Crown v. Stevens (1936)

|
“Ten million people in London, and it had to be you.”
|

UK / 66 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: Michael Powell Scr: Brock Williams Story: Third Time Unlucky (1935) by Laurence Meynell Cine: Basil Emmott Cast: Beatrix Thomson, Patric Knowles, Glennis Lorimer, Reginald Purdell, Allan Jeayes, Frederick Piper, Googie Withers, Mabel Poulton, Billy Watts, Davina Craig, Morris Harvey, Bernard Miles.

The title might make us assume this is a courtroom drama, but in fact this quota quickie—an important stop along the road for director Michael Powell’s early career—is a distinctly noirish piece. In one specific respect it appears to be echoed in Raoul Walsh’s THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), which had George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart and the immortal Ida Lupino as its stars.

Molly (Glennis Lorimer) and Chris (Patric Knowles) make a good team.

There are no comparable stars here, with the exceptions of Patric Knowles—who would soon go on to have a prominent Hollywood career, sometimes playing opposite his friend Errol Flynn—and of course Googie Withers (in a small role), plus Glennis Lorimer, whose short acting career (she died far too early) is eclipsed by the fact that she served as the young woman in the mocked-up version of Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sarah Siddons used as an opening-credits logo by Gainsborough Studios.

Mamie (Mabel Poulton) dances close to Chris . . .

. . . but Joe Andrews (Billy Watts) is her true partner.

Naive paint-company clerk Chris Jansen (Knowles) believes himself in love with floozy Mamie (Poulton), and borrows an engagement ring on approval from Continue reading

Penny and the Pownall Case (1948)

UK / 47 minutes / bw / Highbury, GFD Dir: Slim Hand Pr: John Croydon Scr: W.E.C. Fairchild Cine: Walter Harvey Cast: Ralph Michael, Peggy Evans, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, Frederick Piper, Olaf Pooley, Ethel Coleridge, Sam Costa, Dennis Vance, Shaun Noble, John Lorrell, Philip Saville, Peter Madren, Duncan Carse.

Penny & Pownall Case - 0 opener

Scotland Yard investigator Henry Pownall (Noble), on returning to the UK from the Continent with information on Gateway to Freedom, an organization dedicated to helping Nazi war criminals escape justice, is murdered en route from the airport to the Yard. In charge of the Gateway to Freedom investigation, and thus now of the murder case, is Detective Inspector Michael Carson (Michael), whose secretary Molly James (an almost unrecognizable Dors) shares a flat with Penny Justin (Evans), the model for the daily newspaper comic strip Penny, drawn by artist Jonathan Blair (Lee). The aim of the strip, as Penny explains to Blair’s cleaning lady, Mrs. Hodgson (Coleridge), is to show her always in danger of becoming naked, so that readers daren’t skip an episode in case they miss something.

Penny & Pownall Case - 1 Molly & her boss Supt Carson

Molly James (Diana Dors) and her boss Superintendent Michael Carson (Ralph Michael).

Penny has been rebuffing Blair’s suggestion that they go to Spain together next Friday for a couple of weeks, ostensibly to Continue reading

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

Violent Moment (1959)

vt Rebound
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

Four Just Men, The (1939)

vt The Secret Four; vt The Secret Column

UK / 82 minutes / bw / CAPAD, ABFD Dir: Walter Summers Pr: Michael Balcon Scr: Angus MacPhail, Sergei Nolbandov, Roland Pertwee Story: The Four Just Men (1905) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ronald Neame Cast: Hugh Sinclair, Griffith Jones, Francis L. Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Anna Lee, Alan Napier, Basil Sydney, Lydia Sherwood, Edward Chapman, Athole Stewart, George Merritt, Arthur Hambling, Garry Marsh, Ellaline Terriss, Percy Walsh, Roland Pertwee, Eliot Makeham, Frederick Piper, Jon Pertwee, Liam Gaffney.

Wallace’s novel was a massive bestseller in its native land, and the assumption of this movie was that viewers were at least vaguely familiar with the book’s premise: that a group of four men, working to secure justice where the cops could not, operated covertly—often taking the power of life and death into their own hands—to defend justice and the British way of life. In the novel they were essentially conspiratorial vigilantes; in the movie, made as Europe trembled on the verge of World War Two, the emphasis is more political.

In 1938 one of the Four Just Men, James Terry (Lawton), awaits execution this very morning in the German prison of Regensberg. Even as he’s being prepared for the ax, an imperious officer arrives with instructions that Terry is to be taken away for further interrogation. Sure enough, as the staff car speeds away, it’s revealed—to the surprise of no one in the audience—that the officer and his driver are two of the other Just Men, respectively distinguished stage actor Humphrey Mansfield (Sinclair) and theatrical impresario James “Jim” D. Brodie (Jones). Back in London, the three reunite with the fourth of the quartet, French couturier Léon Poiccard (Sullivan).

The Four Just Men - 1 Poiccard (Sullivan) has it easy - for now

Poiccard (Francis L. Sullivan) has it easy — but for how long?

Terry, who’s dying of emphysema or some similar illness, managed to discover at Regensberg some further details of a dastardly plot against international peace that the Just Men have been investigating. He’s promptly despatched to the Near East to make further inquiries while Continue reading