13 East Street (1952)

“I’ve lived in a jungle all my life. She who bites first bites last—that’s my motto.”

UK / 69 minutes / bw / Tempean, Eros Dir: Robert S. Baker Pr: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman Scr: John Gilling, Carl Nystrom Story: Robert S. Baker Cine: Monty Berman Cast: Patrick Holt, Sandra Dorne, Sonia Holm, Robert Ayres, Dora Bryan, Michael Balfour, Hector MacGregor, Michael Brennan, Alan Judd, Michael Ward, Alan Gordon, Harry Towb.

A likable, extremely competent (aside from the abominably staged fisticuffs) but hardly memorable programmer from a time when such movies were the heart of British cinema. And it comes complete with a rooftop chase!

Gerald Blake (Holt) holds up a jewelry store in London but is caught by the cops as he tries to make his getaway. Sentenced at the same time as expat American professional crook Joey Long (Balfour), he befriends the man and, as luck would have it, becomes his cellmate and buddy. Soon enough, Gerald engineers an escape, and brings Joey along with him.

Patrick Holt as Gerald Blake.

Joey’s a member of the gang run by another US immigre, Larry Conn (Ayres), under cover of the latter’s Haulage Contractor business. Thanks to Joey’s friendship, Larry takes Gerald at face value and recruits him. Other significant members of the gang, which has been conducting robberies all over London, are George Mack (Brennan) and Red (Towb). There’s also Judy (Dorne), a man-eating floozy who’s officially the moll of the hyper-jealous Larry but who seems keen to canoodle afield whenever his back is turned.

Judy: “I feel old and sour and I don’t like my horoscope.”
Larry: “Your what?”
Judy: “Horoscope. You know, what the stars foretell. I come under Virgo. Just.”

Michael Balfour as Joey Long.

Although the information is held back from us very neatly for quite some minutes, it soon becomes clear that Gerald is no crook. Far from it, he’s a Scotland Yard cop gone underground to infiltrate the gang and bring its members to justice.

Judy decides, the moment she claps eyes on him, that she wants Gerald for her very own, and starts planning how she could run away from Larry with him to start a new life together. Although he plays along because it fits in for the moment with his plans, the relationship presents Gerald with a grave hazard: should Larry find out about it, the gangster’s vengeance would be swift . . . and vicious.

Hector MacGregor as Superintendent Duncan.

Sonia Holm as Joan Blake.

Gerald’s link with both Superintendent Duncan (MacGregor) at Scotland Yard and his own loving wife Joan (Holm) is Sergeant Charles Follett (Judd). The fact that Charles has been making fairly frequent calls on Joan during Gerald’s unexplained absence has not gone unnoticed by their blabbermouth neighbor, Valerie Higson (Bryan), whose inability to keep her trap shut represents another ever-present danger for Gerald.

Alan Judd as Sergeant Charles Follett.

A further threat to his safety is that, a couple of years ago, he took down gang member George Mack; although Mack is none too bright and can recall only that Gerald’s face seems vaguely familiar, at any moment he could have a ray of clarity.

Alan Gordon as Murray, the inside man.

Things are becoming too hot for the gang in London. Larry wants to do one last big job before lying low for a while. Working in cahoots with Murray (Gordon), the foreman at Gosling’s warehouse in the London docks, they’ll heist a consignment of furs worth a cool £50,000. Gerald plans for the cops to nab the criminals red-handed, but unknown to him all his carefully laid schemes are starting to go pear-shaped . . .

Robert Ayres as Larry Conn (left) and Michael Brennan as George Mack.

It was the frequent practice in British B-movies of this era to include a second-tier or faded American star in the cast, in hopes this would help penetrate the US market, and the actor in question here is of course Robert Ayres. Quite why it was felt necessary that the English-through-and-through Michael Balfour should don his very best US accent (it’s quite a good effort, in fact, and not unlike Ayres’s natural one) is a bit of a mystery to me. It adds absolutely nothing to the plot that Joey’s another American—in fact, it raises the question as to why Joey wasn’t unceremoniously slung out of the country after his last spell in prison.

Sandra Dorne as Judy.

Sonia Holm and Patrick Holt, having met a few years before while both were studying at the J. Arthur Rank Charm School, were married to each other at the time this movie was released. In a sequence of events into which it might be easy to read too much, they divorced in the following year, 1953. A couple of years later, in 1955, Holt remarried. His new bride? Sandra Dorne.

3 thoughts on “13 East Street (1952)

  1. I’m glad you addressed the American in the room – I was wondering why he wouldn’t have been deported if he was a criminal. Anyway, it sounds like an entertaining film…as well as the interesting romantic goings-on outside the studio…

    • It’s one of those mediocre but enjoyable little movies that’s worth watching, I think, if it comes your way. And of course I was shocked, shocked, shocked to learn about the “omantic goings-on outside the studio.”

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