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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

McCarthy in Britain?

6/10
Author: Mike Leggett (mike.leggett@uts.edu.au) from Australia
4 January 2005

This movie would be worthy of further research - but it's popped up at 4 in the morning during an insomnia bout and it'll have to wait.... for instance, the term Communist is never used, though the plot is quote clear by implication. The foreign agent is Russian, the newspapers run headlines about military buildups in 'the East' and the saboteurs are a mix of 'militant' dockers, effete 'intellectuals' who smoke pipes, run contemporary art galleries and go to string trio recitals of work by Berg. There are of course the hapless naives enmeshed by ruthless political manipulators and terrorists - they use that word - who at the last moment realise their errors and raise the alarm in time to save the entire electricity generating capacity of the UK!

I was surprised at how early on in the Cold War this film appeared as it would have been scripted/made in the year that Sen McCarthy came into prominence in the US - could it have been one of the factors that set him and the rest wolf pack on the hunt? It was actually made by one of the Boulting brothers, better known for their later comedies, though Roy made a reputation with propaganda/morale boosting titles in the 40s, so no surprise he sounded the alarums across the Iron Curtain in this title. Following more in the British tradition of that time of 'dramatised documentary', it has some remarkable scenes of seedy, filthy post-War London, using an Irish lead character to soften the obvious class divisions rampant throughout the plot, an irony no doubt, not lost on the co-writer, Frank Harvey, who also played one of the Scotland Yard team who had the shoot-out with the class enemies at the thriller's end.

Frank was to die later in Sydney, Australia - which is where I saw the film, in the wee small hours. Maybe Frank is where Australia's 'hunt for Reds' came from in the 50s too..... or maybe I'm just being too naive, like this movie..... It's a great example of the way in which popular cinema can insinuate that socially and culturally specific groups can be a danger to an imagined national security by heightening the sense of 'the other' (and unknown), breeding distrust and suspicion, enabling those in power to remain secure.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Reds against Battersea Power Station

9/10
Author: Benoit Vanhees from Belgium
29 October 2007

The previous comment on this indeed very fine and intense movie has to be rectified in at least one important aspect: fortunately enough it DOES exist on VHS, more particularly in the series "British Classics Collection". For one or another strange reason though, the manufacturer of this video labeled it as "Crime", while it rather is a "Political action thriller" (even if we don't get much ideological explanations about the motives of the saboteurs.)

After blowing up a ship at London Docks, a group of (communist) saboteurs decide to hit a far more important target, the Battersea Power Station.(For those not acquainted with this tall building which provided grateful Londoners with electricity during the Blitz, it is that somewhat sinister looking power plant used on the cover of Pink Floyd's "Animals" LP from 1977. The band's promotion stunt of attaching a gigantic pig-shaped balloon to one of the chimneys became a quite famous one)

The idea behind the raid against Battersea is of course to destabilize temporarily the City, by provoking a large scale power cut. Scotland Yard in the meantime has found evidence on board of the SS Asia Star which clearly indicates that the explosion was not an unfortunate accident, but a deliberate act of sabotage. Bit by bit, Special Branch manages to close in on the saboteurs. In a very fascinating and intense finale, a large scale battle between the cops and the saboteurs takes place inside the "heart" of Battersea.

It's really a fine action movie with a staccato rhythm, taking place in and around the superb location of an almost mythical building, that somehow managed to survive several attacks by Heinkel and Dornier bombers. Ben Vanhees Berchem Antwerp Belgium

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

sadly neglected cold war thriller

7/10
Author: macduff50 from Vancouver, Canada
6 February 2005

I agree with the writer of the previous comments. This is a little gem of a thriller, not because it has unusual plot twists, or even especially good acting, but because of its fantastic pacing (more like a modern thriller than the usual fare from 1951), and because of its fabulous shot-on-location scenes that put you right in post-war London. I grew up in post- war Britain, so perhaps I'm biased; but some of my favourite films are those which manage to escape the confines of the studio, something that was much rarer in those days than it is now. The world of the film is now more than half a century distant, and when you watch those streets, buses, and cars, those people walking around, it's slightly shocking to realize that many of them now sleep the big sleep, that you're looking through a window into the past. This alone, for me, is worth the price of admission.

The film is also the least talked about, most neglected of all Boulting's films, and as far as I can make out, hasn't ever been released on VHS, let alone on DVD, probably because, once the 1960s New Left had come into the ascendancy, especially in the various film studies institutes, the kind of old fashioned Cold War politics Boulting's film embodies were seen as both embarrassing and naive. Well, it's time for a re-evaluation. The politics of the film never did make much sense, so what we're left with is an exciting, well-crafted, and beautifully paced thriller, one that has, perhaps surprisingly, more heft than many contemporary thrillers, certainly more pizazz than the usual James Bond entries. If you can see it (and I discovered it courtesy of A&E, who ran it as a kind of joke several times in the early 1980s) sit back and enjoy it.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Liam Redmond leads the hunt for post-war commie saboteurs

6/10
Author: msroz from United States
9 August 2013

"High Treason" is tightly scripted with only a small amount of needless verbiage. Filmed in 1951, the impact of the dark and stylish noir photography is apparent throughout. The story moves forward relentlessly, carried by familiar and capable faces in British cinema, such as Andre Morrell, Kenneth Griffith, Geoffrey Keen and Laurence Naismith. Mary Morris scores as a female member of the sabotage ring.

The basic skeleton plot is familiar, which concerns a group trying to disrupt the nation by sabotage, with police and intelligence figures trying to locate and stop them. Novelty is added by making one of their number Kenneth Griffith, playing a nervous fringe member of the group, attracted by the ideology and used by them, but reluctant when it comes to their violent means. He, his brother and mother help give some heart to the film, personalizing a bit of tragedy.

This is a well-handled spy-thriller imbued with noir photography, but not itself a noir story. It's not deep and lacks memorable themes. Designed for some suspense, it delivers its fifties entertainment in a no nonsense way.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Cracking Picture

10/10
Author: davelom from United Kingdom
27 February 2005

A really splendid Cold War thriller full of good London location shots showing scenes in the capital that have sadly gone forever.There are no star names,just first rate character players some of whom no British films are complete without. Special mention should be made of the Irish actor Liam Redmond who wonderfully underplays his role as the Commander with his dry wit and quizzical smile.To me, this is possibly his best film. It seems such a great shame that this film is seldom (if ever) shown on Britsh TV. I came across it in a second hand shop issued as part of a British Classics video collection. It's a great pity that this superb picture is not more well known.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Scotland Yard vs. Commie saboteurs

6/10
Author: Michael Neumann from United States
27 November 2010

An otherwise workmanlike British thriller with familiar overtones of anti-Communist paranoia is salvaged by a lively script that underplays the bellicose propagandizing of other, similar witch-hunts. The emphasis instead is on action and character and some colorful local dialogue, as a network of saboteurs infiltrates the highest (and lowest) levels of democracy with nefarious plots to undermine England's power structure. The enemy agents are never precisely identified (it's clear who they are long before the authorities catch them 'Red' handed), and of course they're no match for the stiff upper lips of Scotland Yard, although it takes an extended gun battle at the Battersea power station to prove it. The film was less flattering and thus less popular than its predecessor, 'Seven Days to Noon', but seen today it remains an enjoyable, well-crafted relic from the warmer days of the Cold War.

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Nifty Espionage Thriller

8/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
15 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a moment that seems to sum up the emotional tonus of this story of Commie espionage in London. Anthony Bushell has been sent undercover by Scotland Yard to investigate some avant-garde musical society that seems somehow connected to a terrible explosion at the docks.

When the chief Scotland Yard investigator, Redmond, initially asks Bushell if he has any interest in music, Bushell replies dead-pan, "Why, do you need help moving a piano?"

He attends a meeting of the society after joining it, and he sits in the audience, arms folded, while the speaker introduces a piece for a string trio that was the composer's "first effort -- and also his last." Yes, the music they play is very dramatic, the speaker tells us, but underneath there is lyricism and "some jolly good tunes."

On stage, the trio launch into a lugubrious cascade of clashing chords that might sound appropriate if you were watching some kind of pop version of Dracula while on mushrooms. The two violins moan and the cellist is going ape, throwing his hair wildly around. Well, Bushell has a face that's about as interesting as a hard-boiled egg, but his features twist into first horror, then disbelief as the flood of dissonance flows on and he rest of the audience sits rapt. I found the scene hilarious, and it didn't strike me as an imitation of Hitchcock in any way.

The whole movie is like that. The events are serious indeed -- Soviet agents at work blowing up London -- but the dialog is quick and witty and layered over with a kind of strictly British humor -- or I should say "humour" -- that's hard to define. When the inspectors unexpectedly discover a murdered spy, one of them glances at it and says, "Hello."

You never find this sort of stuff on "Law and Order" but you can find good examples in films like "Mona Lisa." And, though there are wisecracks in abundance in most American cop movies, they sound hyperbolic and slightly coarse.

I'm skipping over the plot because, like most espionage and spy thrillers, it's pretty complicated. Men in overcoats following suspicious women in heels across city streets. Basically, it's a story of Redmond, Morrell, Bushell, and the rest incrementally pinning down the Red Menace, who might as well be gangsters as far as the dynamics are concerned. Some of the heavies are rough guys, some are pathetic sissies, a clerk in a bowler looks like T. S. Eliot, and the one at the top is suavely evil -- not much originality there. It's a serious movie. The Reds are all bastards. They kill one another without remorse if it moves the cause one step forward.

The performances are all fine, except when the actors are hobbled by stereotypical roles. There's nothing special about the direction but the climactic confrontation is agreeably noirish -- all those wet cobblestone streets glistening under the lamps -- and the shoot out is well staged and exciting.

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