleverly done, and John Arnatt's familiar sobering tones as the detective saves the film from complete ridicule. "Does Mother Goose really lay Golden Eggs?" asks Tommy in a line which sums this film up. Or perhaps it's "they're all gangsters, them Americans." The showdown exonerates the American as Tommy follows Mother Goose up to the gods, though, for me, he must win an AAA, Awful Acting Award
INN FOR TROUBLE (1960, directed by Pennington Richards, Walton Studios, 7*)-
For once an improvement on a tv series, a rather touching adventure of The Larkins who are transported to Devon to run a country pub,
The Earl Osbourne. It's a failing inn that is put "right back on the map," mainly through the "forceful personality" of Ada (Peggy Mount), conquering the
machinations of the likes of Alan Wheatley. A jolly theme tune by Phil Green and plenty of drinks, plus some gems of cameos from
the likes of Gerald Campion, Frank Williams, AE Matthews, Irene Handl, Willoughby Goddard,
Graham Moffatt and Stanley Unwin, with only Leslie Phillips disappointingly wasted
JACKPOT (1960, directed by Montgomery Tully, Walton Studios, 4*) - Though William Hartnell is billed as the star, he is hardly in it, as the police officer investigating a safe robbery at the Jackpot Club. £6,000 has been stolen, but a vigilant policeman had spotted the thieves and been shot dead for his troubles.
The club is run by crooked Sam (Eddie Byrne) who had used Karl to do his dirty work. Karl is now out of prison and wanting his pay, but Sam won't cough up and so Sam, with the help of Lenny, had helped himself from Sam's safe. Sam guesses what's happened and seeks his revenge, and after some rough stuff Karl is chased to the Arsenal football ground, a match v Burnley. This is a routine crime caper, the heist told in good detail, the most interesting character is reformed criminal Lenny (Michael Ripper unusually good), who is tempted by the money into helping Karl, and horrified when he's caught up in a murder hunt, "they hang you for killing coppers." Betty McDowall adds some class as Karl's estranged wife and Hartnell can always be relied upon to put in a few good touches
JAZZBOAT (1960, directed by Ken Hughes, MGM Studios, 6*) -Way out. Spider's Mob includes Bernie Winters as the appropriately named Jinx ("I'm not as dumb as I look") and David Lodge as a bearded leatherclad religious weirdo. While they are busy robbing 15,000 fags for peanuts, Bert (Anthony Newley) is dancing with "not a nice girl," jealous Spider's girl in fact. After the gang, adding his own nice dry humour is Lionel Jeffries as the rather jaded police inspector. Then there's the mainly square music supplied by Ted Heath and the like, but the film also includes lively dance numbers, one on location. The mix is rather uncomfortably stirred with occasional social comment on teenage hoodlums, but somehow the tongue-in-cheek fusion of genres works. Bert lays claim to being notorious thief The Cat and takes Spider's greenhorns to rob a jewellers, main interest being why he is doing so. "I'm top of the hit parade," he explains, or as Jinx remarks, "I suppose you know what you're doin'." Still, it doesn't matter why that much, for in a long showdown on the jazzboat, Spider tries to snatch the jewels from Bert, Anthony Newley dancing in drag with David Lodge the most incongruous part. "You're all man," Spider's doll tells Bert as the chase escalates and romance rises, though jollity is slightly marred by Spider's slashing and on to the surrealistic violent ending in a chamber of horrors- "how do you get out of here?" asks a tired old man, "is Chamberlain back from Europe?!"
NEVER LET GO (1960, directed by John Guillermin, Beaconsfield Studios, 8*)-
A crooked garage owner, that's the unsual role for Peter Sellers, with Adam Faith as his stooge who steals cars to order. He regrettably is the one weak link, unconvincing, not the accomplished actor he turned into.
Into this ruthless world steps mild family man Cummings (Richard Todd) for his brand new Ford Anglia is stolen. This is a breaking point for this salesman, his car essential for his job, now "we couldn't even afford to hire a bicycle." His work suffers in his single minded determination to find his car. He finds an eyewitness, newspaper vendor Alfie who is violently assaulted to keep his mouth shut. But Alfie has pointed Cummings to Tommy (Adam Faith) and his motorcycle gang and thence to Lionel Meadows (Sellers, unexpectedly effective in his evil looks). Cummings' doggedness riles Meadows whose relationship with tart Jackie deteriorates as Cummings in his plight grows closer to Anne his wife (Elizabeth Sellars). "I want my car... I've got to hang on to what's left." Here's the impressive theme as he simply has to "see it through."
Jackie can provide the vital lead, bringing on a tense standoff as Meadows bursts into Cummings family home. An ultimatum from Anne as the sense of evil grows, a disintegrating Meadows swearing to kill his nemesis and set fire to his wretched car, him inside. The theme is summed up in the one line from Anne, "so what makes your car so important?"
'Tis the High noon of the final clash, only as this is a film noir, 'tis blackest night. After that bloody showdown will the tortured salesman find his wife at home?
NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER (1960, directed by Cyril Frankel, Hammer Films, 5*)- A new high school principal (Patrick Allen) is told by his nine year old daughter Jean that she has been made to undress by an old man (Felix Aylmer), a founding father of this prosperous Canadian town. How can it ever be proved he"attacked her innocence" when it's her word against his? There's nothing at all smutty in this story, but I did find it too episodic, issues needed to be thrashed out more fully, before we reach the harrowing trial where Jean is interrogated by the nasty defence council Slade (Niall MacGinnis). Partly because Jean's corroborative witness is persuaded not to testify, the case is not proven, and this leads to the last part which is far more scarey (though it's hard to see how Britain gave this an X rating) as Felix Aylmer imitates a zombie chasing after Jean and her friend through the woods
THE NIGHT WE GOT THE BIRD (1960, directed by Darcy Conyers, Shepperton Studios, 10*) - Though not perfect, this is Brian Rix at his best with support from old stooge Leo Franklyn, plus Brighton's finest Dora Bryan. Lovely cameos from Irene Handly as the ma-in-law, dear Reg Beckwith as Champagne Charlie and John le Mesurier and Kynaston Reeves in a travesty of courtroom justice. The story revolves round green Bertie Skidmore who's called in to authenticate Brighton knocker-boy Cecil's fake furniture. When Cecil is killed Bertie marries Cecil's wife only to find his wedding night interrupted by "dementia peacocks" in the form of a parrot, which is Cecil reincarnate. Knocked by many, I just love this absurd piece of farcical nonsense, British cinema at its innocent best
NO KIDDING (1960, directed by Gerald Thomas, Pinewood, 4*)- Master David (Leslie Phillips) and his wife open a holiday home for rich children. The child actors aren't all bad, a bunch of children with their own spoilt problems, mostly their absent parents. Julia Lockwood and Francesca Annis are two of the older kids, the sombre storyline perks up with the arrival of Joan Hickson as the inebriate cook, as well as, briefly, Esme Cannon as an "interfering busybody" of a nurse. It's a mildly amusing study of Liberty Hall, a clash between freedom and discipline for children with some heavy serious interludes. A prank too far with a car brings about the crisis, "I'll murder them!" David and family "muddle through," via some light hearted fun, though the finish sums up the film, which tries to be a comedy but is always oddly veering in the direction of some moral point. Weirdest of all is the introduction of Michael Sarne, while Irene Handl is cast in a part strangely out of character
OCTOBER MOTH (1960, directed by John Kruse, Beaconsfield Studios, 2*) -
Finlay (Lee Patterson) rescues a woman from a car smash and carries her to his farmhouse bed. He decides she is his dead mother, but he is an utterly demented soul, seriously ill, cared for by his sister Molly (Lana Morris), who is a sympathetc character, though her actions are never entirely plausible. She meets Tom who tries to get the woman to hospital, Molly desperate to get Finlay to admit the truth about his tortured past with his father. The inevitable crisis, as Tom and he come face to face, the unremitting blackness bringing on the inevitable ending, too obvious, implausible, corny too
OFFBEAT (1960, directed by Cliff Owen, Shepperton Studios, 6*)- "I'll have the key to your safe please," a daring one man bank robbery, committed by Layton (William Sylvester), actually a policeman undercover. His task- infiltrate a highly organised gang, "I can't afford to make mistakes." But maybe he does just that when, after getting into a "firm," he falls for Ruth (Mai Zetterling). He admires the organisation so much, the interest is whether he will change sides, as the tunnel into Imperial Jewellers. Of course, he's found out, will Ruth expose him after the successful job, clean getaway with three quarters of a million?
PICCADILLY THIRD STOP (1960, directed by Wolf Rilla, Pinewood Studios, 3*)-
"Society jackass" Dominic (Terence Morgan) is an unlikeable rogue. While relieving a Mayfair wedding reception of some trinkets, he falls for Fina, an oriental "cherry blossom," and plans to rob her rich dad's safe of £100,000. With her blinkered assistance, and help from Chrissy (Mai Zetterling) who's incredibly also in love with him, and even the dim "scrubber" Mouse (Ann Lynn), Chrissy's 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 the inevitable falling out. This is very much of the Sixties, just before relaxing of censorship made all the love scenes too unsubtle. The final chase along the Tube has its moment, but the director cheats us with his cop out ending, I'm afraid like Dominic, "he hasn't got the good form in crime"
THE PROFESSIONALS (1960, directed by Don Sharp, Pinewood Studios, 5*) - 'Inspector Cooper' (Stratford Johns) does "a really beautfiul job" at a bank, a preliminary to to bigger crime, for which he needs expert Phil Bowman (William Lucas), who's just been released from prison. "I thought I'd settle down," Phil begins. "You can settle down when you're dead!" Phil's fiance Ruth (Colette Wilde) wants him to go straight, but his well worn excuse is "it's my last job." Meticuluous planning, so what can go wrong? Entry into the City Bank is the traditional route via the sewers, explosives bust the safe. Anyone could do this, you feel. Except the emptying of the safe has to be done to split second precision, the alarm ringing. Whilst police flash in through the front door, the thieves exit the way they entered. The perfect crime. A routine caper, but it's police routine that puts the Yard on to Bowman, just after his wedding too. Panic: "that's the way it goes," says Phil to Ruth. Nice final scene as she removes his figurine from their wedding cake
THREE ON A SPREE (1960 directed by Sidney J Furie, Walton Studios, 3^)- A forgotten version of Brewster's Millions which provides some delightful fun for Jack Watling, but the film, after a lively start, sadly loses its drive in a poor second half. Mike Brewster has been saving for five years to get married to Susan (Carole Lesley). At last he's got enough, but then he's told he will inherit eight million, if he can fulfil his uncle's bequest- spend one million in 60 days- this so he can "learn to hate spending money." With his two bemused ex-work mates (Colin Gordon and John Slater) he starts his spree- "which bank did you rob this morning?" They set up Brewster and Co with schemes to lose money on roulette, horses, shows, anything- but somehow they all win Brewster more money- "everything I touch turns to gold!"
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THE BREAKING POINT (1961, directed by Lance Comfort, Walton Studios, 3*)-
As Eric Winlater (Peter Reynolds) owes cash, it's rather handy he works in his uncle's engraving firm, which has just won the new currency contract for the Middle Eastern state of Lalvadore. Ripe for blackmail by smooth embassy worker Peter, his wife is two timing him with journalist Robert (Dermot Walsh). The characters are built up well enough, but too slowly for a one hour film. Eric passes details of the contract to Peter who then offers Eric even more for hijacking the van carrying all the cash to Gatwick. Snatching the fortune almost works, only Robert has tailed Eric. "You incompetent fool!" But the fool shows a final spark of decency bringing on an exciting fight outside a plane in flight
DENTIST ON THE JOB (1961, directed by CM Pennington Richards, Shepperton Studios, 1*)- Dreem versus Glow, a battle of the toothpastes. JJ (Eric Barker) of Proudfoot Industries is running Dreem's failing advertising campaign, which he revives by using two second rate dentists, from the film Dentist in the Chair, Cookson and Dexter, with the help of their dodgy pal Sam. They invent an improved product, en route with the odd good gag, and some cringing ones. Their biggest coup is getting their ad broadcast from outer space. There is also an interesting scene from the quiz Take Your Pick. But the film lacks any sparkle or even direction, and fades miserably
DURING ONE NIGHT (1961 directed by Sidney Furie, Walton Studios, 0*)- a modest film that thinks too much of itself, with sickly music that drowns the angst of the actors as well as me. In the war pilot Mike is injured so that, as he puts it, "I'm not a man any more." This is double speak for if I can say it sex, but it turns out he never has been 'a man' anyway. His co-pilot Don hasn't either and proves the point in a salacious scene with a prostitute, where he can't do it. A barmaid (Susan Hampshire) consoles him with "sometimes when you talk about something you feel better," but all this talking in veiled tones about "trying the product" is very wearing and her own motive was perhaps the only interest I could find. "I don't want to die without ever being a man," he tells her, so in a deserted barn at the "don't tell me, show me" point, very unromantically she strips off. However "nothing happened," as she tells her mum later, he really can't. If you can follow this tragedy to the end you get to a discussion about love and the surprisingly moral conclusion for the Sixties that love is the answer, which of course he finds and becomes etc etc, in this film truly of its age and awful
FIVE GOLDEN HOURS (1961, directed by Mario Zampi, MGM Borehamwood Studios, 3*)- I love all Zampi's films- except this one. He excelled in studies of British eccentrics, but here he turns his attention on one Italian funeral director Aldo (Ernie Kovacs) who befriends lonely widows, until he meets his love in the attractive shape of the Baroness Sandra. Her late husband had devised his own investment swindle, which Aldo recreates to woo his widow. He uses the fortunes of his other widows to pay off Sandra's debts, only to find out she is nothing but a swindler herself. He feigns amnesia as the story drags on in a mental home, until one of his widows expires, almost leaving him a fortune. It is then that Sandra reappears...
GIRL ON APPROVAL (1961, directed by Charles Frend, 5*)-
Fourteen year old Sheila is a teenager nobody wants for she is aggressive, wilful, "what's going to happen to her?" Fostered with an ordinary suburban family, her social worker "doesn't expect miracles." The film is constantly on edge as she threatens to ruin the happy family and their marriage. After yet another bitchy row, Sheila runs off into the night, easy prey. However she is found by her foster father in the nick of time. The final scene is quite touching, though maybe does not answer the deeper questions
HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Beaconsfield Studios, 5*)- For sale, the idyllic Orchard Cottage for only £2,500, "it's fantastic." A "dream house," but there must be some catch. There is. Mark, a previous inventor owner had been electrocuted here. The Trevors had purchased the property, and were horrified to see Mark's ghost. They call in a psychic (Colin Gordon) who introduces them to a medium who reenacts the tragedy. Mark's wife had attempted to electrocute her husband in his bath. When this fails, his revenge makes him wire up the entire sitting room to kill her and her lover, "he's insane, he must be"
INFORMATION RECEIVED (1961, directed by Robert Lynn, Shepperton Studios, 5*)-
Stevens is shipped to England for some big job, but police pick him up. Rick (William Sylvester) takes Stevens' place, and is sprung by Vic from jail in a dustbin. Just avoiding a roadblock he reaches a hideout cottage. Here the action slows as Rick gets pally with Sabina, Vic's wife. Soon they are kissing, "gosh, you're beautiful." Vic is to drive Rick to Paterson's garage to meet the boss Harry Drake (Edward Underdown), but Sabina warns him it's a trap, and Rick drives there on his own. She then shoots Vic and claims Rick did it. She seems to be planning a world cruise with Drake when this job's done. An enigmatic character she is, but sadly her part is not well acted and the film falls as a result. Rick's part of the robbery is to open a factory safe and here the action is more straightforward, as a valuable blueprint is nicked. But it is Drake who is nicked, and Sabina is also caught, "a notorious character"
JOHNNY NOBODY (1961, directed by Nigel Patrick, Ardmore Studios, 5*)-
"God will punish him," Father Carey prophesies of an American blasphemer (William Bendix). When a stranger shoots him for openly defying God, popular sentiment is with him when he goes on trial. The question posed to the priest is, was this Johnny Nobody or God responsible? Father Carey's religious questioning turns into a more obvious murder story, when the killer's wife comes on the scene. It's almost The 39 Steps, as the priest is arrested, handcuffed and has to avoid the law in order to see justice done. This change of pace is uncomfortable, with too long a delay before the final dramatic courtroom denouement
JUNGLE STREET (1961, directed by Charles Saunders, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
At the Adam and Eve Club, I'm Only a Girl is the lively song that starts off this film, echoes of MM.
"The lovely Sue" (Jill Ireland) has many admirers, including Terry (David McCallum) a yob who attacks a 65 year old man for a few quid. "This is a hanging case."
Johnnie (Kenneth Cope) had been his partner in crime until the latter got caught. Now he's out of the Scrubbs and they plan to rob the club, "a pushover." But it's not, since Terry doublecrosses his pal, all on account of Sue. The alarm goes off. It's an exciting showdown- "he's got a gun!"
THE MAN IN THE BACK SEAT (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Beaconsfield Studios, 3*) - NTE718 is the car. Two tearaways have nicked it, the evil Tony, and his underling Frank. Their victim is Joe, greyhound bookie. They snatch his money bag, but there's one problem, they have to snatch him also, it's chained to his wrist. From hereon this is one long frustration for the crooks, and the audience. No key to unlock it, car parked in someone's way, Frank's wife Jean suspicious, puncture, Joe beaten up, Joe dumped but spotted by a policeman, quack doctor diagnoses a punctured lung, "he's dead." Crooks scarper scared, "you've got yourself into a fine mess." Well does this prove crime does not pay, or what?
MARY HAD A LITTLE (1961, directed by Edward Buzzell, Walton Studios, 4*)- Failing theatrical agent Scott Raymond (Jack Watling) bets with Dr Mal Nettel (John Bentley) that he can't make a woman produce The Perfect Baby via hypnotism. Really. Scott cheats by persuading a can-can dancer from Cannes, Mary, to be the subject of this improbabe medical experiment. The treatment of this deception is too plodding as Mary is set up in Shakespeare's cottage, with, er, "a better plot than you ever had." Obviously, with scenes such as Scott hypnotised into believing "I'm going to have a beautiful baby." Weirder is Mary's dream when the bard comes to life. But the film finishes with a flourish with Scott hiding Mary in his bedroom to avoid the eyes of his long time fiancee Laurel (Hazel Court). A shotgun wedding nearly follows, with a finale in the police station with Terry Scott sorting out the wild muddle
MURDER ON THE CAMPUS (1961, Marylebone Studios director Michael Winner 5*)- "Why should he fall out of his own window?" asks reporter Mark Kingston of Tony, his brother, a scholarship student at Leicester College Cambridge. Mark plays "boy detective"
while Insp Wills (Donald Gray) holds a nonchalant watching brief as masonry falls on one witness and another is strangled, "he may be on to something."
The theft during the war of antiques is behind this run-of-the-mill adventure but Terence Longden as Mark gives it all some integrity, even coping with a couple of dud actresses. There's an odd apppearance "indubitably" unrelated to anything in particular by Robertson Hare, and the location shooting in the university city gives it some credibility
THE NIGHT WE DROPPED A CLANGER (1961, directed by Darcy Conyers, National Studios Borehamwood, 3*)-
A top RAF wallah, the insufferably superior Wing Commander Blenkinsop (Brian Rix), must go on a secret mission to France to learn the secrets of the flying bomb. Like Monty, he needs a double to throw the Nazis off the scent in North Africa, but the only lookalike proves to be a cackhanded lavatory attendant. The contrasts between the two characters is unsubtle, though the attempts to turn one into t'other produces some funny moments, as when the private returns to inspect his old late superiors. With bungling Sir Bertram Bukpasser (Cecil Parker) nominally in charge, it's no wonder there's a mix up and it's the real Blenkinsop who is despatched to Africa. Comedy with a war theme is never easy to bring off, and even the pleasing cameos from Leslie Phillips, William Hartnell, Hattie Jacques and Irene Handl fail to lift this one. That said, the improbable triumph of the idiot against the Nazis is assured, even if the the film then takes a bit too long to wind down
THE PAINTED SMILE- (1961, Shepperton Studios, directed by Lance Comfort, 4*) -
Mark (Peter Reynolds) and Jo (Liz Fraser) run a blackmail racket: she picks up a likely man, this time student Tom at a club. But Mark has been knifed, Tom won't be seduced, instead he helps her dispose of the corpse in his car. Not a good idea as he's half drunk. Tom's two pals and his fiancee Mary help trace the killer, the man with the inevitable limp, the sinister Limey, not too tough a task as he's after Tom too. At one point this film is more akin to Room at the Top, but mostly it's a 50s crime chase with 60s music. "We're going to look after you," Limey promises Tom and Jo once he's got them, "you've just got to disappear." Motivation not clear, but there's always the catchy theme song to enjoy, sung by Craig Douglas
PAYROLL (1961, directed by Sidney Hayers, Beaconsfield Studios, 8*)- Villains are planning to snatch the large payroll from an armoured van. As we meet the van drivers and their families, what follows is moving, as the crooks' Jag forces the van to swerve and crash. It is rammed mercilessly until it yields its contents. Several deaths follow in this tensest of holdups. The aftermath is impressive also, as the villains fall out over the distribution of their dead colleague's share. We see the devastation of ruined lives, except for the insider's wife, who provides "the sex angle," making off with the boss of the gang. Then there's the ice cool widow of the dead driver, who causes the insider to crack up, before she hunts down her late husband's killer. Only thing wrong with the film is the extraordinary lack of any local accent- it is set in Newcastle
PIT OF DARKNESS (1961, directed by Lance Comfort, Twickenham Studios, 7*)-
why is Logan (William Franklyn) lying unconscious on a Wapping bomb site? His wife Julie tells him he has been missing for three weeks. He can't remember anything. He is phoned by Mavis, but who is she? It seems she lives at Nightingale Cottage, so he goes there, and is nearly killed by a bomb. Minor flashes of memory take him to the Blue Baboon Club and a dance with the elusive Mavis. She is soon dead. His business manufactures safes and the mystery clears when he is required to open another safe in this excellent thriller. Footnote: a young Dave Clark can be seen on drums in the nightclub sequence
POSTMAN'S KNOCK (1961, directed by Robert Lynn, MGM Borehamwood Studios, 6*)- Tho' Spike Milligan is the star, this is really only a run-of-the-mill British comedy, and no worse for that. Spike gets plenty of opportunity for visual comedy, such as grappling with an automatic door, but the script gives him little scope with verbal gags. However, others are given brief chances, such as Warren Mitchell as Rupert, leader of the crooks, and his assistant cockney Arthur Mullard, who has one fun moment with Milligan where he pretends he's French! Archie Duncan as the police inspector does his
usual marvellous portrait of bumbling incompetence: "we're not as stupid as we look"
A PRIZE OF ARMS (1961, directed by Cliff Owen, 5*)- "You've got to take some risks," in this tense heist undertaken by three villains. An ambitious plan has been hatched to raid an army base pay office, "pretty risky." The robbery is shown in meticulous detail, led by Stanley Baker. A fire alarm evacuates the building with the cash in, enabling the crooks to bust into the strong room amid the confusion, then blow the safe. The cash is eventually smuggled out of the army camp in the tyres of an army lorry, "we've done it!" They make for their hideout but an unforeseen event proves their downfall. Not a woman in sight in this story, the crooks' plan seems exceptionally complex, you almost hope they'll be rewarded
SHE KNOWS Y'KNOW (1961, directed by Montgomery Tully, Twickenham Studios, 4*)- Cyril Smith plays his traditional henpecked husband, a good foil for the great Hylda Baker. The northern setting and storyline seem pure 1950s, though the music like the chacha is more withit. For a while the comedy is drowned by the pop singer made good motif, as Terry is offered his big chance in London- indeed he has talent and does well, though in real life this singer (Tim Connor) didn't make it to the top. Also 1960s is the teenage pregnancy, the best part the sparring between rival grandmothers, Hylda v Joan Sanderson. A victim has to be found to admit paternity, but you feel Hylda isn't quite at home without a live audience, and the fun never finds its potential, though it's pleasing enough
STRONGROOM (1961, directed by Vernon Sewell, Twickenham Studios, 4*)- Easter Saturday, three crooks wait for the bank to close for the holiday at lunchtime. Mr Spencer the prim manager (Colin Gordon) and his secretary (Miss Taylor) are last to go, and they don't for in walks a postman and the keys are sntached to open the vault. Tensely told, all goes really well until the arrival of two cleaners, the thieves leave their two prisoners locked in the strongroom and escape. They develop a conscience of sorts and their leader Griff (Derren Nesbitt) orders his mate to tip off the police. But he is accidentally killed as the film loses some momentum, and as Griff and Len decide to break back into the bank to rescue their hostages. Good character studies, but a very frustrating storyline
TWO LETTER-ALIBI (1961 directed by Robert Lynn Shepperton Studios, 4*)
- Charles Hilary (Peter Williams) is separated from Louise his wife. Now she hates him and won't give him a divorce so he can marry TV personality Kathy. When Louise is shot dead, he is the obvious suspect for the acerbic Supt Bates (Stratford Johns). When Charles is picked out at an identity parade he is arrested. The film moves to his trial, shown in some detail. The verdict... Guilty. In Brighton, Kathy discovers a hotel where Louise had stayed with a male lover. Unwisely Charles makes a break for it but is recaptured. Kathy then proves Charles' questionable alibi so he is happily pardoned and the killer caught. Perhaps the film tries too hard to cover too many bases
TWO LIVING ONE DEAD (1961 directed by Anthony Asquith, 4*)- A study of the aftermath of a Swedish post office robbery in which an employee is killed. Fellow worker Anderson (Bill Travers) emerges as a hero, whilst Berger (a typical Patrick McGoohan role) is a "cowerd." You might think it would be difficult to sustain this for over 100 minutes, but you'd be wrong. It's impossible. But nonetheless interesting, when Berger's befriended by one of the thieves- "it needn't have happened at all," Berger is told. Is this a comment on Two Living, which concludes with the hero exposed in a second 'robbery' staged by the coward himself?
THE UNSTOPPABLE MAN (1961, directed by Terry Bishop, 6*)-
Kidnap of young Jimmy at Hyde Park Corner, a routine story but Jimmy's dad is self made business millionaire James Kennedy (Cameron Mitchell) and he's not just a doting dad, he also has his own unorthodox methods, "I have my own way of handling things." Thus he don't see eye to eye with Inspector Hazelrigg (Marius Goring) and their uneasy relationship is at the heart of this drama. "I'm not working with the police," he announces, and Hazelrigg, more experienced in such matters than Kennedy can credit, plays along. The last half is the tense drop of ransom money, twice what the crooks demand, the tracking of the kidnappers to their hideout in Hampstead, and the final recovery of Jimmy with the aid of a lethal fire extinguisher
WATCH IT, SAILOR! (1961, directed by Wolf Rilla, Bray Studios, 2*)- The great Bobby Howes gets us off to a good start with his drunk cameo, and Frankie Howerd as the organist and Arthur Howard as the vicar add pleasing touches in the opening. As a belated follow up to the film Sailor Beware, this has a mostly different cast, Irene Handl making a fine replacement for the irreplaceable Esma Cannon, though Marjorie Rhodes in the Peggy Mount role of Emma tries to dominate, but only makes herself less comic, a shade too unpleasant. Her husband Henry again turns at the end of the too predictable plot, a tedious story is about Shirley and Albert's postponed wedding. Even the arrival of Dennis Price half way through fails to liven things up, too much bickering until at last the couple "fly in the face of Emma," and thus they live happily ever after, though the memory of this film doesn't
WHAT A CARVE UP! (1961, directed by Pat Jackson, Twickenham Studios, 5*)- To Blackshaw Towers, remote on the moors, goes Ernie (Kenneth Connor), accompanied by his mate Honest Sid (Sid James) at the behest of late Uncle Gabriel. "There's something creepy about this place," as other relatives are bumped off, in the traditional mix of secret passages, screams and creaking doors. There are even baying hounds a la Baskerville. Yet it's all performed with zest by the principals, ably assisted by the deadpan Dennis Price and the "zombie" Donald Pleasence. All overacting, "nutty as a fruitcake," especially the understated mad butler (Michael Gough) and dear Aunt Emily (Esma Cannon)
WHAT A WHOPPER (1961, directed by Gilbert Gunn, Pinewood, 5*) -
Here's the story of a down-at-heel writer (Adam Faith) who attempts to convince the world that the Loch Ness Monster is real. Adam Faith wasn't a proficient actor as yet, Terence Longdon (plus thick-set glasses) wasn't a comedy natural and Carole Lesley was just a pretty face. But there's plenty of professional comedy to admire: Spike Milligan fishing and nearly catching a Monster, Freddie Frinton at his inebriate best and Sid James (who else?!) as a slightly crooked landlord. And then there are the usual caricatures- the incompetent police (Terry Scott) and the belligerent Scots (Archie Duncan). Adam sings the title song and one other love song to prove he really was quite talented
A WEEKEND WITH LULU (1961, directed by John Paddy Carstairs, Shepperton Studios, 4*)- Lulu is "a mobile love nest," ie an old caravan for Tom (Leslie Phillips) to borrow for use with Deirdre (Shirley Eaton). The caravan is "a bit intimate," ie cramped. The only snag is that her mother (Irene Handl) comes too for "quite an adventure."
Stranded in France, the plot becomes a mildly enjoyable romp taking them slowly home, "who's that girl?" Pursued by rozzers, one haven is a chateau owned by an amorous count. Cash is raised by various dubious means, and spent as quickly, including a betting swindle on the Tour de France
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BAND OF THIEVES (1962, directed by Peter Bezencenet, Pinewood, 6*) - What starts as a cheapskate imitation of Two Way Stretch continues as a more conventional rags to riches showbiz musical with plenty of jolly numbers from Aker Bilk. Finally it decides to be a crime caper, but although a muddle, I found it a pleasant muddle with its generous points, such as the opportunity for the also-rans to shine for a second, as for example when the cleaning lady dusts as Aker plays. Michael Peake has a ferocious part as chief warder and Geoffrey Sumner reprises his Army Game role as the trad loving prison governor
THE BREAK (1962, directed by Lance Comfort, Shepperton Studios, 1*)-
Prisoner Jacko (William Lucas) has escaped and is holed out in a remote Dartmoor farmhouse hotel. "Expect trouble," but it's very tedious with a dull collection of guests: writer Greg Parker (Tony Britton), private detective Pearson, and Sue, Jacko's brother, who falls for Greg. One dead body later, "the Lord will punish you," says a religious simpleton, but in trying to wreak vengeance on Jacko, only gets killed himself. Greg is made of sterner stuff and after a slightly exciting chase, persuades Sue not to flee abroad with her brother, who almost gets away, but not quite. Revenge all but ends this sick tale which never quite manages to get you hooked
DANGER BY MY SIDE (1962, directed by Charles Saunders, Shepperton Studios, 4*)- There's a fine opening sequence showing a bank robbery, successful except Bernie Hewson trips and is caught. After a spell behind bars, he naturally wants his boss, Nicky Venning (Alan Tilvern at his nasty best) to come good, and Hewson is given a job at Venning's Acme Warehouse. The police are investigating this front, and undercover cop Terry is killed in a hit and run accident. His boss Det Insp Willoughby tries to give Terry's sister Lynne (Maureen Connell) a little help in exposing the gang as she gets a job at Nicky's nightclub, where the catchy title song is sung. Yes, this is very typical early Sixties fare, slightly seedy, redeemed by the electric guitars in the background music. Lynne is befriended by the kind club manager Sam (Bill Nagy) who amazingly knows nothing of Venning's shady activities. But Hewson rumbles Lynne, and she is tied up on Venning's boat Harlequin, where the police hunt ends rather tamely. The best bit for me was the little scene as the crooks are rounded up, and the honest gatekeeper at Acme, played by Wally Patch, is escorted into a police car protesting his innocence
DILEMMA (1962, directed by Peter Maxwell, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
One of those frustrating films, well done, about Harry, a teacher embarking on his summer hols. He returns home from school to find Jean his wife has gone, and, worse, a corpse in the bathroom. He has to cover up for her, and does so by digging a hole for it under the floor in the lounge of his modern suburban semi. All along the line he is thwarted by interruptions, particularly his nosey neighbour, but also his mother, two nuns, a blind piano tuner, a piano pupil, and finally the police. They call about a seemingly unrelated matter, "a nasty piece of work," actually the corpse, who has been blackmailing people. Then Jean comes home, though we know she had been intending to flee the country, alone. She claims not to know anything about the dead man, but what is the truth?
THE IRON MAIDEN (1962, directed by Gerald Thomas, Pinewood, 2*)-
Jack Hopkins is the brilliant designer of a new aircraft, but his heart is with his hobby, traction engines. Michael Craig is no funny man, here as wooden as ever, and hardly helped by the acting of his romantic partner. Cecil Parker as his boss gives us the odd moment of Parker magic, but Noel Purcell, when he is on camera, is the main provider of what laughs there are, aided by Brian Oulton, his tentative man of the cloth assistant. Alan Hale as the big cuddly American does his part well enough. The fun, if that's the word, culminates in Jack absurdly slapping his girl's backside. However this is mostly pleasantly genteel and if you like steam engines it might be appealing, but not in the scintillating manner of Genevieve or The Titfield Thunderbolt
JIGSAW (1962, directed by Val Guest, AB Elstree Studios, 8*) - The opening scene is pure 'kitchen sink' but thankfully this quickly transforms into an impressive thriller effectively using Brighton as its backdrop. An absorbing account of how the police, led by a fairly rotund Jack Warner, track down a murderer. Two mysteries in the jigsaw are: 1. Why has someone stolen the only copy of the lease of the cliff house where the killing took place, and 2. Why had the killer stopped half way through dismembering the corpse? The biggest puzzle however is tracing who the dead girl was- clues include an A55 saloon and the trunk in which the corpse was found. It's a tough case to crack with a lot of dead ends- "I am not Agatha Christie, so we'll have to start again at the beginning."
LADIES WHO DO (1962, direced by CM Pennington-Richards, Twickenham Studios,4*)-
The Colonel (Robert Morley) has a gem of a cleaning lady in Mrs Cragg (Peggy Mount), who also happens to work at the offices of Jim Ryder (Harry H Corbett), a flash property developer. Inadvertently she brings The Colonel a scrap of paper relating to a takeover and he buys shares. "It isn't right." But maybe it is since the ruthless Jim's scheme is to demolish the houses where Mrs Cragg and her fellow chars live.Together they rummage in the waste paper baskets of their employers, passing a heap of rubbish on to The Colonel. He moves into posh premises as their business booms. Jim's demolition plans encounter setbacks when "a few old bags" hold up the destruction of the houses, overlong but a fun climax
LUNCH HOUR (1962, directed by James Hill, Marylebone Studios, 1*)- A secret tryst in a seedy hotel, the first half of the film shows how this couple have ended up here, the scene is nicely built up, a portrait of two very normal ordinary people, he 13 years older than her. Having got them ensconced in their love nest, the film then fails to build on what it has begun as she changes character. By a devious deception, to protect their innocence he has booked this room, but frustration is all they, and we, receive. Peculiarly, she brings his lies to life, despite his protests, turning the film into the kitchen sink. Sorry, all credibility has gone just as they have lost all hope of fulfilment. "It's all over"- thank goodness
NIGHT OF THE PROWLER (1962, directed by Francis Searle, Shepperton Studios, 2*) -
Robert (Patrick Holt) is estranged from his lovely wife Marie (Colette Wilde). His partner in their racing car engineering firm is murdered, and Robert is warned that he is next on the list. It must be the work of Don Lacey, whom the three of them had testified against, getting him sent to jail. Inspector Cameron (good old John Horsley) is on to the criminal almost as soon as I was. The title might imply a tense drama, which this certainly is not
OUT OF THE FOG (1962, directed by Montgomery Tully, Twickenham Studios, 5*)-
George Mallon is a "prison regular," kindly Tom Daniels (James Hayter) offers him a room in his hostel for ex-cons. However, this doesn't develop on predictable lines, offering a sad picture of his rejection by a girlfriend when she learns of his past, and even sadder, his own mother spurning him. Though he seems on the path of reform, when a blonde is murdered, he is the top suspect. John Arnatt as Supt Chadwick investigates with his usual dry humour and gets a blonde policewoman to go undercover and befriend George. She ends up alone with him in a foggy isolated place...
THE PRIMITIVES (1962, directed by Alfred Travers, Pinewood Studios 4*)-
Jan Holden got her first starring film role with a fine part, an attractive intelligent boss of a gang of jewel robbers, travelling undercover as variety artists, Cheta and her three male partners. Having successfully eluded Inspector Wills and his Canadian assistant Bob Henry, they are planning that one last job. It's the big one, Hatton Garden, and it's a piece of cake. Only one slight hitch, the flat the gang borrow to gain entry into the diamond merchants isn't empty as planned, journalist John Turner needs to be distracted by Cheta. But the one hitch opens up further complications, in that she falls for him. That brings on jealousy from one gang member who places a bomb in John's case as he flies off from London Airport. The police have almost tracked down the gang, though questioning John is unnecessarily long and the drama loses its edge. However the last scene is effective, as Cheta has to break airport security in order to tackle John on the tarmac to prevent a tragedy
SERENA (1962, directed by Peter Maxwell, Shepperton Studios, 5*)- Det Insp Gregory (Patrick Holt) investigates the murder of an artist's estranged wife. Rogers had separated from her three years ago, his alibi is his model Serena Vaughan, whom we only see in her portrait. She has disappeared. But we do meet Ann, his wife (Honor Blackman) who isn't dead after all! "It's a complicated story," the search for Serena the key to solving the case. A neat little drama with a good final twist
SEVEN KEYS (1962, directed by Pat Jackson, Beaconsfield Studios, 2*)-
Group Captain James Jefferson is killed in a car crash, coincidentally his father, in jail having robbed £20,000, also dies. Thus prisoner 7866 Fred Russell (Alan Dobie) inherits the dead man's seven keys, obviously a clue to the missing money, and the film moves pedestrianly through the motions as Russell works out what the keys are for, shadowed by rival crooks.
Jefferson's loyal secretary Miss Steele (Jeannie Carson) helps him trace one key to a safe deposit, another to his house where Fabia Drake and Robertson Hare give us a moment's comedy relief as the frightened new occupants. ORW120 was Jefferson's car, and new owner Colin Gordon adds another moment of fun, but only a moment in this tedious and very complictaed search. The key to James' flat leads to fiancee Natalie, a model, who had been blackmailing Jefferson after a drink driving road accident. Russell makes love to her before blackmailing her in return, he's no moral hero though somehow, under the gentle influence of Miss Steele he emerges as one
TOUCH OF DEATH (1962, directed by Lance Comfort, Twickenham Studios, 4*)-
William Lucas is typecast as Pete, the leader of a gang who rob a garage safe. In a dramatic opening, one of the thieves is killed while Pete and Len run off with a cool £17,000. What they don't know is that the notes have been covered with cyanide, stored in the safe. Len starts going downhill, poisoned, as the pair hide on a boat. This is their escape route, taking as hostages the tenant and a little girl. You can guess how it will end as Inspector Maxwell (Ray Barrett) corners them, but there is a twist in the tense chase, even though A Touch of Death lacks A Touch of much Excitement
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