|Index||10 reviews in total|
A clean little quota quickie which has some affinities to post war film
noir. The femme fatale in this one is a bit more dreary than her noir
sisters. The greatest affinity however that this film, and most of the
other better quota quickies, is that they had straight ahead, no
nonsense scripts, and a throw away sense of economics - no one really
cared what the final product was as long as it was done for a price-
and therefore no interference from producers and executives (who didn't
exist at the time). The finished films were simply effective stories
told in no nonsense fashion. Compared to today's films with their
interminable lists of co-producers, executive producers and just plain
producers, all of whom have massive insecurity and ego problems as well
as overwhelming inferiority complexes, causing them all to have to put
in various proprietary bits of business to show that they played an
important part in the production of the film, the good quota quickie,
like the film noir, works like a palate refresher.
Despite the somewhat misleading title of Crown VS Stevens (it's not a courtroom drama) the picture gets into the story from the start and marches off in a direct line to the denouement in a very satisfying way. Another similarity with the noir is the absence of star ego. Stories have not been manipulated because some big ego wants all of the good lines to do or have the double do acts of daring do etc. In fact in Crown VS. Stevens, a British Warner production, the lead actor Patric Knowles would be whisked off to Hollywood to appear as Errol Flynn's brother in Charge of the Light Brigade and begin a long career. In Crown Vs. Stevens what you see is what you get.
There are no twists or turns to the story, but there are various forking paths open to moral interpretation. Taken on this level there are layers upon layers of moral ambiguity, not the least of which is the identification with the crimes of Crime and Punishment, except in this film there is absolutely no guilt creeping into the consciousness of the femme fatale, the sociopathic element that was the hallmark of the noir. But that's getting a little too carried away and heaping too much significance on this amusing little film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a low budget film, this one really delivers--mostly due to the way
the film plays out during the last third of the movie. This movie was
produced for Warner Brothers film by their sister studio, Teddington
Studios and most of the people in it are not familiar to American
audiences, other than perhaps Patric Knowles.
The plot, at least at first, seems rather pedestrian, as you think that the movie is about poor old Patric and his horrid girlfriend. However, despite this appearing to be the course of the film, it later diverges and becomes a film about the awful wife of Knowles' skin-flint boss. While it appears she might have killed a man, Knowles is even more alarmed when it appears she isn't finished--and is trying to kill her hubby as well!! Now as far as the film goes, the standout character is the boss' wife, as she is unrepentantly evil and cold. Rarely does a film show a woman as truly awful and conniving as she is--making this a fascinating character study.
Considering how short and tidy this little film is, it's well worth a look. For this type of movie, it's amazingly good.
A few years later, this would have been a film noir. It's an early work
by Michael Powell. And the guy knew something about noir: How about
"Peeping Tom"! Patric Knowles is perfect as the central character. He
is a bit timid. He's genuinely attractive; so we understand why the
ladies like him. He has a gentle quality that makes us care what
happens to him.
This movie, like much film noir, involves a mercenary woman. There's a good woman, too.
It's directed smoothly and moves along quickly. I can't think of anything to fault it for. It's not a great movie. But it's an extremely skillful presentation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This British thriller starts out like a Hitchcock "wrong man" film. A
basically good and honest fellow (Patrick Knowles as Chris Jensen) buys
an engagement ring for a girl by borrowing from an unscrupulous money
lender. The girl turns out to be a con artist and runs out on him the
next day, taking the ring with her. Chris' boss is a skinflint and
won't give him a raise or an advance on salary, and the money lender is
threatening to call the police if not repaid. Chris goes to the money
lender that night to try to work out a deal and finds him shot dead. He
looks around the office and finds a woman, revolver in hand,
threatening to do the same to him if he moves or makes a sound, and
said woman then makes her getaway. Chris thinks about going to the
police, but then he notices that someone has thrown some of the pages
of the money lender's records - which include records of his debt -
into the fire. So, he just closes the office door and walks back home,
hoping he hasn't been noticed.
What happens next is better than most of Hitchcock's work because - I will tell you this much - Chris is never accused of anything. Apparently, guns were registered in England even back in 1936, because the police are going around examining every revolver on their record books, and they seem to know where every gun in London is supposed to be. Thus the police are looking for a recently fired gun and Chris doesn't even own one, thus he is off the police radar completely. Chris has a few pangs of conscience, but ultimately life is looking up for him from this point forward. He starts dating an interior designer and it starts to get serious, and his debt for the ring has been erased courtesy of the murderer.
So what does go wrong? Chris runs into the killer in the most unlikely of places, and what a piece of work the killer turns out to be. Due to what they have in common, (I'm not going to tell you) Chris decides to stay mum about the killer's identity. However, the killer has plans that involve even more killing and not well thought out plans at that. This causes Chris and the killer to come together in one key scene at the end of the film.
This was a very well done film that will keep you guessing until the end, but mainly it had me wondering in regards to the killer - What were you thinking? Are you really THAT dumb? Watch and find out what I mean by all of this.
As part of TCM's rolling out of films from Teddington, a small British
studio, "Crown vs. Stevens," a 1936 film was shown. These Teddington
movies are done on the cheap, with poor production values, no names in
the cast, and made very quickly. Nevertheless, the studio managed to
pull them off with some good results here and there.
The very handsome Patric Knowles, who would soon come to Hollywood, plays a man taken advantage of by his fiancée - she takes off on him before he's paid for her ring, which she refuses to return. His nasty cheapskate employer won't give him a raise or an advance, so he's forced to go to the seller to explain that he can't pay. He's promptly threatened with legal action if he doesn't show up with the money. When he returns, sans money, he finds a woman has just killed the man and burned his books. It turns out to be his boss' wife, and she begs for his silence. He finds himself in a moral dilemma.
This movie held my interest and has a very satisfying denouement. We see so many B movies done in the U.S., why not some from Britain as well? Teddington isn't big on glamor and stars but seems to have tried for decent stories.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the rather formal title, it has nothing to do with trials or
court cases, just a straightforward murder mystery with some rather bad
acting by the "bad" girl!! Quota quickies were Britain's answer to try
and stop American domination of the cinema, at that time reaching it's
zenith with films like "The General", "Ben Hur" and "Wings".
Unfortunately as funding for British films became easier to get, "quota
quickies" created a glut of sometimes inferior films and there was also
the problem that cinema owners were loath to show British movies - the
public wanted their Garbo, Harlow, Gable and Barrymore!!! They did give
a chance to young up and coming directors like Michael Powell, whose
career took a springboard leap with the birth of the quota quickie.
Googie Withers also started her career in a Michael Powell film - in
true Hollywood fashion she came to audition as an extra for "The Girl
in the Crowd", when one of the leads was sacked and Googie was given
Chris (Patric Knowles) is in love with Mamie (he thinks) - so much so that he has bought her an engagement ring - on approval of course!! Mamie turns out to be a real tart, who runs away with a local tough and also forgets to give back his ring, which he hasn't paid for!! He needs 20 quid in a hurry but when he asks for an advance on his salary, his employer, Mr. Stevens is not sympathetic. When he visits the jeweler, a well known low life, he finds him dead and a desperate girl with a gun behind the curtain. He later finds out that the woman is Mrs. Stevens, an ex showgirl who has married Stevens for his money but comes to realise he is a real skinflint!!
Chris, just visiting the house with office errands realises Doris wishes her husband harm and when he comes down with the flu, that is all the excuse she needs to rush to the chemist for "just a little something to make him sleep". (If he didn't feel ill before, the awful "loud" wallpaper in the house wouldn't help)!! It also doesn't help that Beatrix Thomson is a pretty bad actress, who doesn't seem quite at ease in front of the camera. A look at her credits on IMDb shows only a few films, which may explain her "nervousness". On yet another errand, Chris and Molly (girls seem to find Chris very attractive) hear an engine in the locked garage and while Doris tries to divert them away from the garage in her "nervous" way - surprise, surprise!! the police arrive.
It is not a great movie but a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon. Googie Withers played Ella, Doris's friend from her show days.
This is a very different English mystery film dealing with a woman who kills a man who is a crooked loan shark and has made threats to a woman named Doris Stevens (Beatrix Thomson). Doris is discovered by Chris Jansen as he looks in a closet and finds her with a fired pistol in her hand. It just so happens that this lady Stevens is the wife of his boss and he decides to keep his mouth shut about her involvement in this murder. Chris Jansen is also in debt to this same loan shark for a diamond ring he borrowed for his marriage to his intended girlfriend. Doris Stevens realizes that her husband is an old skinflint and will not give her any kinds of money like other women and she begins to think about killing her husband. The plot of the story takes many twists and turns and will keep you in suspense right to the very end of this British film.
Patric Knowles is a reliable lead in this quota quickie.Within a year he would be supporting Errol Flynn in The Charge Of The Light Brigade.Bernard Miles is appearing in his fourth film at the beginning of what would be an illustrious career on screen but primarily on stage.Mabel Poulton was a big star of the silent screen.However she had one problem and that was she had a cockney accent,Now whilst this was no hindrance to Michael Caine 30 years later,it was alas to poor Mabel.In those days it meant that you were going to end up playing supporting roles.In a parallel to John Gilbert she was handed a lucrative long term contract just before the end of the silent era and just like Gilbert her descent was equally rapid.This in fact was her penultimate film.After one more film her career in films ended.This film is a fairly conventional quota quickie with a rather pat ending.Always interesting but rather less than engrossing.
If you're looking for directorial distinctiveness (because the film was directed by the great Michael Powell), you'll be hard pressed to find much of it in this movie. Powell simply moves the story along deftly, managing the many dead ends and fresh starts in the plot so that they all seem quite natural. The plot itself is tepid by today's standards (and possibly also by the standards of the time). Certainly the shock value of a woman's role in the death of a moneylender is minimal. Some of the acting is a bit over-the-top, but when the characters appear at their most natural in their day-to-day working-stiff lives, they shine the most. Overall, as satisfying as the experience was, I couldn't give this film more than six stars.
Crown v. Stevens (1936)
** (out of 4)
Michael Powell directs this film about an apparent abused wife (Beatrix Thomson) who gets an innocent clerk (Patrick Knowles) involved with her dirty schemes. The only interesting thing about this film is its history. When Britain put a ban on films from the U.S., Warner went there and made Teddington Studios, which is where this film was made. These films were only allowed to be shown in Britain so this film was never seen in America until TCM included it in their "Lost and Found" series. As for the actual film, Powell just hasn't worked for me much as a director. He tells this story in an interesting way in the fact that there's no plot twists or turns but just a straight story. The only problem is that this story bored the hell out of me to the point where I was hoping the movie would end after the twenty-minute mark. The two leads are pretty bland in the film as well.
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