Devil’s Bait (1959)

UK / 56 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Rank Dir: Peter Graham Scott Pr: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn Scr: Peter Johnston, Diana K. Watson Cine: Michael Reed Cast: Geoffrey Keen, Jane Hylton, Gordon Jackson, Dermot Kelly, Shirley Lawrence, Eileen Moore, Molly Urquhart, Rupert Davies, Gillian Vaughan, Barbara Archer, Timothy Bateson, Noël Hood, Vivienne Bennett, Jack Stewart, John Abineri, Robert Crewdson, Tom Naylor, David Blake Kelly.

An extremely minor British B-movie that somehow manages—perhaps in part because of its excellent cast—to defy expectations and become, by its end, a remarkably effective piece of suspense.

That’s not what you’d think, though, if you watched only the opening act, which is played almost entirely for comedy, complete with a drunken Irishman and a tight-fisted Scots landlady.

In a provincial small town, baker Joe Frisby (Keen) is being troubled by rats in his flour store, and foolishly calls upon tippling, flaky part-time pest exterminator Alfred Love (Kelly). Despite the laws against using poisons in a food establishment, Love spreads potassium cyanide in his bait, then goes off to the pub to drink his fee.

Jane Hylton as Ellen and Geoffrey Keen as Joe

So much for the comedy. Things turn abruptly darker when Continue reading

Incident at a Corner (1960 TVM)

US / 49 minutes / color / Shamley, Alfred Hitchcock Productions, NBC Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Pr: Joan Harrison Scr: Charlotte Armstrong Story: Incident at a Corner (1957) by Charlotte Armstrong Cine: John L. Russell Cast: Vera Miles, George Peppard, Paul Hartman, Bob Sweeney, Leora Dana, Warren Berlinger, Philip Ober, Jerry Paris, Alice Backes, Charity Grace, Leslie Barrett, Alexander Lockwood, Jack Albertson, Eve McVeagh, Tyler McVey, Joe Flynn, Barbara Beaird, Mary Alan Hokanson, Wendell Holmes, Hollis Irving, Florence MacMichael.

Based on a Charlotte Armstrong novella, this minor piece of Hitchcockiana was aired as #27 (of 33 episodes) in the NBC TV series Startime (1959–60), one of the first TV shows to air in color. About half the episodes were variety presentations, the other half narrative pieces, usually dramas like this one. Hitchcock got involved because Lew Wasserman, then head of MCA, which had struck a package deal to supply star actors for the series, was also Hitch’s agent. It’s worth noting that Hitch wisely brought with him Joan Harrison as part of the enterprise.

We’re first shown three different versions of an altercation at a street corner next to a school. Mary Tawley (Dana), obnoxious wife of important local stuffed shirt Malcolm Tawley (Ober), owner of the Security First Bank, remonstrates with the elderly crossing guard whose STOP sign she drove past, James “Jim” Medwick (Hartman).

Vera Miles as Jane and George Peppard as Pat

In the third view we discover the scene was observed by two newcomers to the neighborhood, Harry (Albertson) and Georgia Crane (McVeagh). Georgia recognizes Jim and is terrified he’ll tell the neighborhood about her wild youth as Georgia Clooney (sic!) when they both lived in Continue reading