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Brisk, efficient British post-War crime melodrama set in London - part of the 'Spiv' movie cycle(films with roots in 30s American Gangster movies, featuring characters profiting from wartime rationing in a similar fashion to 30s bootleggers, but not so clearly glamorised as their Stateside equivalents - see also the superior NOOSE). Richard Attenborough stars as former soldier, Ted Peters, now making a living as a London cab-driver who becomes involved with a criminal gang headed by dance hall owner and criminal mastermind Mr Gregory (the seriously undervalued Barry Jones), whose henchman and M.C. Paul Baker (Barry K. Barnes) has offed Ted's childhood friend and former army buddy Dave Robinson (Bill Rowbotham, better known to U.K. audiences as Bill Owen, star of long-running U.K. T.V comedy series LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE). At Ted's behest, his girlfriend Joy (Sheila Sim) gets a job as a dancehall hostess in Gregory's dance hall as part of Ted's attempts to expose the criminal gang and the true nature of the crime lord's enterprise is gradually exposed. Punchily directed by John Paddy Carstairs, and redolent with post-War atmosphere, this is another example of the type of popular genre fare which entertained U.K. audiences in the 40s at the same time as the now revered 'noir' movies similarly engaged their U.S. contemporaries. Deserving wider acclaim, the movies from this post-War U.K. genre are valid, and diverting, social documents which often gave early exposure to burgeoning talents (in this instance, an uncredited brunette Diana Dors and a 'blink and you'll miss him' Dirk Bogarde) and should, by rights, be as revered in their country of origin as the more celebrated and documented U.S. post-War crime movies. Worth checking out, if you get the chance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Richard Attenborough is the lead in this excellent UK film.
Attenborough plays a cab driver who gets involved in the murder of a friend. Attenborough, gives a mate from his army days, Bill Owen, a ride and drops him at a dance club. He then goes into a nearby café for a drink and a sandwich.
Owen, is a member of a robbery and black-market smuggling gang. He is at the club to collect his end of a 50,000 pound jewel heist. His boss, Barry Jones, runs the club as a cover for his crime activities. Jones, along with his number two, Barry K. Barnes, meet Owen in his office. They hand him a small packet with 50 pounds. Owen is not happy at all with this. Owen growls, "That is all I get for a 50,000 pound job?" Owen starts towards Jones who quickly produces a pistol. Owen sees the gun, stops, picks up the cash as if to pocket it. Jones lowers his piece and Owen decks him with a solid punch. Barnes decides Owen is no longer an asset to the gang and shoots Owen in the chest. Owen gets a punch in on Barnes and then staggers out. Owen makes it into the street and manages to collapse in the back seat of Attenborough's still parked taxi.
Barnes, who has followed him out into the crowded street, sees Owen climb into the taxi. He decides there are too many witnesses to risk a second shot. He watches as Attenborough comes out of the café and drives away.
Attenborough, has a date with his dancer girlfriend, Shelia Sim. He has no idea that Owen is dead on the back seat.
He meets Sim for their night out on the town. He opens the back door of the cab for Sim, and a rather dead Owen falls out. A handy copper puts the call into Scotland Yard.
Yard Inspectors, John Warwick and Gary Marsh give Attenborough and Sim a grilling. The detectives want to make sure they had nothing to do with the murder. Owen was just a buddy from the Army. He had dropped him off and had no idea Owen had returned to the taxi. The Police show the two a signed photo they had found. It shows Owen and a woman. Attenborough and and Sim shake their heads. They have never seen her before. The Police tell them they are free to go. .
The next night, Attenborough and Sim decide on a bit of detective work of their own. They hit the dance club to ask if anyone knows Owen. Not 10 feet in the door and they see the woman from the photograph. The woman, Judy Kelly, is the singer in the club band.
Barnes, who is also the M.C. for the club, recognizes Attenbrough from the night before. Why is he here wonders Barnes. He grabs the boss, Jones, and tells him that maybe Owen had talked before he died. Jones says that if Owen had talked, John Law would have put the pinch on them by now.
Sim, gets herself hired as a floor dancer so she can keep an eye on Kelly.
Several days go by, and Barnes still insists Attenborough needs to be dealt with. Jones calls in one of the gang, Cyril Chamberlain, and tells him to hire a couple of "heavy boys" and dispose of Attenborough.
Chamberlain hires Attenborough's taxi and has him drive to a warehouse. Once there, Chamberlain asks him to help carry out a box for a return trip back to town. Once he gets our boy inside, the heavy lads pop out with the blackjacks etc.
Attenborough, manages to get a few licks of his own in and escapes. The Yard is called and they come to collect him. By the time Marsh and Warwick arrive, the nasty types have hit the road. Chamberlain reports to Jones he has botched the hit. A less than amused Jones has another gang member take Chamberlain for a ride. Needless to say this ride has a less than happy ending for Chamberlain.
Attenborough is at the Yard explaining what had happened when Sim calls. She has overheard a talk between Jones and Barnes about a robbery set for that night.
The Police decide to stake out the robbery site and grab the gang in the act. The gang shows and the Police swarm them and apply the cuffs. Barnes though, evades capture and phones Jones to warn him. Jones empties the wall safe and gets ready to flee the country. He has also discovered that Sim was the one who ratted out the gang.
The Police and Attenborough pile back in their cars and speed to the club. Jones comes out with a gun planted in the middle of Sim's back. The Police pull up and Jones starts blasting. Attenborough works his way behind Jones and tackles him, saving Sim. A cuffed Jones is hauled away while Attenborough and Sim embrace.
This well-paced, rather violent film, features some very nice camera work. It was on the whole, a very pleasant surprise.
The director was John Paddy Carstairs. THE SAINT IN London is the only other film of his I've seen. The D of P was Reg Wyer. He lensed, THE UPTURNED GLASS, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, SO LONG AT THE FAIR, HIGHLY DANGEROUS, STREET CORNER, WHEEL OF FATE, EYEWITNESS, THE WEAPON, and THE INFORMERS.
Attenborough had roles in BRIGHTON ROCK, BOYS IN BROWN, THE MAN UPSTAIRS, EIGHT O'CLOCK WALK and 10 RILLINGTON PLACE. Look close and you will see an unbilled Dirk Bogarde and Diana Dors in the crowd.
This film sounded interesting from the subject matter, especially the
dance-hall setting: and there is some good acting from the 'heavies',
Barry K. Barnes as Paul Baker, the suave, good-looking and dangerous
master of ceremonies, and Barry Jones as 'Mr Gregory', the mind behind
the scenes. Unfortunately I didn't find the young hero and heroine
particularly involving -- they are basically blank spots in the script
marked "Generic Virtuous Character" -- and as the plot begins to be
twisted in their favour with more and more incredulity-straining
coincidences I found my tolerance decreasing. Diana Dors catches the
eye in an unbilled (and for all that surprisingly prominent) part as
one of the 'professional partners' at the dance hall, and various
character actors do their reliable stuff. There are moments of genuine
tension: but, alas, for me at least they always involved conflict
between the villains rather than the endangerment of Our Heroes which
was supposed to provide excitement. I'm afraid I got much more worried
by Toni Masters' possible fate at the hands of a psychotic lorry-driver
-- since she is a Bad Girl and therefore has some actual character
conflict -- than by a punch-up involving Ted Peters, who is bound to
win by some total fluke anyhow.
The film looked promising at the start, but I failed to get involved and ended up feeling manipulated instead.
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