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

Crook’s Tour (1941)

UK / 78 minutes / bw / British National, Anglo–American Dir & Pr: John Baxter Story: Crook’s Tour (1941 radio play) by John Watt, Max Kester Cine: James Wilson Cast: Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Greta Gynt, Charles Oliver, Gordon McLeod, Abraham Sofaer, Bernard Rebel, Cyril Gardiner, Leo de Pokorny, Morris Harvey, Noel Hood.

Crook's Tour - 0 opener

Hawtrey Charters (Radford) and Sinclair Caldicott (Wayne), the two eccentric, cricket-maniacal Englishmen made famous in The Lady Vanishes (1938), appeared in a series of other movies, of which this is one; it’s adapted from a BBC radio comedy drama.

The pair are members of an escorted Middle East tour when their charabanc runs out of gas in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert. They’re at first a bit leery at the approach of a caravan of Arabs, but soon it emerges that the leader, Sheik Ramda (Oliver), went to the same English public school as Charters. The Sheik puts all the tourists and their guide up for the night, which is welcome; even so, our two heroes do have concerns, such as that Caldicott might be late for his rendezvous in Budapest with his fiancée, Charters’s sister Edith (Hood), and, far more important, that both men might miss the final (cricket) Test match between England and the Windies at Lords. Moreover, as Ramda explains to them, there are agents of a foreign power stirring discontent among the traditional Arab population.

Back in Baghdad and with some time to spare, they seek an eaterie. What they find is a joint offering Folies de Londres avec Les Girls and featuring danceuse/chanteuse La Palermo (Gynt) in La Danse d’Hibou (aka La Danse de Voiles). “Looks a bit continental, doesn’t it?” observes Charters.

Crook's Tour - 1 An eaterie in Baghdad - 'Looks a bit continental, doesn't it'

“Looks a bit continental, doesn’t it?”

By astonishing coincidence, this is precisely the dive whose cigar-smoking Nazi manager, Rossenger (McLeod), is tonight expecting two German agents to Continue reading

o/t: oh, it’s New Year, is it?

Many thanks to everyone whose visits and comments through 2014 have made it seem worth my while continuing with Noirish. The year has seen a steady growth in the site’s traffic; golly, but I felt as if I was channeling Mitt Romney when I typed that.

It’s not a feeling I much wish to revisit.

Whateffer, as they say in my homeland, I hope everyone who visits this site regularly, occasionally or even (and here I’m stretching what little human sympathies I have) <i>never</i> has a great 2015. It’d be good, too, if the world as a whole had a great 2015, but that would involve US politics somehow ridding itself of its corruption and beginning to act in the interests of the American people, and of the planet.

Here are the movies about which I posted essays on <i>Noirish</i> during 2014. I’d hoped that each title would link to the relevant page, but the gods of WordPress decided that This Was Not To Be. The list includes the movie about which I’ll be posting tomorrow — a spiffy Japanese neonoir that you owe it to yourself to see.

January
Secret, The (1997 TVM)
Shadow, The (1933)
Tiger Bay (1934)
Wenn es Nacht Wird auf der Reeperbahn (1967)
Woman’s Secret, A (1949)
East, The (2013)
After Alice (1999)
Amateur Crook (1937)
American Gangster (2007)
Black Hand, The: True Story of a Recent Occurrence in the Italian Quarter of New York (1906)
Dead Man Down (2013)
Fat Man, The (1951)
Fear is the Key (1972)
Flirting with Fate (1916)

February
Girl in Gold Boots (1968)
Hotel Berlin (1945)
Hotel Noir (2012)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
Love the Hard Way (2001/2003)
Morton Thompson’s Not as a Stranger (1955)
Night Train (2009 DTV)
Public Eye, The (1992)
Secret Six, The (1931)
Stark Fear (1962)
Teckman Mystery, The (1954)
Call, The (2013)

March
In Cold Blood (1967)
In Cold Blood (1996 TVM)
Capote (2005)
Infamous (2006)
Case of the Missing Heiress, The (1949)
Circus of Fear (1966)
Circus Queen Murder, The (1933)
Dark Light, The (1951)
Double Identity (1990 TVM)
Floater, The (1961 TVM)
Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941)
Evidence of the Film, The (1913)
Fat Man, The: The Thirty-Two Friends of Gina Lardelli (1959 TVM)

April
Felicia’s Journey (1999)
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Gangster Squad (2013)
Pris au Piège (1957 TVM)
Rikollinen Nainen (1952)
Stand Up Guys (2012)
Tiger Bay (1959)
White Trap, The (1959)
Drag-Net, The (1936)
Four Just Men, The (1939)

May
Anna-Liisa (1922)
Arsenal Stadium Mystery, The (1939)
Banker, The (1989)
Blood (2012)
Candlelight in Algeria (1944)
Convicted (1931)
Douce Violence (1962)
Engagement (2012)

June
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
Frosch mit der Maske, Der (1959)
Girl on the Run (1953)
Moderato Cantabile (1960)
Murder is News (1937)
Three Steps in the Dark (1953)
On Dangerous Ground (1951)
To Kill a Dead Man (1994)
Violent Moment (1959)
You Have to Run Fast (1961)

July
Young Captives, The (1959)
Spy in Black, The (1939)
Out of the Past (1947)
Awful Truth, The (1937)
Public Ransom, A (2014)
Alias Mary Smith (1932)
Baryshnya i Khuligan (1918)
Blind Alibi (1938)
Cage of Evil (1960)
Carrefour (1938)
Counselor, The (2013)

August
Emil und die Detektive (1931)
Bushwhackers, The (1952)
Game (2013)
Floating Dutchman, The (1952)
Geheimnis der Schwarzen Witwe, Das (1963)
Hell’s House (1932)
Something to Live For (1952)
Motel Blue (1997 DTV)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Voice of Merrill, The (1952)
Ragazza del Lago, La (2007)

September
Ringer, The (1952)
Scarlet Web, The (1954)
Stolen (2009)
Stolen (2012)
Dødes Tjern, De (1958)
Suspect (1960)
Alibi, L’ (1937)
Anni (2011 DTV)

October
Black Widow (1954)
Boîte Noire, La (2005)
Marked Man (1996)
Confessions of a Psycho Cat (1968)
Crime Nobody Saw, The (1937)
Death at Broadcasting House (1934)
Down Three Dark Streets (1954)
Femme Fatale (2013)
Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)
Girl who Dared, The (1944)

November
Hideout, The (1956)
Intruder, The (1933)
Labyrinth der Leidenschaften (1959)
Lizzie (1957)
Maison sous les Arbres, La (1971)
Manche et la Belle, Une (1957)
Midnight Episode (1950)
Missing Million, The (1942)
Night Boat to Dublin (1946)

December
Musta Jää (2007)
Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)
Pokrajina Št.2 (2008)
Premier Cercle, Le (2009)
Rossiter Case, The (1951)
Send for Paul Temple (1946)
Silenzio dei Prosciutti, Il (1994)
Sheng Dan Mei Gui (2013)
Special Investigator (1936)
Tantei Wa Bar ni Iru (2011)

Obviously most of these are borderline noir at best, and quite a few aren’t noir at all (but have some vague form of associational interest, even if only in my fevered brain); there’s a reason why this site has the title it does. I think I probably have the old/new balance about right, although this may be affected in the coming year as I attempt to cover more indies. Another factor is that I’d like to cover more of the noirish Bollywood movies; more non-anglophone movies in general.

I think what I need is two of me.

Ringer, The (1952)

UK / 73 minutes / bw / London, British Lion Dir: Guy Hamilton Scr: Val Valentine, Lesley Storm Story: The Gaunt Stranger (1925; vt Police Work; revised vt The Ringer 1926) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ted Scaife, John Wilcox Cast: Herbert Lom, Donald Wolfit, Mai Zetterling, Greta Gynt, William Hartnell, Dora Bryan, Norman Wooland, Denholm Elliott, Charles Victor, Walter Fitzgerald, Campbell Singer, John Stuart.

The Ringer 1952 - 4 Lom is suitably creepy as Meister

Herbert Lom, in supreme form.

Feared internationally, the crook Henry Arthur Milton, better known as The Ringer—because he could ring the changes with his disguises—finally met his end in Australia. Or did he? According to his wife Cora Ann (Gynt) he somehow escaped and has now made his way to London. That’s what the cops think too, and the slightly sinister Chief Inspector Bliss (Wooland), recently returned to Scotland Yard from a somewhat mysterious secondment in New York, is put in charge of the case. He liaises with Inspector Wembury (Victor) of the Met, whose Deptford territory includes the home of powerful criminal lawyer Maurice Meister (Lom). It’s thought that the reason The Ringer has come back to London is to seek vengeance on Meister, whom he blames for the suicide some years ago of his (The Ringer’s) sister Gwenda.

The Ringer 1952 - 2 Zetterling as Lisa Gruber

Mai Zetterling as Meister’s secretary Lisa Gruber.

Wembury enlists the aid of cheery Cockney burglar Samuel “Sam” Cuthbert Hackitt (Hartnell), who has just been released from prison; although too terrified to Continue reading