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Atlantic Ferry (1941)
The struggle to establish steamship communication across the Atlantic
This is one of the 55 films directed by Walter Forde, who also directed ALIAS BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1935, see my review) and SALLOON BAR (1940, see my review). Jack Clayton was an uncredited second assistant director on this film. It was the last film he worked on until the end of the War, when he directed (uncredited) a 15 minute documentary about fighting in Italy for the Ministry of Information, resuming his British film career only in 1947, when at last he got a screen credit as assistant director on Anthony Asquith's film of a Terence Rattigan play, WHILE THE SUN SHINES (which is unavailable today and unreviewed on IMDb). This film (also known as SONS OF THE SEA) is rather unsatisfactory. There was a great deal of trouble with the story and script, as three screenwriters including Emeric Pressburger were unable to come up with something that worked. The episodes of the film are stitched together by several lengthy cards of text telling us what happened between times, which is hardly a successful dramatic device. Since two men named MacIver are credited with the story, which concerns the attempts by the MacIver family to establish an Atlantic steamship trade in partnership with the Canadian Sam Cunard, I presume they were descendants of the 19th century men seen in the film, and that the story was a true one which they were able to tell. The film is interesting despite being cinematically inferior. Valerie Hobson plays the female lead, but she has little to do except look pretty in a somewhat artificial way and make two fiery speeches which are only partially convincing. This film was certainly not one of Miss Hobson's high points. Michael Redgrave is the male lead, but Redgrave has never struck me as being at all convincing on screen when he pretends to have an interest in women, as it is well known that he was gay. He is just about as frigid a lover as any woman could imagine. Redgrave could in those circumstances be so remote in spirit from the camera that his closeups effectively become long shots. At times he seems to convey a hatred for the female sex which he can barely restrain or conceal, and ice forms on his brow rather than sweat when proximity to a woman threatens him. The story of this film certainly has a great deal of historical importance, being a genuine saga of the high seas. And the section of the film early on in which ruthless men are taking the money of desperate people to be shipped across the Atlantic as emigrants in horrible conditions, so that many of them die on the way, is all too relevant to today, what with the evil doings of the people smugglers which we read about in the press every day now. This film certainly is no cinematic triumph, but if you are interested in how steamships got going on the Atlantic against all the odds, you will want to see it. Some of the thumping speeches about British-American friendship which recur in this film are clearly motivated by wartime propaganda concerns, and that detracts from the film's dramatic force, of which there is little, for it is the roaring sea which has all the force here.
A savage exposure of upper class English social hypocrisy and anti-Semitism
This powerful drama is based upon a play by John Galsworthy which was staged at St. Martins Theatre in 1922 and ran for a year. It was filmed a second time in 1976 by the BBC for their Play of the Month series, and starred Edward Fox. In this film, the lead role is played by Basil Rathbone. He portrays an extremely wealthy and self-confident English Jew, who will not back down when he comes under anti-Semitic attack by his socially prominent non-Jewish friends. Considering bow many fascists there were in England in the 1930s, the fact that this film was released in the year Hitler came to power is highly significant. It was a stinging rebuke to those who were thrilled at the rise of the Nazis in Germany. But the story itself has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with social hypocrisy and prejudice. The film opens with Rathbone staying as a guest in a country mansion near Newmarket as part of a house party who have been to the races. One of the high-profile social guests is secretly desperate for money and he notices that Rathbone has rather a lot of cash on him because at the races he has just sold one of his race horses to someone on the spur of the moment, and has a fad wad of bills in his wallet as a result. That evening the man sneaks into Rathbone's room and steals his money. Rathbone complains to his host that he has been robbed and the social niceties quickly begin to unravel. It seems that it is all very well for a social guest complain of such a thing if he is an Englishman, but when Rathbone makes such a complaint he is accused of being 'a dirty Jew'. He then says he will not stand for this 'insult to my race'. Rathbone figures out who the thief must be, but when he tries to obtain justice, he is forced to resign from his London gentlemen's club and go into social purdah and disgrace because as a mere Jew he has dared to call into question the honour of a 'real' (i.e. a non-Jewish) gentleman. When I was young and knew various elderly aristocrats of the old school who had been young or middle-aged adults in 1933, I often came across the most outrageous anti-Semitic outbursts, especially from some haughty dowagers who managed to pronounce the word 'Jew' with twisted lips and a sneer, holding their noses high in disdain. Outright anti-Semitism was most definitely common and also socially acceptable in England in 1933, there is no question about it. In fact, it only began to become unfashionable in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the truth about the Holocaust became known and anti-Semites were shamed into keeping silent lest they be thought to be approving of mass-murder (as a handful of 'Holocaust deniers' still do.) In this film, Rathbone is rich enough and proud enough to refuse to give ground, and he goes to court willingly as a defendant in a libel action. I shall not reveal how it all turns out, except to say that things become increasingly fraught and the story becomes more and more dramatic. I saw this film on a DVD obtained from a private collector, and it had been made from a very poor print marred by a continuous time-code all the way through, with the initial scenes barely visible, and the sound track semi-inaudible. I do hope that a decent copy exists somewhere, but I sat through the barrage of technological inadequacies and was glad to see such an impressive film despite all those obstacles. There does not seem to be any commercial copy of this film available anywhere. It needs to be rescued, as it is a milestone in social drama and very good indeed. The two directors were Basil Dean and Thorold Dickinson. Dean is probably best known for having directed the 1934 LORNA DOONE with Margaret Lockwood. Dickinson directed John Gielgud in THE PRIME MINISTER (1941), about Disraeli, and the notoriously successful film GASLIGHT (1940). Assistant Director on the film was the young Carol Reed, in his very first film job. He worked again with Basil Dean the following year on AUTUMN CROCUS (1934). There is no information available to explain what went wrong and why there were two directors on the film. But it all works very well, whoever really finished it and supervised the editing.
Cape Forlorn (1931)
Marvellously brooding and atmospheric film of passion in a lighthouse
This film's credits give the date 1930 but it is listed on IMDb as 1931. It has been released on DVD under its original title of CAPE FORLORN. It is a moody, brooding, intensely atmospheric film with some outstanding cinematography, albeit in confined spaces. The film is apparently based upon two separate plays, one by Frank Harvey (1885-1965; the film credits state 'based upon a play by Frank Harvey'), and according to IMDb he also wrote a novel entitled CAPE FORLORN. The other play is by the prolific German writer and director Ewald André Dupont (1891-1956). I am at a loss to know how these were amalgamated. Dupont actually produced and directed the original English film. I see from the internet that Frank Harvey's play CAPE FORLORN was staged at the Richmond Theatre in London in 1930. I can find no trace of any novel of that name by him. Paul Matthew St. Pierre published a book in 2010 about Dupont in which he discusses CAPE FORLORN, so perhaps the whole explanation is to be found in that book, which I have not seen. I see also that Dupont made a German language version of this film starring Conrad Veidt entitled MENSCHEN IM KÄFIG, which means MEN IN A CAGE, but the best translation of which is probably CAGED MEN. This film is listed on IMDb as THE LOVE STORM and attributed to 1930, the year before the supposed release of the film upon which it was based. (But we have seen that the English version was really dated 1930.) The German film's only credited writer is Frank Harvey, though ostensibly from a novel by him, which I believe may never have existed, as I suspect the origin of all this is what the original credits of CAPE FORLORN say, namely, his play. Dupont also made the film in French in 1931 under the title LE CAP PERDU! That is what is known as squeezing the last drop out of a project, to produce three films of the same story! So the facts regarding all of this are rather confused, to say the least. The excellent film SALOON BAR (1940, see my review) was also based on a play by Frank Harvey, described as Frank Harvey, Junior. Harvey also wrote the screenplay for the wonderful PRIVATE'S PROGRESS (1956, see my review). He did the screenplay for the 1956 version of THE 39 STEPS starring Kenneth More, and he wrote the story and screenplay for HEAVENS ABOVE! starring Peter Sellers (1953), as well as NO MY DARLING DAUGHTER with Juliet Mills (1961). Now back to the film itself. It is a highly intense and claustrophobic tale of people cooped up in a lighthouse on a bare rock off the coast of New Zealand. Fay Compton does an excellent job of acting as the hapless new wife of the lighthouse-keeper. She is so convincing towards the latter part of the film where her terror causes her to becomes hysterical. An extremely bizarre fact is that the lighthouse-keeper is played by none other than the playwright Frank Harvey himself! Harvey had directed and also appeared in a silent film in 1915 entitled WITHIN OUR GATES. Then in 1930 in CAPE FORLRN (aka THE LOVE STORM) he returned to acting and over the following 25 years, he acted in 15 more films. In 1934 he was also co-director of the film CLARA GIBBINGS. So he was a versatile bloke! The wife in the story is a waif who has been employed as a hostess in a nightclub, and believes she has been saved by the lighthouse-keeper because he is willing to marry her and give her a home. She believes she will not mind the fact that the home is a lighthouse, and that she must live there for at least three years. But the reality of the situation turns out to be rather different. The keeper's deputy, a rough character played by Edmund Willard, seduces her and promises to take her to Sydney. But before he can do that, there is a wrecked ship in a storm fro which a third man enters the scene, a handsome thief on the run with a revolver in his pocket played by Ian Hunter. He and the wife also become involved. So to say that things are steamy and that tensions are running high is a serious understatement. The film is made effective by the magnificent cinematography and direction. The guilty characters, especially Fay Compton, positively slink and creep up and down the spiral stairs, looking both up and down with dread and apprehension. We get very intense shots reminiscent of the best silent films where we see their haunted faces, sometimes through windows, and the atmosphere becomes suffocating and ominous. This film was made not long after the advent of sound, and so there are numerous scenes where there is little dialogue and the emphasis is instead upon the atmospheric construction of shots and scenes which evoke the tension, as a substitute for much of the dialogue which turns out to be unnecessary anyway. The film really is most remarkable. And the lengthy traveling shot which opens the film is outstanding for its technical achievement and cinematic impact at such an early date. The print is good, and for people who are used to the somewhat feeble sound of the early talkies and do not mind that, the film is an excellent experience.
The Mutiny of the Elsinore (1937)
EExciting drama with magnificent shots of sailors at work on a real three-master
This little-know film is based on a novel by Jack London entitled CAPTAIN WALTER SUMMERS, which had previously been made into a silent film in 1920 as THE MUTINY OF THE ELSINORE, and filmed also in French in 1936 as LES MUTINÉS DE L'ELSENEUR, with Jean Murat in the lead role. In this film, Paul Lukas plays the lead, Jack Pathurst (not Pethurst as mistakenly listed in IMDb), a journalist taking a long journey on a sailing ship in order to write an account of it for the public. Lucas was really too old at 46 to be the ardent suitor of the ship's captain's daughter, but he did very well in the role anyway. The only other reviewer of this film has made a mistake in saying that there is no indication in the dialogue as to the destination of the ship. In fact, it is clearly stated that it is bound for 'Frisco' (San Francisco). The daughter of the ship's captain is played in sprightly mode by a very good young actress named Kathleen Kelly, who made 22 films between 1932 and 1939 and then vanished from our radar entirely, so that little is known of her except that she was born in 1912. This film's extensive use of a genuine old sailing ship of huge size (three main masts) and its detailed depiction of how the men cling on while furling and unfurling those gigantic sails is exciting enough in itself to merit watching this film. But the story is also a very good adventure yarn, involving a mutiny on board, the murder of the captain, people being thrown overboard, people climbing up and down ventilation pipes, a crazed sailor who goes mad onboard, a criminal fleeing justice by enlisting in the crew, and a host of dubious characters. Paul Lukas, as usual, plays a noble fellow who is always in his jacket and tie even when climbing up towards the crow's nest with Kathleen Kelly. And when push comes to shove, he is a good shot and kills plenty of rebellious sailors as they rampage and riot. There is certainly no shortage of action in this film. It is very well directed by Roy Lockwood, who only directed three feature films in his career. According to information on IMDb, his daughter and son-in-law tracked down an archival print of this film and had it transferred onto video tape in 1997 to celebrate his 90th birthday, which is how we have it available on a DVD now. I wish he were still around so that I could ask him how on earth (or should I say how at sea) he ever got those shots high up in the rigging of that ship.
Ring of Spies (1964)
A portrait of betrayal
This film has recently been released on DVD under its original title of RING OF SPIES. It is an excellent film, and a fascinating dramatization of the notorious 1950s Gordon Lonsdale spy case, better known as the 'Portland Spy Ring' in Britain. The film is made with a documentary attitude, and a great deal of verisimilitude is added to the film through the use of a wide variety of genuine locations (i.e., Ruislip Station because the Krogers really lived there). Many of the location scenes are genuinely fascinating on their own account. For instance, this film may contain the only surviving extended footage of the roof terrace at Derry and Tom's Department Store in London at that time. No expense was spared to give this film all the location shooting it needed, and the producer Sidney Gilliat was clearly not shouting at the director to get back into the studio and save some money. The director was Robert Tronson, a talented director who has always been under-estimated because most of his work was for television. He directed some of the most popular series on British television, such as THE DARLING BUDS OF MAY (1991-3), BERGERAC (1983-8), and ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1978-88). The casting of this film was impeccable. William Sylvester is a smooth and affable charmer as the Russian spy Konon T. Molody, who masqueraded as a Canadian and an American under the pseudonym of Gordon Lonsdale. But Sylvester is a master at dropping that mask of affability as soon as his guests leave, and reverting to a grim and determined expression with ruthless immediacy. The finest performance in the film is by Bernard Lee as the alcoholic Henry Houghton who steals files from the safe at the Portland Naval Establishment so that the Soviets can learn all the British secrets about advanced submarine warfare. Two other reviewers have already provided background on the real spy case, so I shall not repeat it myself. The film wisely suggests that the drunken Houghton would never have been tolerated at Portland if he had not been protected by someone higher, which is doubtless true, considering how riddled with spies for foreign powers the Foreign Office has always been. This film is very well worth watching, both for entertainment and for historical purposes, and the location shots really are worthwhile.
Small Hotel (1957)
Delightful small British comedy with superb performances
This simple British comedy sparkles with wit, gentle satire, and affectionate good humour. The central performance by Gordon Harker, who was near the end of his career as one of Britain's best loved character actors, is a masterful display of full control of both the screen and of the story. The film is based upon a play by Rex Frost entitled SMALL HOTEL, which opened at the St. Martin's Theatre in London's West End on October 12, 1955. Very little information is recorded about Frost. We do know that in 1954, he wrote the script for a TV movie entitled THE JOLLY FIDDLER, and that is also the name of the hotel in this film. Whether the two works are essentially the same, or merely set in the same hotel, we do not know. It seems so difficult to find out even basic information about Frost that there is not much else to say of him. But he certainly was capable of writing some cracking one-liners, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the film and add greatly to its satirical bite. The film is thus not a farce but an intelligent comedy. Harker plays an elderly head waiter in the small establishment, where he has been in charge of the dining room (which he calls 'mine') for 40 years. Suddenly his position is threatened by a boorish and arrogant man from 'head office' (played by John Loder in obnoxious mode), who wants him replaced by an annoying and supercilious young woman waitress who is really his mistress and 'as common as dirt', as the expression used to go, or as one of the characters refers to her, a pumped-up trollop. She is played by the young Billie Whitelaw, who makes her suitably unsympathetic. The other highlight of the film is the splendid performance by Irene Handl as the cook, Mrs. Gammon. She lit up every film she ever appeared in, and this one has its celluloid scorched by her superb Cockney 'talking-back' and the blunt, bold, and grammatically imperfect tongue-lashings which she administers to anyone who messes with her. She can settle any conflict by saying sarcastically: 'Keep your wig on!' Comic support is given also by Janet Munro as the young waitress Effie, whose amusing and endearing hopelessness is the perfect complement and foil to Harker's effortless mastery of every situation. It is such a tragedy that this extremely talented actress died aged only 38, in 1972. She will always be remembered for her lead in role Val Guest's brilliant sci fi classic, THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961, see my forthcoming review). Marie Lohr does an excellent job of playing a haughty lady with the sharpest of tongues. The film is well directed by David Macdonald, and it is a joy to watch such an intimate gem. It is very short, at only 57 minutes on the DVD (59 minutes according to its IMDb listing), which means that the play must have been cut by at least half an hour, and much of the film must have ended up on the cutting room floor as well. But never mind, whatever was lost is not missed, for the film works perfectly at its present length, and is marvellous. SMALL HOTEL may well have provided inspiration for the long-running TV series FAWLTY TOWERS (1975-1979), which dealt with a small hotel's misadventures as slapstick farce. But I prefer the more subtle approach, and this film certainly has it.
I'm All Right Jack (1959)
A brilliant and scathing satire of British class differences and working practices
This is a breathtakingly bold and audacious satirical film which was frankly unprecedented for British cinema in the 1950s. Peter Sellers stars in a serious role, played half-straight and half-caricatured, as a labour union shop steward and 'Chairman of the Works Committee' at a factory of an arms firm called Missiles Limited. The film was written and directed by John Boulting and produced by his brother Roy Boulting. The well-know comedian of the time, Terry-Thomas, plays a scheming capitalist fraudster. Ian Carmichael excels as an upper middle class twit of unparalleled naivety and idiocy who gets a job as an ordinary worker and discovers that he loves it, leading to all sorts of class complications. He had been directed by John Boulting three years earlier in PRIVATE'S PROGRESS (1956, see my review), where he was even more brilliant. One of the best and most hilarious performances is by Irene Handl, that marvellous cockney character actress who tells everybody where to get off in no uncertain terms, and in this instance, her husband Peter Sellers (an earlier incarnation of Jeremy Corbyn). The cast also includes Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Victor Maddern, the deliciously droll and hilarious glamour gal Liz Fraser, John Le Mesurier, Kenneth Griffith, and Raymond Huntley. In other words, just about everybody who was anybody in British film comedy at the time is in the film, the only actor seeming slightly ill at ease being Attenborough, who was never good at being funny. The Boulting Brothers certainly pulled this off, and the film is a famous classic. Their portrayal of corporate corruption was done with first-hand knowledge, as they were expert at ripping off their own company themselves, as I know from personal experience, when I refused to cooperate with them in a fraudulent transaction, so I do know what I am talking about. They were brilliantly talented but they were corrupt when it came to money and were quite brazen about it. So this film rips the lid off the most amazing collection of national hypocrisies, and we nearly die laughing and gasping with delight at the film's ingenuity and breath-taking boldness.
Paris Blues (1961)
American jazz musicians in Paris in the fifties, contains spectacular scene
This film is worth seeing by anybody with any interest at all in music, for the spectacular scene where Louis Armstrong has a 'music duel' with fellow musicians in a Paris jazz club. The film is excellently directed by Martin Ritt. It is based on a novel by Harold Flender (1924-1975), a television writer, and this was his only novel to be made into a feature film. Flender was the grandfather of youthful actor Timothee Chalamet, who played the 15 year-old Tom in INTERSTELLAR (2014). This film has the irresistible combination of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, his wife. They had already made two films together, THE LONG HOT SUMMER (1958), also directed by Ritt, and FROM THE TERRACE (1960). Woodward had also been directed previously by Ritt in NO DOWN PAYMENT (1957), a film which is not commercially available on DVD today. Much of this film was shot on location in Paris and therefore has a great deal of authenticity, though only one French character features in the story, a singer played by Barbara Laage (who delivers an excellent performance in her supporting role). The story concerns two American expatriate jazz musicians, played by Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier. There is a strong performance also by Serge Reggiani as 'Gypsy', the jazz guitarist who is hopelessly addicted to cocaine. One day, Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll turn up as tourists from America and they become involved with Newman and Poitier. Newman plays a coarse and unsympathetic character, so that it is difficult to be too concerned about the problems of his love life. Both Newman and Poitier however fall in love with the two girls, whose demands that they return to America and become homebodies and husbands shakes the two men. Will they 'go home' and find true love or will they stay in Paris? Louis Armstrong appears in one acting scene in the film and then the spectacular musical scene already mentioned. This is a first rate film which deserves to be better known today. Duke Ellington wrote the original music for the film. There was once a time when no one would miss a Newman and Woodward film, as they were such a star couple, but now few remember them, just as fewer and fewer people remain who know what the magic words 'Burton and Taylor' used to mean in terms of box office appeal. Time moves on and people fade, even the ones who seemed at the time to have lasting fame.
Desperate Moment (1953)
Excellent post-war suspense drama
This is an engaging and generally well-made drama, much of which is filmed on location in the ruins of bombed-out postwar Hamburg. The extensive photography of those ruins in this film thus has a significant historical value in itself. The story is based upon the novel of the same title by Martha Albrand (1910-1981), which was published in 1951. It concerns a young Dutch citizen played by Dirk Bogarde (an interesting irony here, since Bogarde is by origin a Dutch surname, and this presumably applies to Humphrey Bogart as well) who has been tricked into confessing to a murder he did not commit after escaping from a POW camp. The film begins just after he has been condemned to life in prison. He believes that the girl named Anna DeBurg whom he had desperately loved is dead. However, she unexpectedly visits him in prison and he freaks out, barely able to believe his eyes. A long and complex tale then ensues after he escapes from prison and, with Anna's help, tries to find the witnesses who can prove that he did not commit the murder. But just before he gets to two of them, they are each mysteriously killed a few hours earlier. It becomes clear that there is a conspiracy of some kind, and that he has been 'set up' by the man who lied to him and by telling him Anna was dead. Anna is played by the Swedish actress Mai Zetterling, who had long before taken up residence in Britain and become a British star. Bogarde and Zetterling are both very good at dramatically hugging one another in a slightly histrionic manner, but, as both of them were gay, there is little real 'zing' between them. In some aspects, the film is a bit corny, but it is entertaining and well made, and the story with its twists and turns holds one's attention.
Juno and the Paycock (1929)
Magnificent performances of the Abbey Players directed by Alfred Hitchcock
You would never imagine that Alfred Hitchcock, of all people, had directed this film of the classic Irish play by Sean O'Casey (1880-1964), JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK (first performed onstage, 1924), set in Dublin during the Troubles. This film was originally released under that title but is also known by the rather more sensational one of THE SHAME OF MARY BOYLE, which does not suit the film at all. The cast partially consists of some of the famous Abbey Players from Dublin who originated the play on stage three years before, and the star is the amazing Sara Allgood, who plays the character Juno. Her husband Jack is the 'paycock', which is Irish dialect for 'peacock'. Sara Allgood had already worked with Hitchock earlier in this same year, appearing in his film BLACKMAIL (1929), which was only her second film (at the age of 50). Sara Allgood was a star of Dublin's Abbey Theatre in its grandest days, when the plays of Yeats, Synge, O'Casey, Shaw, and the other leading Irish playwrights were all being performed and attracting the attention of the entire theatrical world. Yeats was a close friend of hers. I first learned of her at the age of 17 when I befriended Bryan Herbert (real name Bryan Doyle) and his wife. Bryan loved to tell me stories of the grand old days in Dublin, and describe how he had played the Lion in Shaw's ANDROCLES AND THE LION at the Abbey, a theatre to which he was attached for some years. But his most enthusiastic tales concerned Sara Allgood. He told me she was the greatest dramatic actress of her time, and if only I had seen her in her famous roles at the Abbey Theatre as he did, I would understand her genius. He had himself appeared onstage with her there. I had never heard of her before and it has taken me all these years finally to see a film in which she plays one of her most famous dramatic lead roles with great power and magnificence. She is the Irish equivalent of Anna Magnani, whose performances in the films of the Tennessee Williams plays, THE ROSE TATTOO (1955) and THE FUGITIVE KIND (1960) are milestones of cinema history. Allgood's performance in this film in the second half rises to those standards. This film commences in a jolly mode, full of comedic scenes, and almost as jocular as a music hall act. But in its latter half, the story turns into an Aeschylean tragedy, and that is when Sara Allgood is at her best. In her later career, she appeared in many films in character roles, but to see the real Sara Allgood in action, as she was in her glory days, you need to see this film. Almost as effective as Sara Allgood is the young Scots actor John Laurie, who plays her son Johnny. This was his first film, and he was later to become famous to British television audiences as one of the regulars in the long-running series DAD'S ARMY, in which he appeared from 1968 to 1977 (80 episodes). In his long career, he appeared in 185 productions as an actor. But it is this, his very first screen role, that may be the most haunting role he ever played. Johnny does not say much but it is necessary to the story that he is constantly in shot and exuding powerful anguish. It is very difficult to be a lead actor in a sound film but have very few lines in which to express yourself. However, Laurie pulls it off in great style. This play was so popular in America that it ran on Broadway five times, in 1927, 1934, 1937, 1940, and 1988. Hitchcock's sense for sinister detail comes in very handy, because he finds the right faces and right moments to highlight menace and ambiguity, and punctuates the film with sounds of machine gun fire in the streets, which the family can hear through their open tenement window. His film did real justice to O'Casey's play and captures the very essence of the Irish, with their capacity for deep emotion, bawdy humour, wailing tragedy, poetic way of talking, sheer blarney, and their raw but courageous existences in those days. As one of the earliest sound films, it is difficult to think of this version of O'Casey's play being surpassed. The 'adaptation' of the play was done by Hitchcock, but the screenplay was written by his wife, Alma Reville, who gets a very small credit but should surely have more praise than that for the result. This play was filmed again seven times in later years, four times in English and three times in German. In one of the German productions, the young Klaus Maria Brandauer had the opportunity to glower in corners as Johnny, and as his eyes have always smouldered nicely, he must have done this very well too. This film certainly ranks among the classics of the screen.