Danger Within (1959)

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UK / 96 minutes / bw / Colin Lesslie Productions, British Lion Dir: Don Chaffey Pr: Colin Lesslie Scr: Bryan Forbes, Frank Harvey Story: Death in Captivity (1952; vt The Danger Within) by Michael Gilbert Cine: Arthur Grant Cast: Richard Todd, Bernard Lee, Michael Wilding, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Donald Houston, William Franklyn, Vincent Ball, Peter Arne, Peter Jones, Ronnie Stevens, Terence Alexander, Andrew Faulds, Steve Norbert, Cyril Shaps, Eric Lander, John Dearth, Robert Bruce, Harold Siddons, Ian Whittaker, David Williams, David Graham, Howard Williams, Dino Galvani.

Michael Gilbert was among the great writers of mystery fiction, his most famous novel indubitably being his fourth, Smallbone Deceased (1950), one of those rare books that your correspondent has not only read more than once but makes time to read every few years as a not-so-guilty pleasure.

Most of Gilbert’s novels were set in standard detective-fiction territory. His two main series detectives were Chief Inspector Hazlerigg of the Yard and, later, Patrick Petrella of the Met. Late in life he broke the mold to write some historical detections, but the odd one out during his earlier career was his sixth novel, Death in Captivity (1952; vt The Danger Within), in which he drew upon his own experiences as a prisoner of war in Italy to set a mystery in a POW camp.

The movie adaptation, co-written by Bryan Forbes—best-known as director of such classic movies as site favorite Whistle Down the Wind (1961)[*]—chooses to focus on Continue reading

Trent’s Last Case (1952)

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Orson Welles, Margaret Lockwood and Kenneth Williams amid a glittering cast!
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UK / 86 minutes / bw / Imperadio, Republic Dir & Pr: Herbert Wilcox Scr: Pamela Bower Story: Trent’s Last Case (1913) by E.C. Bentley Cine: Max Greene Cast: Michael Wilding, Margaret Lockwood, Orson Welles, John McCallum, Miles Malleson, Hugh McDermott, Jack McNaughton, Sam Kydd, Kenneth Williams, Henry Edwards, Ben Williams, PLUS

  • Eileen Joyce
  • Anthony Collins
  • and members of the London Symphony Orchestra

This is the third of the four (to date) screen adaptations of Bentley’s supposedly subversive mystery novel. The other three have been:

  • Trent’s Last Case (1920) dir Richard Garrick, with Gregory Scott, Pauline Peters, Clive Brook and George Foley (silent)
  • Trent’s Last Case (1929) dir Howard Hawks, with Raymond Griffith, Marceline Day, Lawrence Gray and Donald Crisp (silent)
  • Trent’s Last Case (1964 TVM) dir Peter Duguid, with Michael Gwynn, Kenneth Fortescue and Peter Williams

. . . and I’m sure my true love would spifflicate me if I didn’t mention the unrelated (beyond the title)

  • Trenchard’s Last Case (1989 TV) dir Mike Barnes, an episode of the Bergerac TV series (1981–91) starring apparently droolworthy screen idol (there’s no accounting for taste) John Nettles

Philip Trent (Wilding) is a monied artist and amateur sleuth. In the past, the editor (uncredited) of the Daily Record has commissioned from him dispatches written while he’s been investigating his most sensational murder cases, and what could be more sensational than the murder of ruthless international financier Sigsbee Manderson (Welles) in the grounds of his stately Hampshire pied à terre, White Gables?

Or was it murder? So many of the circumstantial details point to suicide.

The dead man’s widow Margaret (Margaret Lockwood) gives evidence to the coroner’s court . . .

. . . where Philip sketches John . . .

. . . and gardener Horace Evans (Kenneth Williams) also gives evidence.

Philip reaches White Gables the day after Manderson’s body has been discovered by the subgardener, Horace Evans (an almost unrecognizably young Williams), and, with the help of the widowed Mrs. Manderson’s uncle, Burton Cupples (Malleson), talks his way into the house, where he discovers his old pal and rival, Inspector Murch (Kydd), heading the Continue reading

The Naked Edge (1961)

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A tense little psychological thriller — and it’s Gary Cooper’s last movie!
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UK, US / 97 minutes / bw / Glass–Seltzer, Pennebaker–Baroda, UA Dir: Michael Anderson Pr: Walter Seltzer, George Glass Scr: Joseph Stefano Story: First Train to Babylon (1955) by Max Ehrlich Cine: Erwin Hillier Cast: Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Eric Portman, Diane Cilento, Hermione Gingold, Peter Cushing, Michael Wilding, Ronald Howard, Ray McAnally, Sandor Elès, Wilfrid Lawson, Helen Cherry, Joyce Carey, Diane Clare, Frederick Leister, Martin Boddey, Peter Wayn.

Six years ago, Jason Roote (Boddey), owner and CEO of the Jason Roote Air Freight Corporation, was stabbed to death one night in his office. Only two other employees were on the premises that evening, doing overtime: sales manager George “Cliffe” Radcliffe (Cooper) and lowlier staffer Donald Heath (McAnally). Cliffe heard Roote’s death cry and saw the murderer running away; he and a cop (uncredited) gave chase and Continue reading

Cottage to Let (1941)

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

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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

Channel Crossing (1933)

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Fog in the Channel, and a plutocrat’s nightmare!

UK / 66 minutes / bw / Gaumont–British Dir: Milton Rosmer Scr: W.P. Lipscomb, C. Campion Story: W.P. Lipscomb Cine: Philip Tannura Cast: Matheson Lang, Constance Cummings, Anthony Bushell, Dorothy Dickson, Nigel Bruce, Edmund Gwenn, Douglas Jefferies, H.G. Stoker, Max Miller, Viola Lyel, Clare Greet, Ellen Pollock, Mignon O’Doherty, George Ridgwell, Gerald Barry, Stanley Vilven, Hay Plumb, Cyril Smith, Elizabeth Corcoran, Elizabeth Jenns, Rodney Millington, Bernard Miles, Michael Wilding.

Channel Crossing - closer

International magnate and philanthropist Jacob Van Eeden (Lang) needs to get to Paris in a hurry to secure his latest merger deal. There’s fog over the English Channel so all flights are grounded; instead he must take the Dover–Calais ferry. So he and secretary Marion Slade (Cummings) board the good ship Canterbury and set out for the continong.

Channel Crossing - 1 Marion Slade

Constance Cummings as loyal secretary Marion Slade.

Marion is pursued aboard by her fiancé, shipping clerk Peter Bradley (Bushell). He’s convinced she’s in a carnal relationship with Continue reading