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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A "Cloudburst" of revenge

7/10
Author: NCarolinaGirl from Greensboro, NC
29 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It appears not many have seen this film as evidenced by the few reviews. I was surprised that it was as good as it was given it seems few have seen it.

Produced by Hammer Films of England, this is fairly light fare for them as they became primarily producers of horror films. Even still, there are some macabre elements to this film (several characters being run over by cars).

Preston, as John Graham, is quite believable in his portrayal of an ex-commando for the Resistance, who is indebted to his wife, played very genuinely by Elizabeth Sellars, who also worked alongside him in the Resistance. He credits her for saving his life for refusing to divulge secrets under torture. She limps visibly as a result. They are expecting their 1st child. Tragically one evening she is the victim of a hit and run by murder suspects fleeing from capture. Graham recalls his wife saying (upon hearing of a murder) that her anger would hound the murderer like a cloudburst until she could repay what they had done. So he begins a systematic plan to get revenge on the 2 people who killed his wife.

I thought Sellars had quite a beautiful and interesting face - especially her cheekbones. Its a shame she was killed off so early in the film.

I think the writers did a good job of evolving the story. They don't reveal all about the Graham's past together and how she got the limp, saved his life, etc. until later. It keeps you intrigued.

This is a classic revenge tale. But in light of his past as commando in the Resistance it makes sense. I was surprised that you never really see him rage, but it could be his training in special forces to just "get the job done". I question the likelihood that he would be stupid enough to leave his coded note behind at one of the crime scenes, unless that is part of his "I have nothing to live for" mentality and he is hoping to get caught. Certainly his training should have otherwise prevented this so perhaps it was intentional.

All in all, I found this to be very suspenseful, although a little dark in places.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Superb crime drama that also adjusts the viewer to a new post-war Britain

Author: secondtake from United States
4 August 2011

Cloudburst (1951)

A great title, and a curious, odd little film that is commanding at times and well filmed throughout. And it has some real surprises, so good drama.

The big surprise is near the beginning and I don't want to give anything away, but there is a deeply romantic core to the entire movie. This is most of all about a man who loves his wife. Both man and wife are involved in the British top secret code breaking operation of WWII, and the movie begins in fact with a tour of the code-breaking room. But then it shifts to our two leads, the man a hale and handsome Robert Preston, the woman a cute and slightly mysterious Elizabeth Sellars. They're going to have a baby, life looks perfect ahead.

But things take a sudden turn, and Preston is off on a solitary manhunt. His lonely quest and his isolation from his friends make this a kind of British film noir, a post-war malaise hanging over the film (it's set in 1946). There is a more than slight improbability to some of the revenge he wreaks (the victims seem a hair willing to just stand there and take it) but if you accept this as just part of the drama, the rest of the film in all its small details is really great, really compelling.

In a way, the movie is a metaphor for the whole war, both on the grand scale (hating the Germans) and on a personal level (hating particular crimes, specific deaths). And if retribution occurs, a higher order of justice is inserted, too. And honor, or a sense of doing the right thing based on conscience. Preston pulls off all sides of this dilemma well. He's warm and he's cold, he's smart and he's flawed. And in the end he's sentimental, too. The final reading of the code, once it's broken, is a touching triumph.

And what about the character Sellars plays? "My hatred would overwhelm me like a cloudburst," she says, explaining not only the title, but the theme of the movie, retribution from the gut. She inhabits the film very much, but from the opposite side of things than Sellars. As you'll see. The film does move slowly at times. The war is over, that kind of high drama is past, but in its smaller goals it never stutters, it never fails to know what it wants and how to get there.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Really Good

8/10
Author: whitesheik from Los Angeles
24 October 2008

I read the other two "reviews" here - the first written by someone who seems to have seen a different film than the one actually in front of his eyes, and the other by someone who doesn't really get one of the major plot points. But, this is the IMDb so what else is new.

I'd never seen or heard of Cloudburst prior to the recent showing on TCM. It's quite a good little film - well directed by Searle, whose work I don't know at all, with a top-notch score by Frank Spencer, a composer I also don't know. Preston is very good, as are the rest of the players, especially the actor who plays the Inspector. The storytelling is compelling, and there's a surprising complexity in Preston's character. Leo Marks, from whose play this was taken, was a fascinating writer and person - as one of the others points out, he really did work as a decoder during the war - and this isn't the only film he wrote where the central character is a decoder - he also wrote Sebastian, in which Dirk Bogarde plays a decoder. And, of course, Marks gave us the brilliant script to Michael Powell's Peeping Tom.

Worth catching if you can find it.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

My hatred would overwhelm me like a cloudburst.

9/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
11 October 2013

Cloudburst is written and directed by Francis Searle and adapted from the novel by Leo Marks. It stars Robert Preston, Elizabeth Sellars, Colin Tapley, Sheila Burrell, Harold Lang, Mary Germaine, George Woodbridge and Edith Sharpe. Music is by Frank Spencer and cinematography by Walter J. Harvey.

Preston plays John Graham, a Canadian World War II veteran working for the British Foreign Office who trawls England looking for the two hit and run killers who callously murdered his pregnant wife.

Violent, grim and utterly wonderful! Cloudburst is the sort of British noir just crying out to be discovered by more classic film fans.

London 1946 is the backdrop, a changing post war landscape, and we are introduced to John and Elizabeth Graham, both war vets, and in Elizabeth's case, a survivor of torture at the hands of the Gestapo. These are two tough characters without doubt, but the love between them positively bristles on the screen, it feels genuine, it is touching and Searle does a great job of building up the bond between the two before tragedy strikes and sends John Graham on a mission from which he doesn't care if he returns.

Everything's dark isn't it?

John is ex-forces trained and a specialist in cryptography (medal winner for bravery), he not only has the skills for tracking people down, he also has friends willing to do anything for him. We are left in no doubt that he is admired by his ex-army buddies, they would run through brick walls for him, while Carol's family adore him and obviously share his grief. The police are led by intrepid Inspector Davis (Tapley), who in a delicious kink in the narrative seeks out the help of John to catch John himself!

You killed the three of us that night...

With Leo Marks being a real servant of WWII as head of the Special Operations Executive, you can easily grasp the narrative sting involving the horrors of war and post war survivors who returned battered and bruised but unbowed. Further thematic thrust comes by way of vengeance and the perfect noir area where moral killings come to the fore. John Graham becomes an obsessed man, a dangerous weapon who will stop at nothing to achieve his aims, his fall back option should the need arise is a cyanide pill pinned under his jacket collar.

When you're being tortured, remember the first lie's the most important. You may never get a chance to tell another.

As Harvey photographs it in moody black and whites, Searle adds a doom laded atmosphere with close ups, where sweat, smoke and pain are thrust to the front of the screen. The fights are well staged, a torture scene excellent because it seeps with menace without having to hit us in the face, and in Lorna Dawson (Burrell) we have one cold bitch who leaves an indelible impression with the minimum amount of screen time. Cast are great, especially Preston, while Spencer's score dovetails smartly with the changing tones of the plot.

Codes, both moral and cryptic, come crashing together in a must see for anyone interested in British film noir. 8.5/10

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Cloud Atlas.

10/10
Author: morrison-dylan-fan from United Kingdom
27 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As I recently watched a very good making of on the DVD for the fun Hammer Horror title The Mummy's Shroud,I was shocked to discover that actress Elizabeth Sellars holds the honour of starring in the last movie that Hammer filmed at Bray studios, (Shroud) and the first film that Hammer shot at the studio,which appeared to be a completely forgotten Film Noir. Mentioning the movie on IMDb,I was happily caught by surprise,when a very kind IMDb'er gave me the chance to take a look at the title,which led to me looking up at the sky,so that I could at last see the cloud burst.

The plot:

1946-

Haunted by their memories of getting tortured by the Nazis, John and Carol Graham attempt to numb their pain by working as code breakers for the British government,whilst also saving up for a beautiful plot of land,which they can call their own.Attempting to find an enchanting route in their lives,Carol gives John the news that she is pregnant,which leads to John beginning to plan the family life which he has always desired.

Visiting their future plot of land as they start to look forward to becoming a family,a car suddenly speeds past and runs over Carol,Gripping onto the car,John is able to catch a glimpse of the man and woman inside the car,before he is knocked out.

Woken up by a police officer,John discovers that the car has killed Carol and their unborn child.Feeling his entire world breaking apart,John keeps the description of the man and the woman in the car close to his chest,as the officer attempts to interview him.Patiently waiting until the officer has disappeared from view,John begins to make plans on how he can track down Carol's killer's,so that he can show them the life that they have burst.

View on the film:

For the first half of the movie,writer's Leo Marks and Francis Searle smartly keep away from jumping 'straight to the action' by instead allowing the relationship between John and Carol to blossom across the screen,with the couple's dream patch of land giving the title a hauntingly melancholy mood.Wrapping the ghosts from the torture delivered by the Nazis with the soul-destroying death of Carol tightly around John,the writer's cast an unflinchingly brutal Film Noir backdrop,with John being unable to escape from his deadly survival instincts of the past,as he begins to step into a decaying gutter,on the search for Carol and their (unborn) child killer's.

Perfectly expressing the melancholy and furious grief contained in the screenplay,director Francis Searle gives Carol and John's romance a sleek Gothic hue,with the low-lit lighting used for the couple taking a peak at their plot of land,showing the dream which they imagine,whilst also subtly hinting at the darkness which lays ahead for them.Sending John out into the Film Noir world,Searle brilliantly uses real cramp houses as locations to show how the pain & fury inside of John is consuming him,with Searle also giving the movie a harsh,gritty appearance,as John casts his first strikes of revenge.

Despite featuring in only half of the movie, Elizabeth Sellars gives a tremendous shadow which cast a long shadow across the entire film,thanks to Sellars giving Carol a real sincerity in her hopes that she and John will be able to leave their Nazi horror behind.Frantically using all of his past skills as he searches for the driver & the passenger of the car, Robert Preston gives an excellent performance as John,with Preston showing John's soft eyes gradually transform into an unforgiving fire,as John sees the silver lining on his cloud burst.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Unusual and worth your time...

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
26 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The story in "Cloudburst" is not particularly believable...but that can also be said about MANY movies. However, the film has many unique story elements--and that's something that makes it worth seeing.

This British film stars Robert Preston as a Canadian living in the UK. He and his wife are happily in love and life is looking up for them--until, out of the blue, she is fun over by a couple jerks who couldn't care less! Instead of giving the police a correct identification, the husband is determined to investigate the case on his own...and then kill the killers! What makes it really unusual is the savagery of his attacks. It's rather unflinching and brutal. Overall, the film is an interesting example of British film noir--and Preston was very good in the lead.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

R Preston in British murder case (poss spoiler)

7/10
Author: ksf-2 from southwest US
24 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Poss Spoiler - This post-war-time black & white film from England stars Robert Preston (from films Music Man, Beau Geste) as Robert Graham, a married, WW II veteran. Placed in England in 1946, Cloudburst co-stars Elizabeth Sellars, Colin Tapley, Harold Lang, and Lyn Evans. We are shown right at the beginning that he speaks Japanese, French, Spanish, & Italian, and works in the secret Codes/Decryption office in England. All is well until a couple in a car kills someone close to him during a hit and run, then drives off. Determined to get revenge, he goes in search of them, and the chase is on. There WAS a British film also titled "Cloudburst" from 1922, but IMDb and Wikipedia have almost no information on that one. This 1951 film was from the play by Leo Marks, who really did work in the Coding/Encryption office during WW II. Screenplay and direction by Francis Searle. Interesting dilemma near the end, where two suspects who really ARE guilty of separates crimes deny knowing each other, to avoid prosecution. Will justice be done? The ending can be guessed, if one thinks about it, (but they didn't...) Entertaining story, no giant plot-holes. Also quite good quality sound and lighting, which wasn't always prevalent in British films back then.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

good, but the author's history is more fascinating

6/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
20 January 2014

Robert Preston had an interesting career. He started out as a movie actor, a star but not a big one, and drifted into television in its early days. Always a presence on Broadway, he achieved superstardom for his portrayal of Harold Hill in The Music Man, and went on to do the movie as well as other big films and Broadway shows, including originating the role of Henry II in The Lion in Winter.

Here, he stars in a Hammer film from 1952, Cloudburst, based on a play by Leo Marks. Preston plays John Graham, a cryptographer and someone who worked in the Resistance. His wife Carol is played by Elizabeth Sellars. The two are very much in love, and she saved John's life during the war while, under torture, refusing to talk. They are expecting their first child.

As a result of her experience with the Gestapo, Carol has a marked limp, and she falls in the road. A car runs her over and doesn't stop. The driver is a murder suspect trying to get out of town. Graham decides to get revenge and formulates a plan.

There's nothing unusual about the story, except in this case, the story focuses in on the character of Graham, his calmness and determination while facing that he has lost everything and cares about nothing but revenge on the driver and his passenger, a woman who told him to keep driving.

Colin Tapley plays Inspector Davi, and he does an excellent job.

Worth seeing I think for Preston.

The author, Leo Marks, kind of a film Forrest Gump. was a cryptographer during the war and gave the poem The Life that I Have to spy Violette Szabo to use as a code. Her story was made into a film in 1958 called "Carve Her Name is Pride," a beautiful film. After leaving cryptography, Marks began to write movies and plays, most notably the film Peeping Tom. His father owned the bookshop featured in 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Puzzle Mystery

Author: boblipton from New York City
23 October 2008

This is a tightly-constructed mystery of the pre-Black Mask style, in which the solving of the crime -- here a potential serial killer -- must be tracked down, and the only clear clue is a bit of paper at the scene of the crime with a cypher code.

The movie tries to add psychological drama by turning it from a "Whoodunnit" to a "Howcatchem" a style of mystery familiar to all fans of the old "Columbo" TV movie series, with the added punch that it is told from the viewpoint of the killer -- in this case, Robert Preston, who is an American who is somehow running a code-breaking division for the British government. Motivations are established early, but the whole thing is rendered a bit flat by the lack of details that surround the personnel. The result is a well-told story that is not, alas, particularly gripping.

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Impressive British noir steeped in post-war angst

7/10
Author: robert-temple-1 from United Kingdom
22 February 2015

The American actor Robert Preston (who because of his accent was excused in the story as someone who grew up Canada) stars in this British film which has a genuine noir story and atmosphere, similar to the Americans noirs of the time. It was written jointly by ex-spook Leo Marks and the director, Francis Searle. The next year, 1952, Searle is said to have directed a 30-minute film entitled BULLDOG DRUMMOND, starring Robert Beatty as Drummond. IMDb records no further information about it, and there is no record of its having been released or transmitted. This situation is a strange one, because Robert Beatty starred as Bulldog Drummond five years later in a 30-minute film entitled BULLDOG DRUMMOND AND THE LUDLOW AFFAIR (1957, see my review) directed by David MacDonald. (It was the 22nd of the 25 Drummond films, if one disregards the Searle film.) That 1957 film, which I have seen and reviewed, was a poor TV pilot film. Could the two 30 minute films have been confused with one another perhaps? Or could the 1952 attempt by Searle have been recut for the Rheingold Theatre series by the TV series director David MacDonald (who retired in 1963) and Searle's name taken off? This latter suggestion seems the most likely to me. In other words, the original would have failed as a pilot so that no Drummond series was commissioned, but the pilot was disguised as something new and stuck into another series as a one-off. The coincidence of the same duration and the same star and the same decade are too much. But that is enough about Searle. Returning to this film, it is very good and has an air of authenticity about it. Preston's wife is played by the weird Elizabeth Sellars, who speaks in a semi-articulate and languid manner as if she were slurring her speech through a wall of medication. She is bizarre but fascinating to look at, in the way that an animal which was not quite true to type might be, if studied closely in a zoo, while scientists speculated about what had gone wrong with its DNA. However, the weirdness of Sellars works very well with the story, and in any case she is killed off early on, so that she cannot become too irritating. Sellars was not always as weird as this, for she appeared in 62 films and generally managed to do very well and appear quite normal. She was, for instance, excellent in THE CHALK GARDEN (1964, see my review). In this story, Preston is madly in love with her and the film turns into a revenge tale where he determines to avenge her death by a hit-and-run driver. Her death is particularly poignant in that, the horrors of the War being finally behind them (the story is set in 1946), she is looking at a field which Preston wants to buy as part of their happy future. And then she is without warning run over by two criminals escaping a crime scene at speed. So what could be more noirish than that? The despair of the War, having been lifted momentarily, then turns into a lasting doom. This was why noir was noir. And it is rare to find the essence of noir so well expressed in a British film, as the English being far more stoical than the Americans (the makers of most noir), they tended to express their angst with less fervour and gloom, as they were so much more used to everything going wrong anyway, including their nearest and dearest being suddenly killed without warning in the bombing of London. This film is a notable addition to the list of good British films of the early fifties.

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