Man in the Road, The (1957)

UK / 83 minutes / bw / Gibraltar, Grand National Dir: Lance Comfort Pr: Charles A. Leeds Scr: Guy Morgan Story: He Was Found in the Road (1952) by Anthony Armstrong Cine: Stan Pavey, Eric Besche Cast: Derek Farr, Ella Raines, Donald Wolfit, Lisa Danielly, Karel Stepanek, Cyril Cusack, Olive Sloane, Bruce Beeby, Russell Napier, Frederick Piper, John Welsh, Alfred Maron.

Man in the Road - 0 opener

Dr. James Paxton (Farr), a prominent scientist (although his specialty’s never identified), is out driving a country lane at night when, turning a corner, he finds a man lying in the middle of the road. He gets out to offer help, whereupon he’s immediately knocked unconscious. His clothes are swapped with those of the dead man, whose corpse is put into Paxton’s car and the vehicle set alight.

Days or longer later, we find him waking in a nursing home, Downview Hall, near Medworth, run by the sinister Professor Cattrell (Wolfit). Cattrell and his staff—Dr. Manning (Beeby) and the saucy Nurse Mitzi (Danielly)—use a mixture of drugs, hypnosis and, in Mitzi’s case, blandishment to persuade him that he’s really a faceless accountant called Ivan Mason, found lying in the middle of a country road having obviously been run down in a hit-and-run accident. “Ivan” is persuaded—especially by Mitzi, with whom he becomes infatuated and who pretends to reciprocate the feeling—that, yes, indeed he must be suffering amnesia after his accident.

Man in the Road - 1 Dr Cattrell & his hypnotic cig lighter

Dr. Cattrell (Donald Wolfit) wields his hypnotic cigarette lighter.

It doesn’t strike Ivan as strange that Cattrell is going to odd lengths to try to reconstruct his past, such as ferrying out from London Ivan’s supposed old Continue reading

Silent Passenger, The (1935)

UK / 63 minutes (but see below) / bw / Phoenix, Associated British Dir: Reginald Denham Pr: Hugh Perceval Scr: Basil Mason Story: Dorothy L. Sayers Cine: Jan Stallich Cast: John Loder, Peter Haddon, Mary Newland (i.e., Lilian Oldland), Austin Trevor, Aubrey Mather, Donald Wolfit, Leslie Perrins, Ralph Truman, Gordon McLeod, Ann Codrington, Dorice Fordred, Annie Esmond, George de Warfaz, Vincent Holman.

A relatively early screen example of the inverted mystery story ‑‑ wherein, rather than try to puzzle out whodunnit, we know the truth from the outset and watch as the detective deduces what we already know ‑‑ this was Lord Peter Wimsey’s first screen outing. Dorothy L. Sayers, who wrote the original story upon which it was based, apparently hated it both because of what she felt was a travesty of an adaptation and because her darling Lord Peter was portrayed as an aristocrat of very considerable vacuity. In this latter complaint she was in one respect absolutely correct ‑‑ the movie was obviously designed to be a vehicle for Haddon, whose specialty was effete, upper-class, seemingly perpetually squiffy twits, like Guy Bannister in Death at Broadcasting House (1934) ‑‑ but in another she was either being duplicitous or blinding herself to the true nature of her creation. At least in the early novels, Wimsey is depicted as, whatever his true intellectual abilities, an outwardly vacuous Bertie Wooster-like buffoon, and that’s more or less how he’s been characterized on screen ever since.

And let’s not forget that at one point toward the end a character says: “You know, I don’t think Lord Peter’s quite such a fool as he looks.”

Maurice Windermere (Perrins), a professional blackmailer, has persuaded married Mollie Ryder (Newland) to run away with him to the Continent. However, while they’re waiting in London at the station hotel to catch the boat train that’ll take them to the cross-Channel ferry, she has second thoughts. He forces her to continue with the scheme by holding over her head some compromising letters she was foolish enough to send to him. He then goes up to his room ‑‑ Room 9 ‑‑ to finalize the packing.

Silent Passenger - 1 Mollie, 'You have to give me those letters back'

Mollie Ryder (Mary Newland/Lilian Oldland) tells her blackmailer, “You have to give me those letters back!”

Wimsey (Haddon) is planning to be on that train too. While he’s chatting up the desk clerk (Codrington) he notices a porter carrying a Continue reading

Death at Broadcasting House (1934)

vt Death at a Broadcast
UK / 69 minutes / bw / Phoenix, Associated British Dir: Reginald Denham Scr: Basil Mason Story: Death at Broadcasting House (1934) by Val Gielgud, Holt Marvell (i.e., Eric Maschwitz) Cine: Gunther Krampf Cast: Ian Hunter, Austin Trevor, Mary Newland (i.e., Lilian Oldland), Henry Kendall, Val Gielgud, Peter Haddon, Betty Davies, Jack Hawkins, Donald Wolfit, Robert Rendel, Gordon McLeod, Bruce Lester; plus Hannen Swaffer, Vernon Bartlett, Eric Dunstan, Gillie Potter, Elisabeth Welch, Eve Becke, Ord Hamilton, the Gershom Parkington Quintette, Percival Mackey and his Band, all as themselves.

Death at Broadcasting House - 0 opener

A murder-mystery movie filled with evocative shots of BBC Broadcasting House in London (in fact the interiors were recreated elsewhere) and cameo appearances by a number of broadcasting celebrities of the day as themselves—Hannen Swaffer, Vernon Bartlett, Eric Dunstan, Gillie Potter, singers Elisabeth Welch and Eve Becke, and musicians Ord Hamilton, the Gershom Parkington Quintette and Percival Mackey and his Band. The opening shot, heralding the credits, shows the mast atop Broadcasting House in what’s perhaps intended as a parody/homage of the RKO logo.

During the live broadcast from Broadcasting House of Murder Immaculate, a new radio play by Rodney Fleming (Kendall), a cast member, Sydney Parsons (Wolfit), is strangled on air; as he was working in a remote studio and as his character was supposed to be strangled at that point in the play, no one thinks twice about the ghastly cries and gurgles except to remark that Parsons is doing a better job of it than he did at rehearsal. In due course the body is found and Inspector Gregory (Hunter) of the Yard rounds up the suspects in the traditional manner.

Death at Broadcasting House - 1 The strangler creeps up on Parsons

The strangler creeps up on Parsons (Donald Wolfit).

As radio controller Sir Herbert Farquharson (Rendel) remarks to his producer, Julian Caird (Gielgud), “Oh, it’s Continue reading

Ringer, The (1952)

UK / 73 minutes / bw / London, British Lion Dir: Guy Hamilton Scr: Val Valentine, Lesley Storm Story: The Gaunt Stranger (1925; vt Police Work; revised vt The Ringer 1926) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ted Scaife, John Wilcox Cast: Herbert Lom, Donald Wolfit, Mai Zetterling, Greta Gynt, William Hartnell, Dora Bryan, Norman Wooland, Denholm Elliott, Charles Victor, Walter Fitzgerald, Campbell Singer, John Stuart.

The Ringer 1952 - 4 Lom is suitably creepy as Meister

Herbert Lom, in supreme form.

Feared internationally, the crook Henry Arthur Milton, better known as The Ringer—because he could ring the changes with his disguises—finally met his end in Australia. Or did he? According to his wife Cora Ann (Gynt) he somehow escaped and has now made his way to London. That’s what the cops think too, and the slightly sinister Chief Inspector Bliss (Wooland), recently returned to Scotland Yard from a somewhat mysterious secondment in New York, is put in charge of the case. He liaises with Inspector Wembury (Victor) of the Met, whose Deptford territory includes the home of powerful criminal lawyer Maurice Meister (Lom). It’s thought that the reason The Ringer has come back to London is to seek vengeance on Meister, whom he blames for the suicide some years ago of his (The Ringer’s) sister Gwenda.

The Ringer 1952 - 2 Zetterling as Lisa Gruber

Mai Zetterling as Meister’s secretary Lisa Gruber.

Wembury enlists the aid of cheery Cockney burglar Samuel “Sam” Cuthbert Hackitt (Hartnell), who has just been released from prison; although too terrified to Continue reading