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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Relentlessly grim Brit caper movie, from the dying days of the black
and white B era.
A gang of villains plot to rob a bank by tunnelling through the cellar of an adjacent bombed house.
Unfortunately for them there's an unexploded German bomb down there, a reminder that they are still living under the shadow of the second world war - 60s London in this film is all snow, cups of tea and frowzy parlours, the only character with any life left in them the would be girlfriend of one of the villains, who proves too clumsy to accept what she wants to give.
One point of note is the soundtrack by none other than George Martin. It's sort of half way between Johhny Dankworth and the Ipress File score.
After opening titles of sinister hypnotic music and swirling water,
we're in a London apartment where Michael Cornforth, a writer,
(Griffiths Jones) is making ready for bed. The next morning when he
awakes he's not only fully dressed and in a completely different place
in the sticks he's also holding a gun! After a bewildered nosey round
the gaff, this being a black and white second feature, he of course
finds a dead body - in the kitchen. Two Rank charm school types, Jean
(played by Patricia Laffan) a bossy nosey parker type certainly, a
lesbian possibly and Marian, a beautiful trance like possibly drug
addicted living doll call round on, of all things, a walking holiday.
They're soaked to the skin (it is, after all ,raining) and seeking
shelter. This being Britain in the 1950, Cornforth can't tell them to
do one so he only goes and lets them in doesn't he. After lots of
farcical trying to keep them out of the kitchen stuff while not
appearing to be totally odd - and Jean informing Cornforth that her
friend is "very nervy and imaginative always expecting to find bodies
under the bed" - Marian upsets the Saxa salt and one textbook scream
later discovers the corpse. Not unnaturally the two girls try and bail
out. Cornforth prevents this at gunpoint and then things begin to get
really silly. He wants to talk to Jean who then simply goes off with
him for a nice chat while leaving Marian in the bedroom without
explanation like a naughty child. Cornforth says he can prove he was in
London last night as his neighbour Mungo Jerry or Peddy saw him.
Jean then goes from "You murdered him (not Mungo) didn't you?" to "I
can take care of Marian. No one believes her anyway" in the blink of an
eye. Why I'm not sure. It can't be Cornforth's charisma. Later on Jean
informs Cornforth that she's had Marian sent to hospital. "They've got
her under heavy sedation. She'll be out for 24 hours." With friends
All in all Hidden Homicide in terms of characterisation, plotting and probability - charters new waters of terribleness even by the standards of the British black and white 1950s B movie.
Clyde, a poor boy whose mother runs a home for the needy, attains a job
as a bell hop. From the very first he wants more; he's trying to break
a date to see a ritzy dame who has taken a shine to him carrying her
bags. Ma don't approve of his new friends though "Boys and girls like
that are the only friends I've got" and after he's involved in a
drink driving accident he sets out for New York (Mum's praying here is
ludicrous. A sentimental note out of keeping with von Sternberg films.)
Now Clyde has risen to foreman of the stamping department in his uncle's Samuel Griffiths collar and shirt factory. These are the best scenes of the film the depth in the composition of the shots is incredible with the girls squeaking away on their stampers and flicking their hair as Clyde walks passed.
Sylvia Sydney catches his eye and is very Dietrich like in her mockingly wry approach to Clyde with "I hope you like the collar business" and "You really seem happy Mr. Griffiths" as he pulls a sulk when she won't let him come to her room. If it's not the sensual sound of the water the film is divided into chapters with dream-like, ominous shots of the water it's the sound of the girls stamping away, all examples of von Sternberg recording sound in an artificial manner. Listen to the bit where the newsboy is chanting "bad results of accident."
Most of which von Sternberg directs in a perfunctory manner. He isn't interested in the effect that social conditions have on people's motivations/ actions (surely the theme of the book). In his films, people are only roused from their world weary inertia because of their own feelings.
In short, von Sternberg is unsuited to the material. With such an unwieldy novel to film there are too many scenes where he simply points the camera at the actors (like almost every other director does) in boring scenes necessary for plot advancement. Compare this with the contemporaneous Shanghai Express, a film conceived and written by von Sternberg which never fails to be visually compelling, and the Scarlett Empress whose visual quality is unprecedented, perhaps in the whole of cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
James Tynewood, a young man of fixed income and expensive tastes who doesn't believe in working for a living easy with the money and even easier with the ladies - buys a ring ("There's no finer stone in London or Paris or New York") for some bird from a ritzy West End jeweller: price, 8 big ones. Then he disappears. His lawyer, against his better judgement, hires a woman, a Marjorie Stedman, played by Hazel Court (six months ago she wrote a story about beatniks. Pardon? You know, people who drink and gamble - OK, so she's no John Pilger) to find him and pass on a message that: South Africa Smith is back! Court goes undercover: by night with the beatniks in the attacks and cellars of Chelsea, at a casino (with Paul Eddington) and at the jewellers where Tynewood bought the ring with his fiancé. "I think she's a showgirl the way she carried herself." Anway, Tynewood gets all washed up, literally, on the muddy banks of the Thames death by manual strangulation and it's left to Court and Scotland Yard to unravel this Edgar Wallace mystery.
Big band leader, Frank (that's the leader of a big band. Kieron Moore,
who plays Frank, isn't especially big, although he is Irish you may
recognise him from 60s TV such as Randall and Hopkirk and Department S)
while working after hours in the Flamingo nightclub, takes a mysterious
blonde, who calls herself Ruth, to see his boss, Nick Barnes. Frank
opens the door to Barnes's office just as Barnes is being blasted. With
a gun. This being a 1950s b film, Ruth, his alibi, disappears.
According to the police she died in a railway crash seven years ago. In
the subsequent trial Frank is convicted of murder and faces the high
jump in three week's time with only his Judy, Judy (Jane Griffiths)
trying to clear his name.
Three Sundays to Live is a Danziger production, which accounts for it being a bit, well, rubbish. I don't believe any of their films were ever shown on TV I could be wrong not even in the Spartan days of three channel Britain. Film stock, while on location, is drastically under developed while, on set, actor's voices fail to attend the viewer's ear. The acting isn't that convincing either Kieron Moore's accent careens between hard boiled American and Rada. Plot lines are risible, sometimes unintentionally murdered nightclub proprietor Barnes had business interests on the continent, run by Al Murray (not that one) and the police are scarily blinkered in their convictions and sometimes just scary "I can have you broken for this."
All in all Three Sundays To Live offers little, even for enthusiasts of drab British b films of the era.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A perspiring 1960s bloke, wearing a gabardine raincoat and Chelsea
boots, is chased down an alleyway (no, not like that he's wearing
trousers after all.) In hot pursuit - a car (or motorcar, as they were
known back then) which promptly drives into him, deliberately
apparently, and at terrifying speed! 60s bloke may not be going
anywhere but we are round black and white London, aka the frightened
city. It doesn't look all that frightened no shots of people cowering
in terror. But wait! In one of those sophisticated and seedy private
drinking clubs the sophistication implied by a shot of a soda siphon
"the chaps" are smashing the gaff up. "What we want is a law to catch
villains and not hamper the police", opines Sayers (a policeman, not
the bakers, played by John Gregson, who is far more hardboiled here
than in Tomorrow at Ten). This is consistent with the theme that runs
throughout the film of over-worked police pining for a mythical age of
the gentleman crook.
Enter Waldo (Herbert Lom) who has a master plan to get the top chaps together one of whom, Harry (Alfred Marks) has a problem - a suitcase full of protection dough. "That's a problem?" asks Lom. (Harry is a superb character, a really early genuine representation of London villainy.) The heads of London's gangland firms promptly carve up the capital (quite literally) teaming up to keep the "teds and tearaways at bay", pooling resources and profits. Their no nonsense methods, however, begin to attract the attention of not only plod but the Home Secretary ("some of these boys are lively on the cosh.") Exit Tanky Thomas - and enter Damion (Sean Connery). Damion is a cat burglar whose partner, Wally (Kenneth Griffith) is currently indisposed after tumbling off a roof. "I've got to provide Wally with the comforts", says Connery (no explanation is proffered for the Scottish accent, by the way).
Damion might be a burglar but he knows how to order a meal in fancy Italian restaurant Sanchetti's. He's also after some comforts for himself, by the look of it, namely Anya "I'm sorry, darlink" (Yvonne Romain). We first see her under Lom's wing or, to be exact, pressed against the desk in his office. Miss Rush, Lom's secretary, has an annoying habit of popping in whilst Lom is trying to give Anya ahem career advice. He wants her to perform at The Temples ("It's not exactly the Palladium") a nightclub full of geriatric off duty brigadiers complete with eye popping monocles (her "I larffed at lerve" routine is beyond comedy) whilst keeping an eye on Damion (she ends up giving him more than the eye). Damion thinks she's a sweet kid but Anya's really only a brass with Lom as her pimp "Anya, meet Lord Bunch!" The protection alliance begins to fall apart when gang leader Alf gets the hump. So Alf hits back with his gang supplemented by some yobbos he's brought down from Brum and start smashing up the protection's interests. Sanchetti's even gets blown up by a handgrenade. Blimey!
This is a film made by someone who clearly has no love for the Sex
Pistols or even any real knowledge of them. Research for this project
appears to have been conducted purely through reference to the tabloid
presses' depiction of the band and who wants to see that? John Lydon,
a man who wrote God Save The Queen among other things (a lyric surely
comparable with anything by Lennon or Dylan) is portrayed as a
talentless thug. Steve Jones, an amusing and engaging bloke on anyone's
terms, seen here is nothing but a borderline psychopath. Gary Oldman,
good actor that he is, does his best impersonation of Sid's lugubrious,
cockney drawl but he's a little too healthy looking, in truth.
Even as a depiction of 1977, the film fails to convince. The Sex Pistols play to a room exclusively full of "punks" who resemble American punks contemporary to when the film was made, i.e. leather jackets and Mohicans. Check out archive footage of the Pistols and it didn't happen that way. The majority of the audience still had long hair and flares. Even some of the punk bands had members who weren't particularly punk. Spiky hair and ripped t-shirts were seemingly a step too far back then. Most shocking of all, the racial change that the singer of X-Ray Spex undergoes is more startling than Michael Jackson's.
The main problem with the film or any retrospective Rock n Roll film is the music. Actors - or hired session men - can never hope to emulate the voices/ presence/ energy of the original band. (Do you think the Beatles would ever have made it if they'd sounded like they did in Backbeat?) Here, the Sex Pistols are portrayed as nothing but a worthless gimmick; a construction of a Svengali manager who took any four hoodlums and placed them in sensational situations. It panders to readers of The Sun and clever people who think they're being fooled if they don't say "Oh yeh nothing but a media gimmick, yeah couldn't really play, yeh" i.e. people who think they're clever but who are, in actual fact, idiots. Avoid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The original mystery millionaire, John Tredmere (David Horne) is
visited at his sumptuously furnished London mansion by Ramsey Brown
(Clive Morton). Brown wants Tredmere to give him a cut of his fortune.
Tredmere wants Brown to go to Hell, "which is where I thought you
were." Tredmere is also unhappy with nephew Rex Lander (Paul Daneman
who often pops up in the Edgar Wallace series) his private secretary.
Tredmere is indeed a curmudgeonly old buffer.
Lander decides to bump Uncle off when he learns from Ramsey Brown that he is not the next of kin. Years ago, Tredmere had a son out East, who's now "serving chop suey to the scum of the earth." Lander leaves Tredmere's body in a locked vault in the basement of the mansion with the vault's only key on a table inside. How did he do that?
Ramsey Brown returns wanting a cut of the inheritance so, naturally, Lander bumps him off too. Lander is now under suspicion from Supt. Carver (Bernard Archard) but fighting his corner is TV presenter Tab Holland (James Villiers) one of those annoying friends who is determined to solve the mystery without realising that his friend is the murderer. Also on board is Holland's fiancé, Jane (Katherine Woodville.) Her engagement to Holland doesn't stop Lander from proposing to Jane himself. "For the 25th time no!"
Jane wasn't above giving some private succour (no, not like that) to old Tredmere when he was still of this earth. He was a bit lonely, she tells Scotland Yard (a rare bit of characterisation from the normally one dimensional Wallace).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A ritzy bedroom - Belgrave Square, London - the kind that has a safe
hidden behind a painting, and a masked intruder is robbing the
jewellery and murdering the maid.
Belgrave square, 1961 you know the sort of thing, a white building of apartments with black and white check floors. Inspector Forbes (Basil Dignam) calls on the returning occupants, a Mr and Mrs Stewart. Nina Stewart (Delphi Lawrence) nips round to see Bill Lawrence (Conrad Phillips) a lawyer who spends his time lounging with feet up on his office desk, toying with a soda syphon. The emerald jewellery which Mrs Stewart has had stolen was a gift from her boyfriend, Alvarez, a sort of sinister, continental playboy (a staple character of Wallace's books) and she doesn't want it getting in the papers. A passage into the papers would most likely be provided by Henry Adams (Paul Daneman), a public relations secretary to her husband. Adams falls under suspicion on account of his having a key to the apartment but that's OK because Mr Stewart gives him one when he goes a way a key, that is. On account of strange squares four strips making a square shape left on the wall at the crime scene, the police suspect a thief called McGuire the squares at the scene of the crime was his emblem however, he's otherwise detained (dead in Newport Pagnell).
Bill Lawrence, despite various attempts on his life, seems to have great fun solving this one, including pulling one of Alvarez's girlfriends, Marie (Jacqueline Jones), a sort of blonde, French Shirley Ann Field, and taking her to the Embassy Club note, not the Bernard Manning one to see Josetta's cabaret. Josetta (Miriam Karlin no less, she's the Catlady in A Clockwork Orange) is Alvarez's estranged wife. The entertainment consists of a magic act and a lot of big girls dancing round in big knickers.
There are lots of suspects and a very obvious red herring, in effete, home hairdresser Gordon, in this one. The real villain only appears in the story late on (apart from in photograph) so it's difficult to care.
Lew Daney (Nigel Green, Caine's dodgy boss in The Ipcress File) is
robbing a safe at a costume jewellers. This being 1961, he's wearing a
shirt and tie. Look, it's just how they did things back then. Anyway,
the alarm goes off and Daney ends up shooting a policeman while making
good his escape.
Three days later and Scotland Yard are still baffled. Det. Supt. Cowley (Allan Cuthbertson, "that lawyer geezer" from Performance) decides to bring in Tim Jordan (Lee Montague, he pops up twice in The Sweeney), a big police cheese in Rhodesia before he retired after inheriting a fortune. They meet for lunch at the Carlton Tower hotel, one of those places where things are flambéed at the table. Previously, in the foyer, Jordan had bumped into Harry Stone (Alfred Berk he only popped up once in The Sweeney.) Stone knows Daney from Rhodesia and Jordan isn't sure if they're best friends or worst enemies.
Meanwhile, Stone is making busy at a Soho nightclub owned by Daney. Daney agrees to meet him at a lonely spot down a country lane and take him to the loot. Man alive, wake up, Stone! Daney didn't think twice about shooting a cop and now with undisguised glee he's flexing his drawstring gloves at the prospect of bumping off you This is another Edgar Wallace Mystery. Directed by Robert Tronson, on account of its location footage, it's a bit more progressive than other episodes from series two.
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