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A man seeks revenge but will he destroy himself in the process? After a long jail term for a crime he did not commit, a man is torn between revenge (which will probably destroy him) or making a new life for himself. Written by
The Long Memory is directed by Robert Hamer who co-adapts for the screen with Frank Harvey from Howard Clewes' novel of the same name. It stars John Mills, John McCallum, Elizabeth Sellars, Eva Bergh and Geoffrey Keen. William Alwyn scores the music and Harry Waxman is the cinematographer. Plot sees Mills as Phillip Davidson, a man released from prison after serving 12 years for a murder he didn't commit. Finding a base home on a dilapidated barge in a boggy Thames inlet, Davidson sets about finding the liars who were responsible for his incarceration.
Moody and often downbeat, The Long Memory is a well directed and acted British crime thriller. Met with much negativity from the critics upon its release, it's a film that has since been re-evaluated and garnered better critical praise. Seen as a forerunner to Get Carter, it's also been mentioned in the same breath as They Made Me a Fugitive and Carol Reed's excellent Odd Man Out. However, a decent film it is for sure, but it's not in the same class as the three film's mentioned. The focus of the novel was the cop Bob Lowther (played by McCallum), but here it's rightly shifted to Davidson and his pursuit of those that wronged him. A good move that, even if the big culmination of the movie is a touch too contrived and not the moody high point it could have been.
John Mills was already established as an actor of note due to his fine work in the 40's, so this off the cuff film was, in his own words, merely a "job" for him, a means to pay some bills, and at first glance it looks an odd casting decision. John Mills as a vengeful ex convict stalking the dank London and Gravesend streets in search of revenge-hanging around in a run down coffee shop-living in a slum boat, doesn't sound right. Yet he cuts a surprisingly rugged figure, with stubbled chin and greasy kiss curl hair, he slots in nicely to the grungy backdrop painted by Hamer and Waxman. It's only really these two elements that make the film worth seeking out by fans of noirish British crime movies. There's the constant thought nagging away while watching it that it's a missed opportunity, a chance wasted to make a really bleak and potent thriller. What remains is decent in tone and narrative, if ultimately it's a watch once only movie. 7/10
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