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Hammer Melodrama not one of Fisher's finest
dcole-221 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big Terence Fisher fan, so as a completist, I wanted to see this one. But it's only a fair film. Fisher was a few years away from making his classic CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HORROR OF Dracula, but he was still capable of some fine work in the early 50's (THE FOUR-SIDED TRIANGLE, for example). But this one is pretty much by-the-numbers. Even leading man George Brent looks bored throughout. He runs a bookstore where employee Marguerite Chapman is in love with him. And good-looking Diana Dors is the 'bad' employee -- because she's late a few times. Brent has an invalid wife who needs an operation abroad. He cashes in an insurance policy to pay for the operation. Meanwhile, Dors has caught weaselly Peter Reynolds trying to steal a book but doesn't turn him in. They strike up a relationship. He gets her to try to blackmail Brent after a late night when he kissed her briefly (tho' it looks more like she kissed him). He won't pay, so Reynolds has Dors write a letter to the invalid wife. She dies after reading the letter (in one of a string of incredible plot coincidences). Reynolds makes Dors harass the grieving Brent again for the money. He angrily gives her all the insurance money. Then Reynolds sneaks into the bookstore and kills Dors, taking the dough, but leaving the body so that Brent will be blamed. Brent's soon on the run and Chapman is trying to save him. It all works out in a fiery climax. And it's all competently done, but the script doesn't make a lot of sense. Dors, however, gives a fine, restrained performance and is probably the best thing in it. Worth noting that later Hammer Producer/Director/Exec Michael Carreras is here credited with Casting. And Hammer Writer Extraordinaire Jimmy Sangster is credited as Assistant Director. Really this is just for Hammer and Fisher fans like myself. Or Diana Dors fans, who will be pleased with her work here.
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J. A. Pearson's Bookstore: Home to blackmail, secret passions and murder.
Spikeopath17 May 2012
The Last Page (AKA: Man Bait) is directed by Terence Fisher and adapted to screenplay by Frederick Knott from James Hadley Chase's story. It stars George Brent, Marguerite Chapman, Raymond Huntley, Peter Reynolds and Diana Dors. Music is by Frank Spencer and cinematography by Walter J. Harvey.

John Harman (Brent) is a London bookshop manager who finds himself blackmailed by his busty young assistant, Ruby Bruce (Dors), and her new ex-convict beau Jeffrey Hart (Reynolds), when he foolishly steals in for a kiss during after hours stock taking.

Bookshop Noir.

British Hammer and American Exclusive teamed up to produce a number of low budget crime dramas in the early 1950s, often using American stars and directors blended in with British actors, they were produced in Britain in next to no time. The Last Page is a safe viewing for the undemanding film noir fan. Terence Fisher would become a legend amongst British horror fans (rightly so) for his work on Hammer's reinvention of the Universal Creature Features. Here he crafts a nifty atmospheric melodrama without fuss or filler, while just about managing to stop the flaws and daftness of plotting from sinking the picture.

Story has some interesting noirish characters and themes. The man who begins to pay for a moment of weakness, the young shapely gal in over her head-lured to the dark half by a well spoken criminal element, while some secret passions amongst the staff of this particular bookstore come to the fore once things inevitably go pear shaped. The setting is a doozy as well, this bookstore is perfectly antiquated, so much so you can smell the leather bound novels nestling on the shelves. Walter Harvey's (The Quatermass Experiment) photography ensures that shadows feature throughout, and there's the odd macabre touch that befits the writing of Frederick Knott (Dial M for Murder/Wait Until Dark).

Cast are professional to the last. Brent (The Spiral Staircase) and Huntley (I See a Dark Stranger/Night Train to Munich) are the epitome of gentlemen in a rut, stoic and stiff, grumpy yet gritty, but nicely portraying men we expect to appear in a bookstore noir. Chapman (Coroner Creek) has an abundance of hard looking sexuality and Reynolds has a spiv nastiness about him, very cold but charming. But it's Dors who holds all the aces, she would impress herself upon many a red blooded male during three decades of British film and TV. Here at aged 21, as Ruby, she's a curvy blonde babe with full lips, a gal who understandably turns the heads. The character is tardy as well, hardly a crime, but mostly in Dors' hands she's believable as a girl clearly out of her depth, she's not a femme fatale, she's a weak willed person hurtling towards film noir doom. It's here where this British B noir gets its worth.

It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good one considering the modest budget afforded it. There's dumb decisions made by characters, holes of plotting and the ending fails to seal the deal after the hard noirish mood eked out by Fisher, Harvey and Dors. However, as film noir time fillers go, it's well worth checking out. 6.5/10
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A guy gets out of prison, see ...
Handlinghandel6 January 2008
...First thing he does is go to a bookstore. He tries to steal a book. That is how logical this movie is throughout. When we see shelves of books at a time, later, the books seem to be attached to each other. They're like room decorations some people buy in bulk.

The proprietor of this bookstore is, of all people, George Brent. He had a long career. Though this is a noir of sorts and I therefore can't give it a bad rating, let's just say this is hardly a career highlight for him.

Marguerite Chapman is attractive and convincing as his employee. She's stylish and pretty and comes off as nice.

This is an early Diana Dors film. She's decent in it. She gets pulled into some very bad behavior. But she's not a truly terrible character. She's chronically late to work and weak willed.

This isn't a memorable or distinguished film. But it isn't terrible, either. Nor does it hold to any formula. It's mediocre in a unique way.
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Dirty Diana!
josephbrando29 August 2010
This was the first time I had ever heard of Diana Dors (don't blame me, I'm from the USA and under the age of 40) - but I immediately fell in love with her. The plot centers around a bookstore where Dors' character, Ruby, works. She is the "bad girl" of the office, arriving late and hitting on her boss, played by George Brent. But that's nothing compared to the trouble she gets herself into after going on a date with a man she catches trying to steal a valuable book from the store! He (very easily) convinces her to blackmail her boss and things really go downhill from there. I won't give away more of the plot, because the unexpected twists and turns it takes are half the fun of this film - the other half is provided courtesy of the excellent British character actors who make up the cast. No part is too small to make you notice them! This film noir was directed by the great Terence Fisher for Hammer Films - who together would go on to unleash a slew of excellent Gothic horror films in the 1950's and 60's. A young, brunette Diana Dors easily walks away with the picture harnessing a killer combination of alluring presence and a very natural acting ability.
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Man Bait - only a modest catch for the viewer
FilmFlaneur16 May 2009
In 1950, before Hammer made a name for itself with a memorable horror output, it set up a deal with American producer Robert L. Lippert to make a dozen or so low budget crime dramas, all of which were to be shot in the UK. In all the arrangement lasted for some five years, and utilised the fading star qualities of such past-their-sell-date American talent such as Dane Clark, Paul Henreid, Lizabeth Scott and George Brent, as well as leading British character actors.

None of the films are of the front rank, being issued originally on the bottom half of double bills. Hammer may not have established itself as a memorable producer of noir on the basis of this transatlantic deal, but the results have been unfairly neglected (being the basis of only a passing reference in the official history of the studio for instance).

Criticism of the films, apart from focusing on their small budgets and hand-me-down leads, has generally dwelt on the success or otherwise of transplanting an American hardboiled genre into a different soil. Certainly the first of those made under the new arrangement The Last Page (aka: Man Bait, 1952) is example. Far too genteel to be successful as more than a mildly suspenseful thriller, its impact is further affected by the unassuming performance of lead George Brent - an actor whom Betty Davies apparently liked as a partner on screen as it was so easy to steal the picture from him! Brent plays the manager of a bookshop, hardly the first choice for a thriller/ noir setting (although one makes a memorable appearance in The Big Sleep) who is blackmailed by the bad blonde of the title - no less than Diana Dors, an early screen role. It was an early credit too for one of Hammer's best directors Terence Fisher, though again this critic, at least, thinks he remains a minor talent. Like practically all the Hammer films in this series, the title was changed for the American market and 'Man Bait' certainly sounds more the job for the pulp world that the films inhabit. It also places Dors firmly at the centre of this film with a fine sense of atmosphere - having worked in the book trade for some years I found the dated interiors and procedures especially fascinating - while some other, equally effective location shooting amidst a now-lost London adds to the charm.
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Great Set, Gripping Story, Dull Hollywood Leads, Fabulous British Cast!
JohnHowardReid20 August 2008
Although the wonderfully sultry Diana Dors receives a full frame "introducing" credit, this was actually her 16th movie. She was in fact credited in 13 of her previous appearances and in at least half of them had major roles. So much for "introducing"! Needless to say, Diana effortlessly walks away with the movie even though her role is not as large as the title implies. Most of the action is held down by sleazy Peter Reynolds who contributes most of the noirish plot twists, assisted by opportunistic blonde, Eleanor Summerfield. The middle-aged hero is adequately presented by George Brent, although both he and his fellow American, Marguerite Chapman, appear so overawed by their U.K. surroundings, that even when Dors and Reynolds are not around, they allow everyone else in the cast, including Raymond Huntley, Meredith Edwards and most especially Harry Fowler—and even Leslie Weston and Nelly Arno—to steal scenes from them! In all, however, this is a reasonably gripping little thriller, provided you don't expect another Dial M. for Murder from writer Frederic Knott. The atmospheric bookshop set is both unusual and highly effective.
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Dors Knocking
EdgarST22 May 2016
A better than average drama written by Frederick Knott, the author of "Dial M for Murder" and "Wait Until Dark", this shows Terence Fisher expertly handling a story of crime, lust and death during his efficient early phase working for Hammer Films, five years before the big success of "The Curse of Frankenstein". Although the main character is John Harman, the mature manager of a London bookstore (played by Irish actor George Brent), two young actors play more appealing characters who are key components of the plot and feature: Diana Dors and Peter Reynolds. A ravishing blonde beauty at 20, Dors had had a dozen of minor screen roles before being introduced in this production as Ruby Bruce, a sexy worker who turns everything around her upside down after she gets mixed up with Jeff Hart, a seductive ex-con played by Reynolds. Under Jeff's influence Ruby blackmails Harman, next a couple of corpses complicate the proceedings, soon Harman is accused of murder and then his secretary (American actress Marguerite Chapman) helps to solve the mystery, putting her life in danger. Peter Reynolds is fine, but he does not have much to do as the villain with sinister charm. It is Diana Dors who has more room for creating a real character. She was a very good actress, and although comparisons were often made with Marilyn Monroe, on the acting level she surpassed her American colleague: here she convincingly mixes naive wickedness with vulnerability, making the film not only the account of Harman's story but the drama of a confused working girl as well.
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Temptation in the aisles
bkoganbing6 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Americans George Brent and Marguerite Chapman star in British noir thriller Man Bait released in this country by poverty row Lippert Pictures. But the Man Bait as described in the title is the lovely and voluptuous Diana Dors who was the United Kingdom's answer to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

Brent is the manager of a bookstore who has an invalid wife played by Isabel Dean. Clearly Brent is not having an itch scratched and when Diana Dors gives him that come hither glance who could blame the guy. But before the film is over Dean and Dors are both dead, Dors by an accidental strangulation and Brent is looking good for it.

Fortunately Brent's fellow American Marguerite Chapman also works in this Peyton Place of a bookstore. She helps clear Brent and in turn gets her life saved in the climax.

Nothing special about Man Bait unless you like full figured gals and they don't come more full figure than Diana Dors.
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A nice idea undone by DUMB plot holes
MartinHafer16 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Plot hole #1--The film begins and a customer in a used book store is caught by an employee stealing. What LOGICALLY does she do in this situation? Yep, she lets him go and then meets him later for drinks!

Plot hole #2--Soon after they meet, although it's OBVIOUS he's a no-good ex-con, she agrees to a blackmailing scheme with him.

Plot hole #3--When the blackmail of her boss is attempted by this female employee, the boss being blackmailed threatens to call the police--but doesn't bother to fire the girl nor does he call the cops.

Plot hole #4--When the blackmail is refused, the thief from #1 sends a letter to the boss' wife and she dies as a result. So, does boss fire the lady or call the police now--NOPE!

Plot hole #5--When the lady AGAIN comes to the boss to blackmail him (AFTER the wife is dead), he angrily throws a huge wad of cash at the blackmailing lady--even MORE than she had asked for with the blackmailing attempt!

Plot hole #6--At no point does the boss tell anyone about the blackmail, so when something happens to the blackmailing employee, the boss is an obvious suspect. If he'd only gone to the police or fired her or talked about this problem all this might have been avoided.

Plot hole #7--Although every bit of evidence points to the boss being a murderer, a trusted female employee (not the dead blackmailer) agrees to help him avoid the police and investigate the crime with him. What a cliché! In real life, even if you think the boss is innocent, when an employee knows he's a wanted man they'll call the police.

Plot hole #8--The other female employee blunders into the killer's lair in a completely hair-brained way--and with no plan at all, nor did she have backup or tell anyone she was confronting him.

With all these major problems with the script, there simply was no way that veteran director Fisher or veteran actors George Brent and Marguerite Chapman could pull this one off! The bottom line is that if anyone had bothered to read the script first, they would have no doubt spotted all these holes and probably many more. I wonder if perhaps a chimp was the writer of this film?! As a result, it's frustrating to see a group of accomplished film makers stuck with second-rate tripe--especially Brent who was a very fine actor and did his best with this mess.
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Diana Dors.. Mesmerizing
ez-1167421 April 2019
This was my first introduction to Diana Dors. A simple but charming crime noir by Hammer. Starts out a tad slow but as soon as Diana enters the scene.. I was mesmerized. Really hope there will be a Blu-ray remaster of this as I'd cosider this this 'Peak' Diana Dors. More substantive films came later like Blonde Sinner (1956) and Tread Softly Stranger (1958) wow! but there's an innocence about her in this film that is unrivaled. A true classic!
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Sunk By A Lack Of Logic
Theo Robertson20 March 2014
A lot of people seem to have noticed that there's not much logic gone in to this film . Before we start dishing out awards and starting up a Nobel prize for self congratulations let's be entirely honest in saying it's impossible not to notice the constant and flawed thinking that seems to have gone in to almost every scene . My own personal complaint with MAN BAIT from the outset is that two of the main characters are American living in London in the early 1950s . Let's think about this . American won the war, became a superpower overnight and was winning the peace in spectacular fashion while Britain also won the war and lost the peace along with the empire so badly that the standard of living at this time wasn't much better than in the defeated axis powers . Shocking to think that when this film was produced petrol rationing had just ended and certain foodstuffs were subject to rationing in Britain and yet a couple of Americans are quite happy to live in a starving , rain soaked archipelago where fridges and car ownership would be fairly unknown but power cuts would be common . You can understand the producers wanting to bring in a couple of American actors because it makes American distribution of the film more attractive . You can't help asking would it not have been better if the production team had concentrated on telling a more credible story

This is a pity because you can easily see the potential that MAN BAIT had in wanting to be something of a British noir classic . In fact just reading the plot summary on this page finding himself attracted to a pretty blonde clerk that leads to a plot of blackmail and murder so the bare bones of a good involving thriller are there . However it's the way the story unfolds that is a serious problem and undermines most of the potential . People don't do anything in a logical manner and they don't react to situations that you would recognise as being realistic which means the only thing you'll remember from this film is that it starred Diana Dors when she was a starlet of British cinema and that many of the people behind the scenes went on to make Hammer studios a successful horror film franchise
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The ineffective George Brent
bensonmum24 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A respectable book shop manager, named John Harman (George Brent), gets mixed up in blackmail and murder when he crosses paths with Ruby Bruce (Diana Dors). It's either pay up or she'll go to the police with a made-up story of Mr. Harman attacking her. He agrees to hand over the money and thinks he's put the whole matter behind him. But things only get worse for Mr. Harman when Ruby's dead body is found in his house.

Horror icon Terence Fisher directed this sordid tale for Hammer. He does a good job of wringing tension out of what is essentially a weak script. There are certainly moments to enjoy, but overall, Man Bait is to uneven to consider it anything other than average at best. For example, the acting of the principles is terrible. Dors is terribly miscast and doesn't come across as the temptress she playing. Even worse is Brent. What a mamby-pamby man! The whole notion of this milk-toast being on the run from the police is hysterical. A complete change in casting would have gone a long way in making Man Bait a much better film.
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Introducing Diana Do rs after 15 films!
malcolmgsw27 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Diana Dors gets an introducing credit despite the fact that sh e was a Rank starlet.She steals the show easily from two very faded American actors.In fact the film suffers from her murder.After that the star turn comes from stalwart Raymond Huntley.So the film goes downhill.However it accurately pictured the atmosphere of post war London.
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A superior thriller of 1950s Britain
Leofwine_draca23 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
MAN BAIT is an early thriller in the career of Hammer Films director Terence Fisher, the man best known for handling all of the studio's horror classics like THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Although virtually unknown today, I found this film to be a strong contender in the world of 1950s British B-cinema, a tight and compelling story of deceit, mistake, blackmail, and murder. The incredibly slimy Peter Reynolds plays a controlling blackmail who involves a young Diana Dors in a plot to fleece a bookshop owner, played sympathetically by George Brent. Inevitably, things don't go quite to plan. MAN BAIT has enough twists and turns to keep any viewer entertained and the cast all do sterling work to bring their characters to life. It's also a surprisingly dark and nihilistic story, plumbing the depths of mankind, with some really vicious moments. The ending had me on the edge of my seat.
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A great little Hammer thriller
GusF15 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Released in the US under the more provocative title "Man Bait", this was the first of 29 Hammer films directed by the studio's best and most prolific director Terence Fisher. As with most other Hammer films of the era, it is a B-film noir with a Hollywood star of yesteryear in the lead role. In this instance, the actor in question is George Brent, one of Ireland's first film stars who, like me, was from County Offaly. My grandfather worked as a film projectionist for over 30 years and he was also a big film buff so he was always proud that Offaly had a homegrown star!

Brent - who had completely lost his Irish accent by this time which disappointed me slightly if I'm honest! - is no Cary Grant when it comes to charisma but he's quite a good leading man. Only 19 or 20 at the time that the film was made, Diana Dors is extremely good as Ruby Bruce, a sweet, slightly naive girl who falls in with the wrong man which ultimately costs her her life. The film has a good supporting cast, including Raymond Huntley (the best actor in the film, he later appeared in Fisher's "The Mummy"), Peter Reynolds, Meredith Edwards, Marguerite Chapman and Eleanor Summerfield (whose husband Leonard Sachs and son Robin Sachs graced later Hammer films). It has a strong script with some nice surprises and Fisher brings his usual finesse to the project. It's easy to see why Hammer engaged his services so often after this.

Notwithstanding my rewatch of "Dracula" as a tribute to the late, great Sir Christopher Lee last week, this is the first Hammer film that I have watched in about six weeks so it's nice to get back into the saddle with this great little thriller. I tend to view Hammer films as being pre and post The Curse of Frankenstein and this is one of the best of the "pre" films that I have seen, after "X: The Unknown" and Mantrap".
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Enjoyably predictable thriller gives faded matinée idol one last chance to swoon.
mark.waltz7 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
George Brent, that leading man of practically every leading lady who became a star between 1930 and 1945, takes on a swinging 1950's here, as an American who becomes a bookstore manager in post-war London. He finds himself victim of a blackmail scheme and later a murder suspect. His inventory clerk (Diana Dors), tied up with a recently released from prison conman, tries to use a spontaneous kiss as a threat, causing tragedy and an odd murder plot which shows how Scotland Yard utilizes every clue they get their hands on in order to solve the case. Brent seems too tired as the ultra-serious manager who must discipline Dors for her constant lateness to fall under the spell of her obvious scheming. The ridiculous film noir set up is saved by the second half that ties everything together in a unique and thrilling manner, utilizing some fun characterizations of the bookstore staff to reveal important clues.

I had a difficult time buying the idea that Brent wouldn't even see past Dors' childish extortion or even get close to her in the first place. His reaction to his own personal tragedy is emotionless and destroys whatever credibility his character had prior to that. The poor writing of this half moves to the opposite side of the spectrum for the finale which utilizes a bombed-out church for Brent's hiding place and a creepy confrontation between Brent's love starved former Army nurse (now his personal assistant) and the villain.
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