snapshot: The Net (1953)

vt Project M7
UK / 82 minutes / bw / Two Cities, Rank Dir: Anthony Asquith Pr: Antony Darnborough Scr: William Fairchild Story: The Net (1952) by John Pudney Cine: Desmond Dickinson Cast: Phyllis Calvert, James Donald, Robert Beatty, Herbert Lom, Muriel Pavlow, Noel Willman, Walter Fitzgerald, Patric Doonan, Maurice Denham, Marjorie Fielding, Cavan Watson, Herbert Lomas, Cyril Chamberlain.

Behind the net—the wire fencing—of secret UK research establishment Port Amberley, the team led by Michael Heathley (Donald) has finished developing the experimental supersonic nuclear-augmented jet aircraft code-named M7. All that remains is to test-fly the prototype, something Michael wants to do immediately, in conjunction with pilot Brian Jackson (Doonan). But the site’s boss, Professor Carrington (Denham) is cautious, and insists it’s too early to risk human lives, that there should be remote-controlled test flights first.

 

Maurice Denham as Carrington.

But then Carrington dies as a result of a mysterious accident and Michael decides, over the objections of several of his colleagues, to Continue reading

13 East Street (1952)

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“I’ve lived in a jungle all my life. She who bites first bites last—that’s my motto.”
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UK / 69 minutes / bw / Tempean, Eros Dir: Robert S. Baker Pr: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman Scr: John Gilling, Carl Nystrom Story: Robert S. Baker Cine: Monty Berman Cast: Patrick Holt, Sandra Dorne, Sonia Holm, Robert Ayres, Dora Bryan, Michael Balfour, Hector MacGregor, Michael Brennan, Alan Judd, Michael Ward, Alan Gordon, Harry Towb.

A likable, extremely competent (aside from the abominably staged fisticuffs) but hardly memorable programmer from a time when such movies were the heart of British cinema. And it comes complete with a rooftop chase!

Gerald Blake (Holt) holds up a jewelry store in London but is caught by the cops as he tries to make his getaway. Sentenced at the same time as expat American professional crook Joey Long (Balfour), he befriends the man and, as luck would have it, becomes his cellmate and buddy. Soon enough, Gerald engineers an escape, and brings Joey along with him.

Patrick Holt as Gerald Blake.

Joey’s a member of the gang run by another US immigre, Larry Conn (Ayres), under cover of the latter’s Haulage Contractor business. Thanks to Joey’s friendship, Larry takes Gerald at face value and recruits him. Other Continue reading

snapshot: When the Bough Breaks (1947)

UK / 78 minutes / bw / Sydney Box, Gainsborough, GFD, Rank Dir: Lawrence Huntington Pr: Betty E. Box Scr: Peter Rogers Story: Moie Charles, Herbert Victor Cine: Bryan Langley Cast: Patricia Roc, Rosamund John, Bill Owen, Brenda Bruce, Patrick Holt, Leslie Dwyer, Cavan Malone, Torin Thatcher, Catherine Lacey, Edith Sharpe, Muriel George, Jane Hylton, Noel Howlett, Sonia Holm.

Lily Gardner (Roc), recovering in hospital after the birth of her first child, Jimmy, receives the unwelcome news that her husband is a bigamist—legally Jimmy has been born out of wedlock. She decides to go it alone, reverting to her maiden name of Lily Bates, forswearing men and getting a job at a department store. There she’s befriended by scent-counter colleague Ruby Chapman (Bruce). During the day she leaves Jimmy at a childcare center, where he’s tended by rich Frances Norman (John). Eventually it all gets too much for Lily and she allows Frances and Frances’s husband Robert (Holt) to adopt the lad.

Patricia Roc as Lily Gardner/Bates, getting the bad news about her marital status.

Eight years later, though, she meets Continue reading

Feet of Clay (1960)

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“So I gave her wings!”
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UK / 56 minutes / bw / Danziger, UA Dir: Frank Marshall Pr: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger Story: Mark Grantham Cine: Jimmy Wilson Cast: Vincent Ball, Wendy Williams, Hilda Fennemore (i.e., Hilda Fenemore), Robert Cawdron, Brian Smith, Angela Douglas, Alan Browning, Sandra Alfred, David Courtney, Jack Melford, Ian Wilson, Howard Lang, Lawrence Ireland, Arnold Bell, Edith Saville.

As with Monogram or PRC in the US, the name of the UK Poverty Row studio Danzigers was rarely a guarantee of any great quality, but often enough you got a perfectly amenable mediocrity and, every now and then, you got a jewel. This was one of the jewels—or, perhaps more realistically, a diamond in the rough.

Vincent Ball as David Kyle.

Wendy Williams as Fay Kent.

When probation officer Angela Richmond (Saville) is stabbed in a dark alley in London’s docklands, the workers within the legal system, from beat cops to judges, are horrified: Richmond was “The Angel of the Police Courts,” the golden-hearted woman who sponsored the release of young offenders from custodial sentences and gave them the opportunity to build a life.

Alan Browning (right) as Inspector Gill.

The constable (Ireland) on patrol near the alley where the murder was committed saw young Jimmy Fuller (Smith) fleeing from the scene, and Continue reading

They Never Learn (1956)

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Recorded in a bathroom?
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UK / 46 minutes / bw / E.J. Fancey Productions, New Realm Dir & Scr: Denis L. Kavanagh, Edwin J. Fancey Pr: Edwin J. Fancey Cine: Hal Morey Cast: John Blyth (i.e., John Blythe), Jackie Collins, Graham Stark, Adrienne Scott, Michael Partridge, Ken Hayward, John Crowhurst, Campbell Singer (voice), Diana Chesney, Geoff Roberts, Brian Goff, Jack Gray, Robert Vince, Joyce Jeffery PLUS, as Holloway inmates, Fay Witmond, Dorothy English, Joyce C. Maloney, Jean Rice, Gladys Clark, June Pennock, Dorothy Budman, Anita Ellery, Pauline Hedgecock, Irene Cast.

A quota quickie that’s so bumblingly amateurish that it’s really quite fun to watch: it’s not a movie that’s “so bad it’s good” (a trope to which I’ve never much subscribed) but one that seems almost puppyishly anxious to please. The incompetence is puppyish too. If you prefer your crime movies to be lean, smoothly powerful Dobermans, then They Never Learn isn’t for you. But, if your heart really belongs to that three-month mongrel pup from the pound that’s wagging its tail in a blur and could well wet the floor in its eagerness to be tickled behind the ears, then you have a treat in store.

Which is all to say that They Never Learn is a thoroughly bad movie but I enjoyed it even so.

Adrienne Scott as WPC Marie Watson.

One oddity is that the sound effects have clearly been added separately. All the dialogue, too, has been very obviously dubbed on afterwards, and not especially adroitly. (It gives the impression, in fact, of having been Continue reading

Crime Over London (1936)

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Thrills in store!
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UK / 63 minutes / bw / Anglo–American, Criterion Dir: Alfred Zeisler Pr: Marcel Hellman Scr: Norman Alexander, Harold French Story: probably Punks Kommt aus Amerika (1929) by Louis de Wohl Cine: Victor Armenise Cast: Joseph Cawthorn, Bruce Lister, Rène Ray, Paul Cavanagh, Basil Sydney, Margot Grahame, David Burns, Edmon Ryan, John Darrow, Danny Green, Googie Withers.

Oxford Street’s department store Selfridges, dressed up as Sherwoods.

A movie that’s littered with noirish tropes and dialogue, plus some noirish cinematography, yet for the most part doesn’t have much of a noirish feel. It nevertheless has lot to interest us, both as a period piece—there are some truly evocative London street scenes—and for some of its cast.

Years ago gangster Eddie “Joker” Finnigan (Sydney) sought career advancement in New York, but now things are getting too hot for him in the States and so he’s come back to London, bringing some of his gang members with him. Although those goons are eager to start pulling off a few heists, Joker insists they bide their time, instead opening up a gambling joint where hostesses Pearl (Grahame) and Miss Dupres (Withers), plus floorwalker Sniffy (Burns), entice the gullible into losing money on the cards.

David Burns as Sniffy.

Googie Withers as Miss Dupres.

Pearl is Joker’s moll, but it’s his sidekick Jim (Darrow) who stokes her fires. The feeling’s mutual, and the two plot secretly and rather clumsily to Continue reading

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

Bait (1949)

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Cat and mouse games!
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UK / 68 minutes / bw / Advance, Adelphi Dir & Pr: Frank Richardson Scr: Mary Benedetta, Francis Miller Story: Bait (n.d.; play) by Frank Richardson Cine: Ernest Palmer Cast: Diana Napier, John Bentley, John Oxford, Patricia Owen (i.e., Patricia Owens), Kenneth Hyde, Sheila Robins, Willoughby Goddard, Douglas Trow, Richard Gatehouse, Jack Gracey, Wolf Tauber.

Having lost heavily one night at cards, a quartet of seemingly respectable characters hatch a plot to earn some money. Young Tom Hannaford (uncredited, but I think Tauber) has been “escorting” rich and none too bright Nina Revere (Robins) in the temporary absence of her husband. Tonight she was wearing a pair of diamond earrings that his friend Jim Prentice (Hyde), an executive for insurance firm Varley & Varley, values at £12,000.

Nina (Sheila Robins) says goodnight to toyboy Tom (Wolf Tauber?).

Jim (Kenneth Hyde) examines the earrings.

John Oxford as Bromley.

Eleanor (Napier), forceful leader of the quartet, instructs Tom to borrow the earrings on the pretext of getting them cleaned at Cartier. She, Eleanor, will take them to upscale fence John Hartley (Goddard) and extract £8,000 from him for the items. Thereafter, the gang of four—which includes Continue reading

King of the Damned (1935)

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité on a prison island!
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UK / 74 minutes / bw / Gaumont–British Dir: Walter Forde Pr: Michael Balcon Scr: A.R. Rawlinson, Charles Bennett, Sidney Gilliatt Story: King of the Damned (1934 play) by John Chancellor Cine: Bernard Knowles Cast: Conrad Veidt, Helen Vinson, Noah Beery, Cecil Ramage, Edmund Willard, Percy Parsons, Peter Croft, Raymond Lovell, C.M. Hallard, Allan Jeayes, Percy Walsh.

Noah Beery as Mooche.

Colonel Fernandez (Hallard), commandant of the prison camp on the island of Santa Maria—which is most assuredly not Devil’s Island, for fear of offending the French—is seriously ill, and his daughter Anna (Vinson) flies out to be with him. The friends (uncredited) with whom she travels warn her she may find that her fiancé, who’s also her father’s deputy on the island, Major Ramon Montez (Ramage), has changed a little since last she saw him. Her early time on the island is spent progressively discovering that the man she thought she loved has become a despotic monster:

Anna: “I wish [my father] wouldn’t worry about things when he’s so ill.”
Montez: “Hm. So do I.”
Anna: “Why doesn’t he leave it all to you?”
Montez: “Well, you see, your father and I work on rather different lines. We’ve got three thousand convicts here, and I believe the only way to keep them under is to keep them afraid of us.”

Helen Vinson as Anna Fernandez.

Without Colonel Fernandez’s knowledge, Montez and his sidekick Captain Perez (Walsh) are, to their own considerable profit, dragooning the Continue reading

Delavine Affair, The (1955)

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“And don’t forget: make one silly mistake and she won’t be working with you any more!”
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vt Murder is News
UK / 62 minutes / bw / Croydon Passmore, Monarch Dir: Douglas Peirce Pr: Henry Passmore Scr: George Fisher, J.B. Boothroyd (i.e., Basil Boothroyd) Story: Winter Wears a Shroud (1952) by Robert Chapman Cine: Jonah Jones, Bernie Lewis Cast: Peter Reynolds, Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson, Valerie Vernon, Michael Balfour, Peter Neil, Laurie Main, Peter Swannick (i.e., Peter Swanwick), Katie Johnson, Mark Daly, Anna Turner, Mai Bacon, Hal Osmond, Vernon Kelso, Christie Humphrey.

Robert Chapman, author of this movie’s source novel, was a Fleet Street journalist and columnist—in fact, I vaguely recollect bringing him a cup of tea when, as a schoolboy in the 1960s, I worked a vacation job as a messenger at Fleet Street’s Daily Express. I tried one of his detective novels some while later and found it Continue reading