Murder by Rope (1936)

|
A killer in their midst!
|

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

Highly Dangerous (1950)

UK / 89 minutes / bw / Two Cities, GFD, Rank Dir: Roy Ward Baker Pr: Antony Darnborough Scr: Eric Ambler Cine: Reginald Wyer Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Dane Clark, Bill Casey, Marius Goring, Naunton Wayne, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Eugene Deckers, Olaf Pooley, Gladys Henson, Paul Hardtmuth, Michael Hordern, Eric Pohlmann, Joan Haythorne, Anton Diffring, Anthony Newley, Ewen Solon, Michael Rittermann, Lance Secretan.

Highly Dangerous - closer

Entomologist Frances Gray (Lockwood) is asked by her boss Rawlins (Hordern) and Mr. Hedgerley (Wayne) from the Secretariat of the Imperial General Staff if she could go to an obscure Iron Curtain country to investigate the possibility that a scientist called Kassen has succeeded in breeding insecticide-resistant fruitflies that could be used as vectors for germ warfare against the West.

Highly Dangerous - 1 Mr Hedgerley recruits

Mr Hedgerley (Naunton Wayne), Frances’s recruiter.

She refuses point-blank: she’s just about to go on her hols to Torquay. Hedgerley hitches a lift from her to the station, and en route she plays the night episode of the radio serial Frank Conway, Secret Agent. It is her duty to do so nightly, so that she can tell the story to 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

Night Boat to Dublin (1946)

UK / 96 minutes / bw / Trans-World, Pathe Dir: Lawrence Huntington Pr: Hamilton G. Inglis Scr: Lawrence Huntington, Robert Hall Cine: Otto Heller Cast: Robert Newton, Raymond Lovell, Guy Middleton, Muriel Pavlow, Herbert Lom, John Ruddock, Martin Miller, Brenda Bruce, Gerald Case, Julian Dallas (i.e., Scott Forbes), Leslie Dwyer, Valentine Dyall, Bruce Gordon, Marius Goring, Olga Lindo, Stuart Lindsell, Gordon McLeod, Joan Maude, Lawrence O’Madden, Hay Petrie, Wilfrid Hyde White.

Night Boat to Dublin - 0 openerIn the opening moments of this noirish spy tale we see Frederick Jannings (Goring), held prisoner in the Tower of London as a suspected Nazi spy and facing death by firing squad, being given one last chance to tell British Military Intelligence what has happened to missing Swedish scientist Dr. Hansen (Miller), whose researches into atomic weapons are making their way to the Nazis. Jannings believes Hansen is dead, which is taken by his captors as a refusal to talk; he’s Continue reading

Midnight Episode (1950)

UK / 77 minutes / bw / Triangle, Columbia Dir: Gordon Parry Pr: Theo Lageard Scr: Reeve Tyler, Rita Barisse, Paul Vincent Carroll, David Evans, William Templeton Story: Monsieur La Souris (1938) by Georges Simenon Cine: Hone Glendining Cast: Stanley Holloway, Leslie Dwyer, Reginald Tate, Meredith Edwards, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Joy Shelton, Natasha Parry, Raymond Young, Leslie Perrins, Sebastian Cabot, Campbell Copelin, Helena Carroll, Darcy Conyers, Edna Morris, William Simons, Joseph Chelton, Molineros and his Rhumba Band.

Midnight Episode - 0 opener

Loquacious street entertainer Kelvin Landseer Prince (Holloway)—”The Professor”—scrapes a living through delivering orotund recitations from The Greats to theater queues in London’s West End while occasionally, in hopes of a tip, opening car doors for arrivals at the nearby Silver Slipper Club. One night he opens just such a car door to discover the driver apparently dead. He runs to fetch the Silver Slipper’s doorman, “The General” (Copelin), but just as they return the car drives off; The General clearly thinks The Professor has been at the bottle, but Continue reading