UK / 59 minutes / bw / Major, Rank Dir: Peter Graham Scott Pr: John Temple-Smith Scr: Barbara S. Harper Story: Account Rendered (1953) by Pamela Barrington Cine: Walter J. Harvey Cast: Griffith Jones, Ursula Howells, Honor Blackman, Ewen Solon, Robert Raikes, John Van Eyssen, Philip Gilbert, Carl Bernard, Mary Jones, Doris Yorke, Harry Ross, Edwin Richfield, Gordon Phillott, Vernon Smythe, Gerda Larsen, Barry Steele.
Flighty, avaricious Lucille Ainsworth (Howells), married to stuffy London merchant banker Robert (Griffith Jones), spreads her favors far and wide; as her best friend Sarah Hayward (Blackman) replies, on being asked “Who was the man?” concerning her pal’s latest adultery,
Sarah: “I don’t know. There were so many.”
Lucille’s been carrying on an affair with artist Clive Franklyn (Van Eyssen), who’s painted a portrait of her that she loathes because it shows all too clearly her essential meanness of spirit, and has now moved on to John Langford (Gilbert), even though he’s married to another of her friends, Nella (Mary Jones).
Honor Blackman as Sarah Hayward.
So it’s not surprising when, one thunderstormy night near Platts Lane on Hampstead Heath, Lucille is found strangled.
Ursula Howells as Lucille Ainsworth.
Enter Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Marshall (Solon) and Detective Sergeant Berry (Raikes). Although at first seemingly taken in by Robert’s lie that he was discussing business with the bank’s business manager, Gilbert Morgan (Bernard), at the time of Lucille’s death—a lie told to cover up the fact that he was suspiciously tailing his adulterous wife around town—Marshall soon uncovers the seedy truth about her amours . . . and about Lucille herself:
Clive: “She had everything and nothing. She looked passionate; she was sexless. She had the face of truth; she didn’t know the meaning of the word. She was an illusion. Nothing. . . . One day I’ll start to miss her—but not yet.”
Ewen Solon as Detective Inspector Marshall.
The difficulty Marshall faces is that, with a victim who was such a prolific adulteress, there are suspects aplenty, male and female. Yet everyone involved seems to have an unbreakable alibi. Unless . . .
Griffith Jones as Robert Ainsworth.
Account Rendered is one of those workmanlike 1950s British B-features that you either find addictive (as I do) or dismiss as cheap and rather boring ephemera. I thought this was one of the better examples I’d seen. It’s not surprising that director Peter Graham Scott is regarded as among those who helped turn British TV drama into a vibrant artform, because it’s very evident in this movie that he’d already mastered qualities like pacing and atmosphere that don’t depend on a major budget. (In fact, since the piece is a tad under an hour long, it crossed my mind that it could be an early TV movie. I checked. It wasn’t.)
John Van Eyssen as Clive Franklyn.
Scott’s efforts are helped by an excellent cast. Honor Blackman would of course go on to international fame, first opposite Patrick Macnee as John Steed’s sidekick Cathy Gale in the iconoclastic TV series The Avengers, and then as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964); this very distinguished actress of stage as well as screen, now in her nineties, has a website here. Ewen Solon, as noted elsewhere on Noirish, is a site favorite; he’s perfectly cast here as the hard-nosed yet not insensitive cop. John Van Eyssen gives us one of those instantly recognizable faces that it’s often hard to put a name to; probably best known for playing Jonathan Harker in the Hammer adaptation Dracula (1958; vt Horror of Dracula), opposite You Know Who, he became a literary agent later in life.
Carl Bernard as Gilbert Morgan.
I hadn’t really been aware before of novelist Pamela Barrington, author of the novel upon which this is based, but now having sussed out her career a bit I’m very keen to lay hands on some of her books; there are a few on Amazon, but they’re almost all pretty pricey (some of them up to the $250–$300 mark, gawdelpus, pass the smelling salts). It would be nice if an ebook publisher could step up to the plate, please.
Philip Gilbert and Mary Jones as John and Nella Langford.
I’m not sure if they’re from the original novel or were created by scripter Barbara S. Harper, but Account Rendered’s dialogue is full of pleasing turns of phrase. Here’s an excellent capsule description of a relationship that’s turning rotten even though the sex is still good:
Lucille: “I’d no idea you hated me so much.”
Clive: “I hate you because you’re the most tantalizing, the most provocative . . . the most adorable woman I’ve ever met.”