Night Train to Munich (1940)

vt In Disguise; vt Night Train
UK / 95 minutes / bw / Twentieth Century, MGM Dir: Carol Reed Pr: Edward Black Scr: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder Story: Gordon Wellesley Cine: Otto Kanturek Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul von Hernried (i.e., Paul Henreid), Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, James Harcourt, Felix Aylmer, Wyndham Goldie, Roland Culver, Eliot Makeham, Raymond Huntley, Austin Trevor, Kenneth Kent, C.V. France, Fritz Valk, Morland Graham, Irene Handl.

Set in the days immediately leading up to the declaration of war between the UK and Germany, and made before the full horrors were known of what was going on under the Reich, this movie has an obvious propaganda agenda; yet it’s a fine thriller in its own right, leavened with some well judged humor. With a director like Carol Reed and stars like Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul Henreid and of course the Naunton Wayne/Basil Radford combo, one would hardly expect otherwise.

 

Margaret Lockwood and James Harcourt as Anna and Axel Bomasch.

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Hostile Witness (1968)

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Can a brilliant lawyer suppress his arrogance long enough to save his own skin?
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UK / 99 minutes / color / Caralan–Dador, UA Dir: Ray Milland Pr: David E. Rose Scr: Jack Roffey Story: Hostile Witness (1965 play) by Jack Roffey Cine: Gerald Gibbs Cast: Ray Milland, Sylvia Syms, Raymond Huntley, Felix Aylmer, Geoffrey Lumsden, Ewan Roberts, Julian Holloway, Norman Barrs, Richard Hurndall, Dulcie Bowman, Ballard Berkeley, Harold Berens, Percy Marmont, Edward Waddy, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Sandra Fehr.

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Devastated when his wife was killed during the Blitz, lawyer Simon Crawford (Milland) and his infant daughter Joanna were taken in by Justice Matthew Gregory (Marmont) and his wife Phyllis (Bowman). Years later, Crawford is a prominent QC and Joanna (Fehr) has grown up to become a lovely young woman.

One evening Crawford is visiting Lady Phyllis to toast her birthday when there’s a screech of brakes outside. Joanna has been knocked down by a hit-and-run driver, and will soon die in the hospital. As you’d expect, Crawford says in front of witnesses that he’ll kill the driver if ever he finds him.

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Crawford (Ray Milland) exchanges banter with daughter Joanna (Sandra Fehr).

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Lady Gregory (Dulcie Bowman) looks down at the scene of the accident.

Spool forward a few weeks. The police have got nowhere in finding the driver—all that the witnesses could report was that Continue reading

Calendar, The (1948)

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An Edgar Wallace yarn about a man addicted to the geegees . . . and to the curves of Greta Gynt!

UK / 77 minutes / bw / Gainsborough, GFD Dir: Arthur Crabtree Pr: Antony Darnborough, Sydney Box Scr: Geoffrey Kerr Story: The Calendar (1929 play) and The Calendar (1930), both by Edgar Wallace Cine: Reg Wyer, Cyril J. Knowles Cast: Greta Gynt, John McCallum, Raymond Lovell, Sonia Holm, Leslie Dwyer, Charles Victor, Felix Aylmer, Noel Howlett, Sydney King, Barry Jones, Diana Dors, Claude Bailey, Desmond Roberts, Fred Payne.

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A modest but rather jolly screen adaptation of one of Edgar Wallace’s plays, which he subsequently rewrote as a novel. In fact, this wasn’t the first adaptation; it was preceded by The Calendar (1931; vt Bachelor’s Folly) dir T. Hayes Hunter, with Herbert Marshall, Edna Best and Anne Grey, which I haven’t seen. This, the 1948 remake, while in theory a thriller has in practice many of the attributes of a bedroom farce, although it’s not really a comedy either: just a piece of entertainment.

Captain Garry Anson (McCallum), a compulsive better on the ponies, owns a string of racers; his trainer is the lovely Lady Mollie Panniford (Holm), who, as a woman, is a rarity in the male-dominated horse-training world of the time. “What you mean is that, as a girlfriend, I’m a pretty good trainer,” she observes ruefully to him at one stage. The reason for the rue is that he’s besotted with Wenda (Gynt), to whom he’s been engaged for many a yonk. Then the news comes that the will of his recently deceased aunt has brought him Continue reading

Seven Sinners (1936)

vt Doomed Cargo
UK / 69 minutes / bw / Gaumont–British Dir: Albert de Courville Scr: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder, L. du Garde Peach, Austin Melford Story: The Wrecker (1924 play) by Arnold Ridley and Bernard Merivale Cine: M. Greenbaum Cast: Edmund Lowe, Constance Cummings, Thomy Bourdelle, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, Joyce Kennedy, O.B. Clarence, Mark Lester, Allan Jeayes, Anthony Holles, David Horne, Edwin Laurence, James Harcourt.

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An entertaining comedy thriller in the same spirit as Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), complete with a couple thrown together at the outset who spend proceedings bickering and bantering until, inevitably, they finally declare undying love. There’s even a shootout in a theater at the end, although in this instance it’s in a cinema rather than a music hall. During that shootout the audience are watching a supposed Gaumont newsreel (akin to the Pathé newsreels and Pathé Pictorials) recounting many of the events of the plot; Seven Sinners begins in a similar vein, almost in the style of a Pathé Pictorial, headlined CARNIVAL AT NICE.

American PI Edward “Ed” Harwood (Lowe) of the Tankerton agency is playing hooky in Nice at the time of the Carnival when he should be in Scotland helping Caryl Fenton of the Worldwide Insurance Co. of New York to sort out a case there. Dressed as the Devil, in keeping with the carnival spirit, Ed gets loaded and consequently Continue reading

Shadow, The (1933)

UK / 71 minutes / bw / Real Art, UA Dir: George A. Cooper Pr: Julius Hagen Scr: H. Fowler Mear, Terence Egan Story: The Shadow (1932? play) by Donald Stuart (i.e., Gerald Verner), novelized by the author as The Shadow (1934) Cine: Sydney Blythe Cast: Henry Kendall, Felix Aylmer, John Turnbull, Ralph Truman, Dennis Cowles, Vincent Holman, Cyril Raymond, James Raglan, Gordon Begg, Viola Compton, Jeanne Stuart, Elizabeth Allan, Charles Carson.

London is enduring a rash of suicides of prominent figures, which suicides can be linked to their being blackmailed by an enigmatic figure called The Shadow: either they pay up on time or he’ll reveal their dreadful secrets. In the early minutes of the movie we see The Shadow deliver this ultimatum to the lawyer Sir Edward Hume (Carson), who at least has the gumption to phone Scotland Yard before putting a bullet through his brain.

The Yard’s Chief Inspector Elliot (Truman) reckons he’s worked out the identity of The Shadow, and is given reluctant permission by Sir Richard Bryant (Aylmer), Scotland Yard’s Chief Commissioner, to tackle the man on his own; the result is that Elliot is shot dead. When the cops arrive, they find that Elliot is clutching an unusual gold-and-platinum charm made in the shape of a clenched fist.

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The Shadow spies darkly through the window of Sir Richard’s stately pile.

The dead Elliot’s place as chief investigator is taken over by Chief Inspector Fleming (Cowles), who introduces some new ideas to the investigation: he suggests The Shadow could be a woman (“All [blackmail] requires is cunning and, as far as cunning is concerned, women, in my opinion . . . well, gentlemen, you’re all married, I think?”), or could even be not an individual but an organization. These interesting ideas are unfortunately soon forgotten.

Sir Richard decides, oddly, to spend the weekend at his country house rather than pursuing the most urgent case on his blotter. Similarly odd is that Fleming has a hunch that The Shadow will be among Sir Richard’s weekend guests: Continue reading

Case of the Frightened Lady, The (1940)

vt The Frightened Lady; vt The Scarf Murder Mystery

UK / 80 minutes / bw / Pennant, British Lion Dir: George King Pr: S.W. Smith Scr: Edward Dryhurst Story: The Case of the Frightened Lady (1931 play) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Hone Glendinning Cast: Marius Goring, Penelope Dudley Ward, Helen Haye, Felix Aylmer, George Merritt, Ronald Shiner, Patrick Barr, Roy Emerton, George Hayes, John Warwick, Elizabeth Scott, Torin Thatcher.

In a decaying country pile, Mark’s Priory, live the last of the ancient Lebanon lineage, the widowed Lady Lebanon (Haye), her pianist/composer son William “Willie”, Lord Lebanon (Goring), and the latter’s second cousin, Isla Crane (Dudley Ward), who works as Lady Lebanon’s secretary.

There are many peculiarities about the household. For one, the servants are barred from entering the main portion of the house after 8pm, at which time the two sinister footmen Gilder (Emerton) and Brooks (Hayes) take over. For another, the room in which the late Lord Lebanon spent his last years of illness and eventually died is kept permanently locked. A frequent visitor from London is the sinister physician Dr. Lester Charles Amersham (Aylmer), who seems to have some hold over Lady Lebanon and certainly has been extracting large sums of money from her. And someone has just put a bolt on the outside of the bedroom door of Isla Crane—who’s in consequence the (understandably) frightened lady of the title.

The frightened lady . . . with pursuing shadow . . .

Lady Lebanon is urgently intent that her son marry Isla pronto in order to continue the line. Unfortunately for her plans, Continue reading

Clairvoyant, The (1935)

vt The Evil Mind

UK / 81 minutes / bw / Gainsborough, Gaumont, Vogue Dir: Maurice Elvey Scr: Charles Bennett, Bryan Edgar Wallace Story: Der Hellseher (1929; vt The Clairvoyant) by Ernest Lothar (i.e., Ernst Lothar) Cine: G. MacWilliams Cast: Claude Rains, Fay Wray, Mary Clare, Ben Field, Jane Baxter, Athole Stewart, C. Denier Warren, Carleton Hobbs, Felix Aylmer.

Max (Rains) is The Great Maximus, performing a fake telepathy routine around the shabbier music halls with his wife Rene (Wray) as assistant. One night, as Rene loses her way from the stalls to the circle and it becomes obvious to the audience that his “telepathy” relies on her coded messages, his gaze catches the face of Christine Shawn (Baxter) as she watches from one of the boxes; at once he’s empowered with genuine clairvoyance, and correctly describes the letter that a jeering spectator is holding up.

Clairvoyant 1935 - in court

Scary stuff — Claude Rains is the Clairvoyant.

Later, on a train to Manchester for the next gig, Max, Rene, Max’s mother Topsy (Clare) and his congenially boozy business partner Simon (Field) encounter Christine again, and once more Max is filled with the gift of prophecy—this time foreseeing that the train will crash. He pulls the cord, the quintet disembark, and sure enough the train crashes.

Christine, whose father Lord Southwood (Stewart) is the owner of the Daily Sun, ensures that Max’s successful prophecy becomes the talk of the land. Impresario James J. Bimeter (Warren) gets Max top billing at the London Paladrome (sic) for a princely three hundred pounds a week, but Max soon disappoints the theater owner by failing to come out with any new prophecies. Further, Rene is becoming concerned that Max may have fallen for Christine. In fact, it’s Rene whom he loves, but it’s Christine—who eventually admits that she’s deeply in love with him and would take him from Rene if she could—who’s the source of his psychic powers.

His successful offhand prediction that 100–1 rank outsider Autolychus will win the Derby (“Autolychus can’t win. They’re only running him in the hope he’ll Continue reading