7.2/10
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21 user 35 critic

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:

From its roof-top suspense to its back-alley violence... 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

The dead girl on the moors appears to blink but in fact she doesn't and it is her hair blowing in front of her eyes which causes this illusion. 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

 
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


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