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J. Lee Thompson
James Robertson Justice
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This film is not in any way a gripping story, in fact, it seems as one watches it, to be three films cut and compressed to make one. So, what's wrong with it? The main problem is the fact that it has too many characters, too many mediocre actors (one appallingly bad one) too many angles and not enough of a story, the denouement is positively under whelming and one is left not caring about anyone, except perhaps, the canon played beautifully by that most reliable and welcome of actors, Laurence Naismith.
So why am I bothering to write about it? Because it is one of those worthwhile ventures, one of those film projects that had so much going for it on paper that it deserved to become a huge success. The directing of camera was for the most part brilliant, with many innovative techniques, some of them well ahead of the industry's time. The directing of the actors was uneven and sometimes non existent, which allowed better actors to get disorderly and the poor ones (there were a few) to go off the edge or simply flounder, the actor playing Johnny Havoc, the film's central bad guy, was simply not up to the role, and should have been recast, he indulged in "mad acting" "golden haze" and "falling on furniture" all things no actor should ever be allowed to get away with, and in his one great scene (in the cellar with his gang) he blew every opportunity the script afforded him to shine and to create great drama, as a result, the scene fell like seeds on stony ground.
Having said this, the film was made with some great care and there were moments that broke all barriers for the time. The actor playing the Inspector(against type from the book)was good, and the supporting police force actors were good, Charles Victor(though very near the edge most of the time) provided a welcome uplift, and Laurence Naismith was (as usual) on top of his job.
Donald Sinden had not at this time developed his hard jaw and tight teeth acting and so was quite acceptable as the new man in the life of the love interest (an actress who did so very well with what she was given, which wasn't very much) and he was handsome enough to be taken for Richard Green.
This is a good film if you allow for the obvious flaws, and deserves a place alongside great works, for it's bravery and innovative techniques, as well as some of the character acting, odd bits of which, were brilliant.
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