Judgment Deferred (1952)

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When the legal system fails, let a court of down-and-outs decide!
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UK / 84 minutes / bw / Associated British-Pathé Dir & Pr: John Baxter Scr: Geoffrey Orme, Walter Meade Story: screenplay for Doss House (1933) by C.G.H. Ayres Cine: Arthur Grant Cast: Hugh Sinclair, Helen Shingler, Abraham Sofaer, Leslie Dwyer, Joan Collins, Elwyn Brook Jones, Harry Locke, Marcel Poncin, Wilfrid Walter, Martin Benson, Bransby Williams, M. Martin Harvey, Harry Welchman, Maire O’Neill, Fred Griffiths, Harold Goodwin, Bud Flanagan, Edmundo Ros and His Latin American Orchestra.

A tale that shares elements with M (1931) dir Fritz Lang (remade by Joseph Losey in 1951 as M) and with Margery Allingham’s novel Tiger in the Smoke (1952), filmed as TIGER IN THE SMOKE (1956) dir Roy Baker, and owes a very great deal to the movie Doss House (1933), which was directed by John Baxter himself and whose scripter, C.G.H. Ayres, is acknowledged in the opening credits of Judgment Deferred. The narrative’s embellished with a few comic interludes (mercifully few) and some musical numbers, including a cameo by Bud Flanagan and a couple of songs from Edmundo Ros; Continue reading

Too Late for Tears (1949)

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Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
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vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.

I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.

And it felt like coming home.

Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading

Cottage to Let (1941)

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Alastair Sim stars in a tale of spies and scares in wartime Scotland

vt Bombsight Stolen
UK / 86 minutes / bw / Gainsborough, Gaumont, BPC Dir: Anthony Asquith Pr: Edward Black Scr: A. de Grunwald, J.O.C. Orton Story: Cottage to Let (1939 play) by Geoffrey Kerr Cine: Jack Cox Cast: Leslie Banks, Jeanne De Casalis, Carla Lehman (i.e., Carla Lehmann), Alastair Sim, John Mills, George Cole, Michael Wilding, Frank Cellier, Muriel Aked, Wally Patch, Muriel George, Hay Petrie, Catherine Lacey.

Cottage to Let - 0 opener

A somewhat lightweight spy mystery based on a play written before the full horrors were known of what was going on in Europe; it was first staged at Wyndham’s Theatre in London in 1939–40, when opinion on the war’s wisdom was still (just) up for debate in the UK. Another sign of the piece’s date is that, in the screen adaptation, a central character even pronounces the term “Nazis” incorrectly, as “Nazzies” rather than “Natzies.”

Somewhere in Tayside, Scotland, Mrs. Barrington (De Casalis) of the big house is letting out one of the estate’s cottages; the only trouble is that, in typically scatterbrained fashion, she’s agreed to rent it to more than one tenant. Miss Fernery (Aked) is expecting to billet some evacuee children from London in it; Dr. Truscott (Petrie) is expecting to use it as an emergency hospital; while the eccentric Charles Dimble (Sim) is expecting to make it a temporary home. The latter tries to remind his new landlady of this in an exchange that has “stage play” written all over it:

Dimble: “I’m Dimble.”
Mrs. Barrington: “Oh, are you? I’m so sorry.”

Cottage to Let - 2 Dimble exercises his charm on Mrs Barrington

Dimble (Alastair Sim) exercises his native charms on Mrs. Barrington (Jeanne De Casalis).

She airily offers a compromise: Dimble can have a room in the cottage, Truscott can have the rest of it for his patients, and she’ll Continue reading

Green Man, The (1956)

UK / 77 minutes / bw / Grenadier, British Lion Dir: Robert Day Pr & Scr: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Story: Meet A Body (1954 play) by Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Cine: Gerald Gibbs Cast: Alastair Sim, George Cole, Terry-Thomas, Jill Adams, Raymond Huntley, Colin Gordon, Avril Angers, John Chandos, Eileen Moore, Arthur Brough, Dora Bryan, Richard Wattis, Alexander Gauge, Cyril Chamberlain, Vivien Wood, Marie Burke, Lucy Griffiths, Michael Ripper, Doris Yorke, Terence Alexander.

By no stretch of the imagination is this a film noir; rather, it belongs to the same stream of UK crime comedies whose best-known representatives include Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The LADYKILLERS (1955) and School for Scoundrels (1960). It has, too, many of the characteristics of a Whitehall farce, with the same fine timing, mockery of pretensions, and expert manipulation of misunderstandings, especially of an amorous nature.

The glorious piano trio make amorous eyes at the gentlemanly knave Hawkins.

Outwardly respectable Hawkins (Sim)—although he uses other aliases—discovered the art of murder-by-bomb while he was still in preparatory school at Embrook House, whose loathed headmaster Continue reading