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This sturdy British B-picture features a plot right out of Enid Blyton or
Scooby-Doo. A gang of crooks, bent on smuggling "atomic sabotage equipment"
into the country (crumbs!), are using the legend of the Black Rider to scare
people away from crumbling Brocken Castle, where they have a secret
headquarters in the dungeons. Gosh!
The film is best enjoyed for its view of the vanished innocence of 50s Britain. This is a place where smiling librarians select handpicked novels for little old ladies, where the teapot is always full, where the harmless village drunk (Kenneth Connor) is plied with booze by indulgent locals and where the local youths are too busy fixing their motorbikes to bother with vandalising the bus shelter. No Hells Angels these - they are all clean-cut and impeccably polite, trundling along the leafy lanes at a sedate 25 mph or participating in motorised egg-and-spoon races at the village fete.
Jimmy Hanley and Rona Anderson make a charming hero and heroine, Lionel Jeffries is good as the urbane villain and there' s a jolly, infuriatingly catchy theme tune. Nobody gets killed and even Hanley's irascible employer and future father-in-law turns out to be a decent cove at the end, even buying his own motorcycle and sidecar combination for some exhilarating spins with the missus. Somehow I doubt if Quentin Tarantino will be doing a remake.
I only recently found out about this movie thanks to ITV screening it.
As it was on during the early hours, I set the video to record it and
was pleased I did.
A group of smugglers are 'haunting' a castle, which happens to be haunted anyway by a monk. One of the smugglers poses as this monk and frightens some of the locals. A reporter and his girlfriend decide to investigate this and discover these smugglers are importing parts to build an atomic bomb which could course great loss of life and destruction over a large area. They get arrested at the end.
This movie also gives you an idea on what life was like during the 1950's including a village fete which were popular at the time and still are today.
The nuclear jitters of the time probably spawned the movie, which was made at the height of the Atomic Age.
As well as Jimmy Hanley, it also stars Lionel Jefferies (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and Carry On star Kenneth Conner. All play good parts. The movie has a great theme and score too.
This movie is worth watching if you get the chance as it is rather hold to get hold of.
Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apparently in 1954 you could make an atomic bomb from articles obtained "sur le continong" (presumably in a plain brown wrapper)and end up with an object no larger than an artillery shell.Of course only a foreigner would want to do so and then let the thing off somewhere in Dorset(going by Mr K.Connor's attempt at the standard Rank "rural accent").I should have thought it might have caused about £15 worth of damage from the state of the film set.We do eventually get a glimpse of this Doomsday Weapon which resembles something Valerie Singleton might have put together when she was in Infants School. However,you discount Cub Reporter Jerry Marsh - a rather portly Mr Hanley former Army Dispatch Rider - at your peril and the best laid plans of mice,men and megalomaniacs gang aft agley,fortunately for half of the West Coast of England. You might think local newspaper owner/editor/printer(Mr.L. Dwyer - splendidly grumpy) might be pleased to have such a fine young man as a prospective son - in - law,but there's no pleasing some people. That nice Mr Hanley belongs to a motor cycle club whose members clearly do not go around biting the heads off live chickens and together they track down the gang renting the local Manor House to assemble their bomb which rather begs the question why - if it's that small - they couldn't have smuggled it all in in one hit rather than a bit at a time ,but hey,why spoil the fun? "The Black Raider" echoes back to the era when very few people had motor cars.Motor cycles were widespread,Combinations for the family day out. It is significant that the only character with a motor car is villain Mr L.Jeffries who has a sinister black Rolls Royce and a chauffeur who looks a lot like Raymond Massey. It would be unfair to be anything but gently chiding to this movie because it has the good - natured innocence of a romping spaniel puppy. It belongs to a never - never England of country inns,firm - jawed Customs men with Webley revolvers and blokes who wear sports jackets with open - necked shirts on the beach. And there's not a Honda,Kawasaki or Suzuki in sight.
If you remove the thought that Jimmy Hanley is the British Marlon
Brando in this biker movie made around the same time as the classic
'The Wild One', then you might enjoy this laid-back tale of smugglers,
deceit, dads, and dark pubs.
Jerry (Hanley) is a reporter who rides a motorbike despite the disapproval of his parents - the fact that he seems rather elderly is neither here nor there! There's a girlfriend, a local legend of a ghost, and a nice comic turn from a young Kenneth Connor.
The local rich chappie and maybe villain of the piece is Lionel Jeffries, in a reliable performance. Hanley himself is adequate but perhaps an actor like Albert Finney would have been so much more interesting as Jerry. However, 'The Black Rider' is a good wheeze and a decent little B movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Black Rider" is a comedy-mystery, British style as befits its
production. I found it more amusing than laugh out loud funny,
featuring characters that carry on in idiosyncratic ways rather than
physical humor or sharp witticisms. Thus we have a town drunk who gets
frightened at a black rider on a motorcycle and imagines something
quite different. And we have Rona Anderson's father who rants on
against motorcycles before getting on one on the sly and starting the
motor, causing consternation to owner Jimmy Hanley. He's Rona's boy
friend and eventually proposes. Her favorable reaction lasts a few
seconds and she's out the door. Their love certainly doesn't look like
There is at times some very good night photography of an old castle, the ocean and a smuggling operation led by Lionel Jeffries, who wants to break out into parody but is restrained by the script to be a complete bad guy. His wife is effectively more icy and threatening.
The tension in this is low. Motorcycles are supposed to provide an interest too but they're hardly exciting these days. Some Italian movies of the 70s did much better at using these in exciting ways.
I've seen this movie listed at British noir. Forget that. It's simply a rather bland and slack story of saboteurs working in an old castle. It's something like a bland 1-hour western of the same period.
The Black Rider is directed by Wolf Rilla and written by A.R.
Rawlinson. It stars Jimmy Hanley, Rona Anderson, Leslie Dwyer, Lionel
Jeffries, Beatrice Varley and Micahel Golden. Music is by Wilfred Burns
and cinematography by Geoffrey Faithful.
There's a grand line of British movies involving smugglers/gun runners that use some supernatural legend to hide their crooked activities. Think The Ghost Train and Will Hay classics like Oh! Mr Porter and Ask A Policenman, and you find it's a splinter of the horror comedy that has been well served in Blighty. The Black Rider carried on this tradition but only with a modicum of success.
Out of Nettlefold Studios, it's by definition a quintessential B movie. It clocks in at just over an hour, is low on production value but oozes the cheap and cheery ambiance that makes it impossible to dislike. Plot basically follows the concept of a small coastal town in awe of a local spook said to haunt the ruins up there on the hill. Cue sightings of said spook (a hooded monk), an investigation of Famous Five type proportions by some straight backed heroes, a snapshot of ye olde Brit village life and low and behold there's some crooks to be snuffed out for a big hooray ending! Throw in a bunch of motorcycle riders and their awesome bikes, though this is no Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and it rounds out as a brisk and amiable time waster; with Rilla showing nice fluid camera work that often belies the low budget afforded the production.
Safe as houses really, or in this case, Brockham Manor! 6/10
THE BLACK RIDER is a ridiculously-plotted and mildly entertaining
B-movie about a young reporter on the track of the sinister local
legend of the 'Black Rider', who haunts the marshes and scares drunks.
What he uncovers goes way beyond the boundaries of believability,
involving a sinister secret in the dungeon of a local castle. It's
straight out of the pages of an Enid Blyton book.
The film is unashamedly racist, preying on viewers' Cold War fears, and features Lionel Jeffries miscast in a highly atypical role. Jimmy Hanley, as the supposedly youthful reporter protagonist, is old and camp, and the many scenes involving his motorbike gang have a whiff of naffness about them.
It's all very predictable and genteel, without one iota of genuine tension, but there's something distinctly nostalgic about watching such fare from this era. Watch out for Kenneth Connor's hilarious cameo as the town drunk.
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