A Woman of Mystery (1958)

UK / 70 minutes / bw / Danziger, UA Dir: Ernest Morris Pr: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger Scr: Brian Clemens, Eldon Howard Cine: Jimmy Wilson Cast: Dermot Walsh, Hazel Court, Jennifer Jayne, Ferdy Mayne, Ernest Clark, Martin Benson, Diana Chesney, David Lander, Gordon Tanner, Paul Dickson.

Brian Clemens, later to earn a place in television history with the hugely popular series The Avengers (1961–9), was clearly popular at the Danzigers B-feature studio around the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their relevant ventures together include:

  • The DEPRAVED (1957)
  • THREE SUNDAYS TO LIVE (1957)
  • MOMENT OF INDISCRETION (1958)
  • THREE CROOKED MEN (1958)
  • The PURSUERS (1961)
  • RETURN OF A STRANGER (1961)
  • Two Wives at One Wedding (1961)

A Woman of Mystery is a fairly typical Danzigers production, although not so typical of Clemens’s screenplays. The plot lacks his trademark twists and turns and especially that slightly surreal edge that tends to mark his work. It’s a good workmanlike tale, though, and on the whole competently acted by a not insignificant cast. What lets it down are the production standards—a point I’ll come back to. Michael Caine has an uncredited bit part as a thug; no comment.

Dermot Walsh as Ray and Hazel Court as Joy.

Jane Hale (uncredited), a hatcheck girl at the Flamingo Club, seemingly gasses herself. Harvey (Clark), editor of Fact, “the magazine of private and confidential stories,” thinks her death might make a good human-interest story, and sets crack reporter Ray Savage (Walsh) the task of investigating this potential “woman of mystery.”

Jennifer Jayne as Ruby.

Needless to say, Ray’s digging reveals Jane didn’t commit suicide at all: she was murdered. After interviewing a bunch of people Continue reading

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Murder by Rope (1936)

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A killer in their midst!
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UK / 63 minutes / bw / Ambassador Film Productions, British & Dominions Film Corporation Dir: George Pearson Scr: Ralph Neale Story: Ralph Neale Cine: Ernest Palmer Cast: D.A. Clarke-Smith, Sunday Wilshin, Wilfred Hyde-White (i.e., Wilfrid Hyde-White), Dorothy Hamilton, Constance Godridge, Guy Belmore, Daphne Courtney, Ronald Read, Alban Conway, Philip Hewland, William Collins.

A movie of two halves—or, rather, a movie of a first one-quarter and a subsequent three-quarters. The opening quarter comprises an extended setup for the main narrative; where Murder by Rope has a problem is that this setup—which has a sort of Edgar Wallace oddity about it—is considerably more intriguing than the rest.

Which is not to say that the movie as a whole doesn’t offer rewards, especially since its closing scenes—after forty minutes of what might best be thought of as country-house-romantic-comedy-with-free-added-murders—once again return to an Edgar Wallace-style eccentricity. Also to enjoy is the spectacle of a Wilfrid Hyde-White young enough to be a plausible romantic hero.

First, that setup.

When the murderer Burford (uncredited) is sentenced to death at the Old Bailey by Justice Sir Henry Paxton (Hewland), the prisoner in the dock disconcerts the court by simply laughing derisively. The secret of why he did so goes with him to the gallows.

The Laughing Murderer (uncredited) smirks as his death sentence is handed down . . .

. . . which makes Judge Paxton (Philip Hewland) vewy cwoss.

Some while later, Scotland Yard receives a letter that’s apparently from the dead man. As the Yard’s Major Walker (uncredited) says Continue reading

Touch of Larceny, A (1959)

UK-US / 93 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Guy Hamilton Pr: Ivan Foxwell Scr: Roger MacDougall, Guy Hamilton, Ivan Foxwell Story: The Megstone Plot (1956) by Andrew Garve Cine: John Wilcox Cast: James Mason, Vera Miles, George Sanders, Harry Andrews, Robert Flemyng, Ernest Clark, Duncan Lamont, Percy Herbert, Junia Crawford, William Kendall, Peter Barkworth, MacDonald Parke, Mavis Villiers, Jimmy Lloyd, Barbara Hicks, William Mervyn, Dickie Owen, Basil Dignam, John Le Mesurier, Gordon Harris.

Touch of Larceny - 0 opener

In London, ex-submariner Commander Max Easton (Mason), known as “Rammer” Easton in his war-hero days, is now stuck in a seat-warming job at the Admiralty, where he idles his way through his so-called working hours before evening comes and he can practice his main hobby, seduction.

Touch of Larceny - 1 Max, as busy as he ever gets at the AdmiraltyMax (James Mason), as busy as he ever gets at the Admiralty.

One day at his squash club he runs into someone he recognizes, Charles Holland (Sanders), who during the war saved Max’s life at some stage and is now a high muck-a-muck in the diplomatic service; Charles also wallows in his inherited wealth, is a complete snob and prig, and is engaged to a beautiful US widow, Virginia Killain (Miles). On first sight of Virginia, Max is completely smitten, but she’s immune to his various wiles and Continue reading

Escort for Hire (1960)

UK / 64 minutes / color / Danziger, MGM Dir: Godfrey Grayson Pr: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger Scr: Mark Grantham Cine: Jimmy Wilson Cast: June Thorburn, Pete Murray, Noel Trevarthen, Jan Holden, Peter Butterworth, Guy Middleton, Mary Laura Wood, Patricia Plunkett, Derek Blomfield, Jill Melford, Totti Truman Taylor, Catherine Ellison, Bruce Beeby, C. Denier Warren, Viola Keats.

Escort for Hire - 0 opener

An unusual UK B-feature made by the Danzigers, whose imprimatur had roughly the same guarantee of quality as those of firms like Monogram and PRC in the US. What’s unusual about it is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The cartoonish opening credits and the soundtrack suggest it’s going to be some mildly naughty comedy, and that’s what it reads like for the first twenty minutes or so—a sex comedy without the sex, so to speak—but thereafter it rather abruptly becomes darker, albeit no more plausible. It’s held together by good performances from Thorburn, Trevarthen, Blomfield and Butterworth—not to mention a startlingly powerful cameo from Plunkett, making the best of a workaday screenplay—while Continue reading

Gambling Daughters (1941)

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How bad men lead defenseless girls astray!

US / 63 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Max Nosseck Pr: George R. Batcheller, T.H. Richmond Scr: Joel Kay, Arnold Phillips, Genevieve Hogan Story: Sidney Sheldon, Ben Roberts Cine: Mack Stengler Cast: Cecilia Parker, Roger Pryor, Robert Baldwin, Sigi Arno, Gale Storm, Charles Miller, Al Hall, Eddie Foster, Janet Shaw, Marvelle Andre, Dick Russom, Joe Ortiz, Judy Kilgore, Gertrude Messinger, Roberta Smith.

Gambling Daughters 1941 - closer

Two students at the swanky Lakeside School for Girls, Lillian Harding (Storm) and Katherine Thompsen (Shaw), one night on impulse follow their French teacher, le professeur Bedoin (Arno), and discover he’s gone to an illicit gambling joint called the Angel’s Roost. The girls swank into the club there with the entitled air of two virginities looking for the quickest way to lose themselves. (Presumably in order to save money on acting fees, the bustling clientele at the Angel’s Roost are here and elsewhere represented primarily by off-camera chortles and coughs.)

Gambling Daughters 1941 - 1 Prof Bedoin at casino with piano duo Russom & Ortiz behind

Le professeur Bedoin (Sigi Arno) at the Angel’s Roost gambling den with the piano duo of Dick Russom and Joe Ortiz as backdrop.

Encouraged by the club’s manager, Chance Landon (Pryor), the two girls soon get completely hooked on the roulette wheel. In no time at all, they Continue reading

Flat Two (1962)

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Another tangled tale from Edgar Wallace!

 

UK / 58 minutes / bw / Merton Park, Anglo-Amalgamated Dir: Alan Cooke Pr: Jack Greenwood Scr: Lindsay Galloway Story: Flat 2 (1927) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Bert Mason Cast: John Le Mesurier, Jack Watling, Bernard Archard, Barry Keegan, Ann Bell, Campbell Singer, Charles Lloyd Pack, David Bauer, Russell Waters, George Bishop, Gerald Sim, Andre Mikhelson, Monti de Lyle, Adrian Oker, Gordon Phillott, John Wilder.

Flat Two - 0 opener

I gave this movie basic coverage in A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, but at the time I hadn’t seen it myself (although I had read the novel). Recently I was able to watch it as part of the UK-released EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERIES Vol 3 DVD set (thanks, Stan!), one of seven volumes containing the complete series of these UK B-movies, originally released during 1960–64.

Susan Martin (Bell) has been losing hand-over-fist at the gambling club owned by slimy Emil Louba (Bauer), and he tells her that her IOUs have now added up to a staggering £10,000, money she doesn’t have. He offers to throw the IOUs away, however, if she’ll go on holiday with him to the continent and become his mistress. Susan, although visibly nauseated by the prospect, doesn’t see that she has much choice.

When she breaks it to her architect fiancé Frank Leamington (Watling) that she’s not going to marry him after all, he Continue reading

Noose for a Lady (1952)

UK / 70 minutes / bw / Nat Cohen & Stuart Levy, Insignia, Anglo Amalgamated Dir: Wolf Rilla Pr: Victor Hanbury Scr: Rex Rienits Story: Noose for a Lady (1952) by Gerald Verner, itself based on a BBC radio serial Cine: Walter Harvey Cast: Dennis Price, Rona Anderson, Ronald Howard, Pamela Alan, Melissa Stribling, Charles Lloyd Pack, Alison Leggatt, Esma Cannon, Colin Tapley, Robert Brown, George Merritt, Doris Yorke, Gabrielle Blunt, Joe Linnane, Eric Messiter, Michael Nightingale, Ian Wallace, Donald Bissett.

Noose for a Lady - 0 opener

John Hallam was murdered through being given an overdose of the sleeping drug barbitone (barbital) in his bedtime whisky and milk, and all the circumstantial evidence pointed strongly toward his widow, Margaret Elizabeth “Maggie” Hallam (Alan)—so strongly, in fact, that at the end of her trial she’s found guilty and sentenced to death. Her solicitor (Nightingale) does his best to lodge an appeal, but is turned down. Her only ray of hope seems to be Jill (Anderson), John’s daughter by his first marriage, who promises to labor tirelessly to ensure her stepmother’s exoneration.

Noose for a Lady - 1 Maggie and Jill

Jill (Rona Anderson, right) visits stepmother Maggie (Pamela Alan) in jail.

But then arrives home from Uganda Maggie’s cousin Simon Gale (Price), who Continue reading

Floating Dutchman, The (1952)

UK / 76 minutes / bw / Merton Park Dir & Scr: Vernon Sewell Pr: William H. Williams Story: The Floating Dutchman (1950) by Nicolas Bentley Cine: Jo(sef) Ambor Cast: Dermot Walsh, Sydney Tafler, Mary Germaine, Guy Verney, Hugh Morton, Nicolas Bentley, Arnold Marlé, Derek Blomfield, Ian Wilson, James Raglan, Orest Olaff, Ken Midwood.

Floating Dutchman - 0 opener

One never expected masterpieces from Merton Park, but their cut-price fillers did have their charms—they offered an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so even if they tended to be forgotten within minutes of the A-feature starting. The movies in the long EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERIES series (1960–64) were typical of the studio’s output; even at the time it was the series’ theme tune (written by Michael Carr) that really stuck in the mind, far less so the movies themselves. The Floating Dutchman is one of the better Merton Park offerings, and benefits from having the under-recognized Sydney Tafler in a principal role, plus Arnold Marlé and Ian Wilson among the support. And it’s certainly more memorable than many a Merton Park item: I must have been a child when I last saw the movie, because I can remember being devastated by a particular incident toward the end, yet the very fact that, decades later, I could remember this and occasional other incidents—and the performances of Marlé and Wilson—is testament in itself.

Floating Dutchman - 4 Victor

The great Sydney Tafler as club owner and criminal kingpin Victor Skinner.

A body is fished out of the Thames. The cops, as we learn when Inspector Cathie (Morton) briefs his boss, Gwynn (Raglan), swiftly discover that the man died from a bash on the head, not from drowning, and, thanks to an inquiry from the Dutch police, that he was a shady jeweler called Martinus Vandermeer. On the body was a card from the nightclub Skinner’s, with, scrawled on the back, the telephone number of notorious fence Otto Krohner (Marlé). By following up on this link, Cathie believes, the Yard might Continue reading

Violent Moment (1959)

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UK / 61 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Anglo–Amalgamated Dir: Sidney Hayers Pr: Bernard Coote Scr: Peter Barnes Story: “A Toy for Jiffy” (1956; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine) by Roy Vickers Cine: Phil Grindrod Cast: Lyndon Brook, Jane Hylton, Jill Browne, John Paul, Rupert Davies, Moira Redmond, Bruce Seton, Martin Miller, Frederick Piper, Martin Boddey, Gerald Anderson, John Boxer, Leonard White.

Violent Moment - 0 moodsetter

London, soon after the end of WWII, and wastrel Douglas “Doug” Baines (Brook) is wary of the coppers on every corner because he’s an Army deserter. He makes his way as best he can, helping to support his mistress, Daisy Hacker (Hylton), and their infant son Jiffy on what we suspect are generally slim pickings. One day, though, he’s obviously flush because he spends 15/6 (15 shillings and sixpence)—a small fortune in those days—at the toyshop of Jenkins (Piper) on a cackling tumbler-doll clown for Jiffy, upon whom he obviously dotes; indeed, we sense that Doug is really defined by his love for Jiffy. When he gets home, though, it’s to discover that Daisy has sold the child into adoption for twenty pounds. She’s scathing in her estimation of Doug:

“Twenty pound. I suppose you’ll want your cut.”

 And:

“And another thing. You pretending to believe that I got all that money working as a waitress. You’ve got eyes in your head the same as other men. You know perfectly well where that money came from.”

 

Violent Moment - 1 Doug, Daisy & the tumbler doll

Doug (Lyndon Brook) shows Daisy (Jane Hylton) the toy he’s bought for Jiffy.

As he tries to force out of her the name and address of the adoptive parents so he might Continue reading

October Moth (1960)

UK / 53 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Rank Dir & Scr: John Kruse Pr: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn Cine: Michael Reed Cast: Lee Patterson, Lana Morris, Peter Dyneley, Robert Crawdon, Sheila Raynor.

Finlay (Lee Patterson) starts an accidental blaze.

On a lonely windswept farm somewhere on the Yorkshire moors, mentally unstable and potentially violent Finlay (Patterson) is out one night looking for moths when he accidentally topples his lantern, setting off a minor conflagration. Startled by the flames and by the figure of Finlay, a motorist (Raynor) swerves off the road and down a steep embankment. Finlay brings the unconscious woman home to the farmhouse, waking his (sane) sister Molly (Morris); he tells her the woman is their long-dead mother who, it becomes evident, was victim to frequent beatings by their drunken father. Unable to penetrate the delusion and believing Finlay must have attacked this stranger, the frantic Molly tries Continue reading