25 user 37 critic

Hell Is a City (1960)

In Britain, a Manchester police inspector becomes obsessed with capturing a criminal who escapes from prison.


Val Guest


Val Guest (screenplay), Maurice Procter (novel)
Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Stanley Baker ... Det. Inspector Harry Martineau
John Crawford ... Don Starling
Donald Pleasence ... Gus Hawkins
Maxine Audley ... Julia Martineau
Billie Whitelaw ... Chloe Hawkins
Joseph Tomelty ... Furnisher Steele
George A. Cooper ... Doug Savage
Geoffrey Frederick Geoffrey Frederick ... Det. Devery
Vanda Godsell ... Lucretia 'Lucky' Lusk
Charles Houston ... Clogger Roach
Joby Blanshard ... Tawny Jakes
Charles Morgan Charles Morgan ... Laurie Lovett
Peter Madden ... Bert Darwin
Dickie Owen Dickie Owen ... Bragg
Lois Daine ... Cecily
Learn more

More Like This 

Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

In UK, after pulling a racetrack robbery, repeat offender Johnny Bannion hides the loot in a farmer's field but the police and the local mob come looking for Johnny and for the money.

Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Stanley Baker, Sam Wanamaker, Grégoire Aslan
Jigsaw (1962)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A woman is found murdered in a house along the coast from Brighton. Local detectives Fellows and Wilks lead an investigation methodically following up leads and clues mostly in Brighton and... See full summary »

Director: Val Guest
Stars: Jack Warner, Ronald Lewis, Yolande Donlan
Jet Storm (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Sir Richard Attenborough plays Ernest Tilley, a man who lost his daughter in a hit-and-run accident. He tracks down the man responsible for the accident and boards the same plane, ... See full summary »

Director: Cy Endfield
Stars: Richard Attenborough, Stanley Baker, Hermione Baddeley
Drama | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Struggle between a Liverpool Juvenile Liaison officer and a young and dangerous pyromaniac.

Director: Basil Dearden
Stars: Stanley Baker, Anne Heywood, David McCallum
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

In World War II, during the Japanese invasion of Burma, the lost remnant of a British Army Brigade HQ, led by the ruthless Captain Alan Langford, escapes through the jungle toward the British lines.

Director: Val Guest
Stars: Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A charming but ruthless criminal holds the family of a bank manager hostage as part of a cold-blooded plan to steal 97,000 pounds.

Director: Quentin Lawrence
Stars: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Richard Vernon
Never Let Go (1960)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A cosmetic salesman sets out to prove to himself and his wife that he is not a failure.

Director: John Guillermin
Stars: Richard Todd, Peter Sellers, Elizabeth Sellars
Hell Drivers (1957)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Ex-con trucker tries to expose his boss' rackets.

Director: Cy Endfield
Stars: Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A vicious gang of crooks plan to steal the wages of a local factory, but their carefully laid plans go wrong when the factory employs an armoured van to carry the cash. The gang still go ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Hayers
Stars: Michael Craig, Françoise Prévost, Billie Whitelaw
The Third Key (1956)
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Police drama. The sleuths of Scotland Yard try to solve a series of burglaries.

Director: Charles Frend
Stars: Jack Hawkins, John Stratton, Dorothy Alison
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Released from prison after twelve years, a wrongfully convicted British man seeks revenge on the witnesses who lied at his trial.

Director: Robert Hamer
Stars: John Mills, John McCallum, Elizabeth Sellars
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Englishman Bruce Campbell (Sir Dirk Bogarde) takes possession of his grandfather's Canadian land, but he faces various challenges such as disgruntled locals, a ruthless contractor, a new power dam, and his own bad health.

Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Michael Craig


Committed but seen-it-all police inspector Martineau rightly guesses that after a violent jailbreak a local criminal will head home to Manchester to pick up the spoils from his last job. Martineau is soon investigating a murder during a street robbery which seems to lead back to the same villain. Concentrating on the case and using his local contacts to try and track the gang down, he is aware he is not keeping his own personal life together as well as he might. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


MURDER MONEY marked his hands... BLOOD STAINED his soul! See more »


Crime | Thriller


See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The coin-tossing game (known as "two-up") was notorious for deceiving naive players. Such people assume the three outcomes, two heads, two tails, and a head-and-a-tail, to have equal likelihood, 33%. In fact a head-and-a-tail has 50% probability, and the others have 25%. See more »


No matter how the coins are thrown in the "tossing school" game, they always fall within the same small area (that is, the film frame). See more »


Inspector Martineau: You on or off duty?
Devery: I'm just going off.
Inspector Martineau: Come on, I'll buy you a drink.
Devery: Well it's very nice of you, but I'm afraid...
Inspector Martineau: Teach her to wait. That's one thing a policeman's girl must always learn.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"The production of this film was greatly assisted by the full cooperation of the Chief Constable and the members of the Manchester City Police Force, for which the producers wish to express their thanks." (opening credit) See more »


Featured in Charters & Caldicott: Not Cricket (1985) See more »

User Reviews

HELL IS A CITY (Val Guest, 1960) ***
23 August 2006 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

I had been postponing my purchase of this and another Stanley Baker crime drama, Joseph Losey's THE CRIMINAL (1960; see below), ever since their DVD release back in 2002; ironically, what eventually pushed me into ordering them was the recent death of this film's director Val Guest - at the venerable age of 94! Well, all I can say is that I was foolish to have deprived myself of it for so long; this is surely one of the best British crime films ever and, being an atypical release for Hammer, is also one of their finest non-horror efforts!

During the excellent Audio Commentary included on the splendid Anchor Bay DVD edition, Guest admitted that one of his major influences (and not only on this particular film) had been Jules Dassin's innovative THE NAKED CITY (1948) and, curiously enough, one has to go back to Dassin's own NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) to find an equally hard-hitting British noir!; then again, the film was ahead of its time since it would be years before a similarly truthful depiction of a policeman's domestic life would emerge in the U.S. (THE DETECTIVE and MADIGAN {both 1968}, for instance). The film is a veritable class act in every department: Guest's direction never puts a foot wrong and his screenplay (adapted from a novel by Maurice Proctor and deservedly nominated for a BAFTA award) is truly exceptional; Arthur Grant's chiaroscuro camera-work (mostly shot in real Manchester locations) is stunning; while Stanley Black's jazzy score lends the fast-paced if rather involved proceedings the requisite urgency.

Stanley Baker has one of his best leading roles as the tough cop who tries to make several ends meet - catch a dangerous criminal (American actor John Crawford, very effective) who's basically his alter ego, save his childless marriage with selfish Maxine Audley, and escape the daily temptation of a fling with the carnal (despite being middle-aged) but genuinely concerned barmaid Vanda Godsell (who also happens to be Crawford's old flame). Donald Pleasence has an important, scene-stealing supporting role as a bookmaker marked for robbery by Crawford - who had also been intimate with Pleasence's sluttish young wife (Billie Whitelaw who, despite this being her 12th feature film, was impressive enough to be up for the "Most Promising Newcomer" BAFTA award - and is even featured in a brief but startling nude scene which was promptly snipped for the U.S. version!). The rest of the cast is filled with familiar character actors, many of them members of Guest's own stock company.

Among the film's best scenes are the swift alleyway heist towards the beginning (which ends in murder), the wonderful "tossing school" (an illegal form of gambling) scene which takes place on the moors, several grueling interrogation scenes (with Baker often reduced to blackmailing his hard-as-nails 'customers') and the remarkably violent rooftop climax. By the way, I wasn't as displeased as Guest was with the alternate ending included as an extra (and which he had never seen before!) - inverting a couple of scenes and adding a brief hopeful coda (not filmed by Guest) with Baker and Audley - but I totally respect the director's decision to stick with his uncompromising original vision.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 25 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

13 November 1960 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hetzjagd See more »


Box Office


GBP115,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed