24 user 36 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 »


Learn more

More Like This 

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 | 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
Jet Storm (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 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
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
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
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
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

In England, two criminals kidnap a child for ransom and make their ransom demands in a disguised voice from a phone booth.

Director: Frank Nesbitt
Stars: Dan Duryea, Isa Miranda, Gwen Watford
Mystery | Thriller | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

In 1950s London, Dutch painter Jan-Van Rooyer has an affair with a rich married Frenchwoman who is murdered, causing Van Rooyer to become prime-suspect for the Scotland Yard.

Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Hardy Krüger, Stanley Baker, Micheline Presle
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

After a convict breaks in a psychotherapist's home, he agrees to rehabilitation rather than arrest but the therapist's wife becomes infatuated with him.

Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox
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
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An insurance investigator runs into an ex-girlfriend, who is still as beautiful as he remembered her, but is now married. He soon finds himself involved in arson, blackmail, and murder.

Director: Sidney Gilliat
Stars: Jack Hawkins, Arlene Dahl, Dennis Price


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 Lois Daine ... Cecily


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


Her body was still warm... See more »


Crime | Thriller


See all certifications »






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 »

Did You Know?


Val Guest: Customer at a table in the pub ordering a beer 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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

I don't play cards. I don't even touch coins.
13 January 2013 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Out of Hammer Films, Hell is a City is directed by Val Guest, who also adapts the screenplay from Maurice Proctor's novel of the same name. It stars Stanley Baker, John Crawford, Billie Whitelaw, Maxine Audley, Donald Pleasence, Vanda Godsell, Joseph Tomelty and George A. Cooper. Music is by Stanley Black and cinematography in HammerScope is by Arthur Grant.

When violent criminal Don Starling (Crawford) escapes from prison, Manchester cop Inspector Harry Martineau (Baker) correctly assumes he is on his way back to the area to collect some hidden loot from a previous job. Sure enough a serious crime rocks the city and all roads lead to Starling, but what price will Martineau pay to nail a man whose mere name strikes fear into the locals?

Has some bastard been passing me snide money?

British crime drama at its best, absorbing as a suspense tale, clinically unflinching in its characterisations and directed with a deft hand by the multi talented Val Guest. Hell is a City is without question a very British movie, but in the same way that greats like Brighton Rock and They made Me A Fugitive were Britannia Rule Grimarannia, so it be here where Guest makes the most of Manchester's gloomy locales to pump bad blood into the edgy narrative. It's a Manchester of creaky terraced houses, working class bars, soiled streets and the unforgiving Moors. The latter of which a visual beauty to the eye, but home of misery both in fact and fiction.

A Starling in the Attic.

Tale unfolds as a sort of warts and all semi-documentary police procedural. Harry Martineau is the lead man, but this is no cliché addled copper, he is a tough bastard who is not adverse to using strong arm and dishonest tactics to get results. He's a hero, of sorts, but the happiness he craves outside of his work, at home, is moving further away from him. He's not alone, either, for many of the vivid characters on show here are either life's losers, illicit gamblers, unfaithful wives, lonely hearts, or cheaters and beaters, and that's before we get to Crawford's villain. Don Starling infects everyone with his evil stink, a robber, a rapist and a murderer, he may not look much physically in Crawford's shoes, but his name, voice and mere appearance has all but Martineau in a cold sweat.

If a man ain't got kids he's still fair game!

The script is devoid of pointless filler and no scene is wasted, there's an air of realism throughout. Sure there's a little leap of faith to be taken at times, but nothing that remotely could hurt the movie. The performances are from the better end of the scale, with Baker excelling as a stoic, but lonely man of the force, and Whitelaw and Godsell impressively force themselves up above the parapet to be rightly noticed in a movie predominantly beefed by machismo. Could Don Starling have been played by a better actor? Yes of course. Or just have been played by someone more menacing in appearance (like Baker in his villain roles for instance)? Again, yes of course. But the more you watch the more you will see that it's a frightening portrayal because it's very human, just like that given to Harry Martineau.

Some scenes shock and distress, others hold you and enthral, Hell is a City is one hell of a film and highly recommended to crime and noir fans. 9/10

12 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 24 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed