|Index||6 reviews in total|
Very fine, taught thriller set in a bombed out East End. Andrew Ray plays the respectable young lad who comes under the spell of a baddie (William Sylvester) and through whose eyes, unfortunately for me, the film is largely seen through. The kid does well enough but as a consequence, the film is on the edge of sentimentality the whole time. That it does avoid lapsing into paper handkerchief mode is due to the sharp direction and atmospheric cinematography, dark black shadows and all. To be fair this is also helped by the most convincing performance from the young lad who at no time goes for the easy options. Sparkling performance from Hy Hazel towards the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having done a review on J. Lee Thompson's first film, MURDER WITHOUT
CRIME. It seemed natural that i should continue the string and review
his second attempt at direction.
THE YELLOW BALLOON - The film is set in a bombed out slum on London's east side. Two young lads are playing among the ruins when one of the boys takes a three storey fall. The second boy, Andrew Ray, scrambles down to help but finds his friend is dead from a broken neck. He starts to run off to fetch help when a voice calls out from the shadows within the rubble. "Why did you push him?" Out into the light walks a rather vicious looking William Sylvester. Sylvester is a small time hood who is using the ruins as a hiding place from the police. The lad protests that it was an accident. Sylvester however says that is not what he saw. "But!" says Sylvester "I could be convinced to say nothing if you will do me a few small favors." Ray agrees. Sylvester sends the lad off to loot his mother's household cash. Once he is involved, Ray can see no way to get out from under Sylvester's control. Soon the boy is being used as a decoy while Sylvester pulls a robbery at a pub that is just closing. Sylvester however is a little too generous with the application of the cosh and the manager is killed. Ray is now the only witness to the crime and Sylvester needs to tie up all the loose ends. Ray bolts the scene and starts running. Several blocks later he crashes into a woman on the street who takes him into her flat. She listens to Ray's story about the murder. She calls a taxi and drives Ray home dropping him at the sidewalk. She then heads to the police station to retell the boys story. Ray heads into the building where of course Sylvester is waiting in the shadows. He grabs Ray and takes him to an abandoned underground train station where he intends to kill him. Ray manages to get in a swift boot and takes off into the underground maze. The helpful woman has by now filled the police in on the murder and where Ray lives. Not finding the boy at home the police quickly realize what happened and begin a search. After leading Sylvester on a crackjack 10 min chase, Ray is finally cornered by him. The police do the old nick of time stunt and Sylvester is killed by a head first tumble down a shaft while trying to escape. Excellent rather unseen noir. The pace starts slow and steadily builds to a real heart-pounding ending.
The rest of the cast include Kenneth More, Kathleen Ryan, Bernard Lee, Sid James and Sandra Dorne.
The use of the shadows and light among the bombed out ruins is simply breath-taking. The director of photography was Gilbert Taylor whose work in various genres include, ICE COLD IN ALEX-58, WEAK AND THE WICKED-54, SAILOR OF THE KING-54, A HARD DAYS NIGHT-64, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT-64, CUL-DE-SAC-66, Hitchcock's FRENZY, THE OMEN-76, and STAR WARS-77.
By the way the title refers to the balloon the two boys where playing with before the one fell.
THE YELLOW BALLOON can be said to be a period piece unto itself. It is an art film that was made in the early 50's. A time when cinema was dead in the water. Especially in Britain. Television was attempting to upstage the big screen until THE ROBE debuted(also in 1953). THE YELLOW BALLOON takes place in post-WW2 London which makes it even more referential in its sociological tone. It's Hitchcockian plot concerns a capricious boy who gets misconstrued with a tragic event perpetrated by the incidental drudges of his war-torn society. The most fascinating aspect of the film is that the plot is a byproduct of the film itself. In many ways it resembles Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW. Anyone familiar with that film or the Ed McBain story will appreciate this. THE YELLOW BALLOON is also notable as an early film by J. Lee Thompson(GUNS OF NAVARRONE)and cameraman Gilbert Taylor(DR. STRANGELOVE, STAR WARS) You might also recognize William Sylvester who played Dr. Heywood Floyd in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. THE YELLOW BALLOON is a lost film,which also means that it is hard to find. If you ever do find it,consider yourself a genuine afficianado.
Made in 1953 we are transported back to the still bombed out ruins of
London. Frankie Palmer is smitten by a yellow balloon he sees a street
vendor selling, but before he can buy it, a friend of his has already
up and bought it. Now Frankie is an erstwhile 'good boy' but the green
eyed monster of envy leads him to snatch it and 'do a runner' as is the
common parlance. His friend follows and an accident happens that will
change Frankie's life.
Luckily he is taken under the wing of some man who witnessed the incident. This is Len Turner (William Sylvester) who at first appears to be the friend he claims to be but it is not long before he is revealed to have intentions that are much more sinister all together.
Now this is beautifully shot in black and white and the scenes of London and the Tube are a great romp back in time. The actors will be known to a few, with Kenneth More doing his best to be working class, Sid James and Bernard Lee ('M' from James Bond) to name but three. The story is linear and as black and white as the film print, but it still manages to have a high degree of tension and a believability that has survived down the years despite changing societal norms.
This is one for those who love a bit of nostalgia and moreover a bit of realistic British cinema. It is only 77 minutes long but does not waste a single one and is so compelling it feels an awful lot shorter so if any of the above floats your boat you will not be disappointed recommended.
The photography and editing in this film are first class,particularly in the climax.All very expressionistic.Actually very reminiscent of early Hitchcock.Also seeing London the way it was in 1952 ,with so many bomb sites is very nostalgic.However the story fails to grip due to its total implausibility and the use of too many clichés and coincidences.Whilst Sylvester makes a convincing villain his use of the boy in the robbery is rather beyond belief.Kenneth More as the puzzled father is just on the cusp of stardom.The next year he would appear in Genevive and the following year in the film which made his name,Reach For The Stars.Andrew Ray just seems a bit too posh to have lived in that environment and would surely have been rather more streetwise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The scene: London's east end. When 12 years old Frankie Palmer (Andrew
Ray) loses the sixpence his father has given him to buy a large yellow
balloon from a street seller that the boy has set his heart on, he sees
that a friend of his, young Ronnie Williams (Stephen Fenemore) has
already bought one and Frankie snatches it off him and runs off with
it, with Ronnie in hot pursuit. Ronnie chases Frankie into a large,
bomb damaged house and they are running about in the ruins when Ronnie
slips and falls thirty feet to his death. Frankie scrambles down to
help, but realises that there is nothing he can do. Hiding in the
shadows and seeing it all, Len Turner (William Sylvester), a criminal
on the run and using the ruins as a hideout from the police, convinces
Frankie that the police will arrest the boy and charge him with the
murder of his friend for pushing him to his death and that they must
both make their getaway. Although Frankie and Len agree it was an
accident, Len is adamant that the police will not see it that way and
Frankie goes off with him.
Len blackmails Frankie into stealing money from his parents (Kenneth More and Kathleen Ryan) to help fund Len's escape and then uses the boy as a decoy in a pub robbery that goes horribly wrong when Len murders the publican. Realising that Frankie is the only witness to his crime, Len knows he must kill the boy, too. This develops into a terrifying hide and seek chase through a bomb-damaged; abandoned and highly perilous London Underground station with Len hot on the heels of Frankie, who is desperately trying to escape with his life!
The Yellow Balloon was one of the first films to be passed with the then new Adults Only X certificate by the British Board of Film Censors, which barred anyone under the age of 16 years from being allowed into a cinema to see the film. This was because the censor felt that the chase through the Underground station in the last reel would be very frightening for young children and Andrew Ray, 13 years old when the film was shot in 1952 and 14 years old when it was released in May, 1953, was disappointed that he wasn't allowed to go into a cinema to see his own film because he was way under the age of 16.
J. Lee-Thompson directs with a firm hand and, although the film has a cheery and light hearted first ten minutes, it soon thereafter gets more and more dramatic and menacing. The censor was right to give it an X certificate, as, although the main character is a child, this definitely isn't a kid's picture. Lee-Thompson made some excellent films in the 1950s, including Ice Cold in Alex and Tiger Bay, before going on to direct the enormously successful The Guns of Navarone. So he knew how to create tension in a picture and The Yellow Balloon is no exception to his style.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|