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Brenda de Banzie
Joe "Tom" Yateley is an ex-convict. Trying to leave his past behind, he decides to start working for the Hawlett Trucking company, which transports gravel. It's an aggressive company, where speed is everything. Doing too few runs in a day? You're out. Red is the most experienced trucker. He can do eighteen runs in a day. Tom soon makes friends with Lucy, the secretary, and Gino, a driver. But the record of Red intrigues him and he wants to break it. Gino advises against it, but he helps Tom when he wants to go through with it. Soon trouble begins when Red and the other drivers form a united front against Tom. Just when Tom has enough and decides to pack his bags, Lucy tells him Gino had a terrible accident. She also tells about the corruption of Hawlett Trucking.Written by
Arnoud Tiele (email@example.com)
Stanley Baker heads a remarkable cast of high quality British based actors in a rattleing good yarn of corruption and grim macho rivalry. The towering Welsh actor looks and acts every inch the quiet spoken smouldering tough guy character(Tom Yately),a role that he was seemingly born to play, a combination of working class hard-man, reluctant/accidental criminal and passionate lover. A role too that he played in slightly differing forms in several other classic British crime flicks of the 1950's such as ONLY THE GOD DIE YOUNG but in HELL DRIVERS he has distilled the persona to perfection. Tom Yately an itinerant ex con, taking the only job he can find with his dubious background. This leads him to a trucking firm who deliver ballast (gravel/stone)and insist on their drivers (all apparently similar, down at heel ex cons and drifters) running insane risks at illegal speeds in order to earn enough bonus pay to survive and with the promise that if any of them can deliver more loads in a day than the obnoxious foreman, Red, the prize is a solid silver cigarette case worth a small fortune. Tom lands a room in a rough boarding house where most of his workmates also live and so work and it's pressures and rivalries are with him constantly.The landlady is a tough old bird and well capable of dishing out whatever is required to keep order.And she needs to! The other drivers are prone to constant fighting and low-brow practical jokes, one of which lands Tom in a classic confrontation with Red (played by Patrick "The Prisoner" McGoohan)which gives the film one of it's truly great moments of cinematic fury. As the story developes Tom ducks out of a dance hall brawl rather than risk his parole and becomes ostracized by the other drivers who have all been involved and who resent him for his apparent cowardice. Only his the rather more reasonable Italian ex POW, Gino (Herbert"Pink Panther" Lom) remains loyal. There is however the complication of Gino's "girl" (Peggy Cummings)who works at the truck yard. Unlike Gino,she sees herself as a free agent and makes a pitch for Baker.I won't spoil the plot which does have some good twists and turns but I will say that it all ends in rather dramatic, satisfying, if not unexpected violence. McGoohan, as Red, gives a superb performances , one of psychotic, cigar chewing , glowering animal menace. He makes Red the kind of foreman from hell that No-one would argue with. His acid-spitting delivery of lines, boxer-like stance and unkempt appearance simply ooze evil. Its a raw edged version of the rather more sophisticated "No.6" he later made famous in "The Prisoner" . Red could easily be "No.6"s mentally unstable cousin!
Gino is played with warmth and sensitivity by Lom, who's truly a class act, so much more so than his most famous Role of Inspector Dreyfuss in the PINK PANTHER films would have us believe. Peggy Cummings as Lucy, his girlfriend, is also superb; bright, quick, sassy and very attractive. Something of a teaser and everything of a femme fatale full of barely suppressed passion. Her love scenes with Tom are unusually sparky for a 50's British film.
Of the others, where do you start? Sean Connery is there in his pre-007 days. He's good but not yet great, but he looks the part, as in fact do every one of the cast, who were all chosen with great success. Carry-On star Sid James clowns about in some scenes but has a raw edge that reminds us what a damn good straight actor he could be when given the role while Gordon Jackson puts in a similarly gritty performance long before his lasting TV fame of THE PROFESSIONALS. The yard boss, played by the original DR WHO, William Hartnell is another fine piece of casting in what must rank as one of the best British films of the 50's. The story is unusual, a change from the whodunnit's, kitchen sink dramas and Ealing Comedies that were standard fare at the time. The script isn't too peppered with cliches and fairly crackles with tension at times. The action scenes both with the actors and with the trucks are sharply directed (aside from the old trick of speeding up the film at times which was common pactice untill quite recently and always, always looks false!)and every scene is well photographed to portray a grim, earthy working-class world. The characters are real and the performances are superb. It's a fine ensemble piece with a strong but not overpowering star role. Baker is in command but the others do not wither in his shadow and it can't have been by accident that the same star and director later worked together with major international success on ZULU.
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