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Hunted (AKA: The Stranger In Between) is directed by Charles Crichton and co-written by Jack Whittingham and Michael McCarthy. It stars Dirk Bogarde, Jon Whiteley, Elizabeth Sellars and Kay Walsh. Music is by Hubert Clifford and cinematography by Eric Cross.
Story finds Bogarde and Whiteley as man and boy on the run for differing reasons. Bogarde's Chris Lloyd is a fugitive, Whiteley's Robbie a orphan being mistreated in his adoptive home. The odd couple, fleeing authority, but heading where?
Haunting yet beautiful, firm but tender, Hunted is a terrific piece of Brit film noir that holds you in its grip from beginning to end. Film unfolds as being about two lost souls traversing the British lands, from a ravaged London in the beginning to a Scottish harbour at the end. Initially suspicious of each other, with the adult inconvenienced by his child companion, the relationship will develop as their respective demons surface. Who is the more frightened of the two? What hope is there for them? Fate has brought them together, but fate can often deal a deadly hand, what hand has been dealt Chris and Robbie? It's this question that hangs heavy in the tense story, ensuring our attention at all times.
As the journey takes them out of the city, into the country and finally out to the sea shore, we are treated to no end of visual smarts. Imagery is a big part of Hunted's worth to the film noir enthusiast, be it monuments or various building structures, Crichton (Dead of Night) and Cross (The Mystery of the Marie Celeste) ensure that the simmering narrative is well served by locations and items that surround our two protagonists. Shadowed balustrade, spiral staircase, murky street lights, dingy basement, low lighted farm houses, barns, haystacks, railway sidings, medieval relic structure, and on it goes, all given a forbidding sheen by the makers, backed significantly, too, by Clifford's music swells and low rumble peters.
Some means and motivations are purposely left grey, which means we get more dramatic/emotional impact for certain passages of dialogue, such as a bedtime story sequence that grips the heart considerably. The acting is first rate from Bogarde (Victim) and Whiteley (Moonfleet), very believable is their relationship (they would also make The Spanish Gardner together in 56), with Bogarde never better as he shifts seamlessly from a man of fiery rage and panic, to a tender soul reaching out in the shadows, desperately searching for redemption.
Now available on DVD with a very good print, Hunted is yearning to be seen by more people. It deserves it, a real treat, both thematically and visually, one of the best new discoveries for me in 2012. 9/10
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