7.2/10
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Hell Is a City (1960)

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

Director:

Val Guest

Writers:

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

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Cast

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 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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Violence in the street... See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 November 1960 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hetzjagd See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£115,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

(at around 15 mins) When the driver says "Here we go," director Val Guest and another member of the crew are reflected in the side of the car. See more »

Quotes

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 »

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User Reviews

 
HELL IS A CITY (Val Guest, 1960) ***
23 August 2006 | by MARIO GAUCISee 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.


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