Never Let Go is directed by John Guillermin who also co-writes the story with producer Peter de Sarigny. Alun Falconer adapts to screenplay with music by John Barry and cinematography by Christopher Challis. It stars Peter Sellers, Richard Todd, Elizabeth Sellars, Adam Faith and Carol White.
John Cummings (Todd) is a struggling cosmetics salesman who buys a Ford Anglia car from crooked criminal Lionel Meadows (Sellers). When the car is stolen, Cummings, without insurance, finds his job on the line and his marriage facing crisis. Refusing to accept it as just one of those unfortunate things, Cummings starts digging for answers and finds himself in a world of violence, apathy and suicide.
As the classic film noir cycle came to an end, there was still the odd film to filter through post 1958 that deserved to have been better regarded in noir circles. One such film is Britain's biting thriller, Never Let Go. Its history is interesting. Landed with the X Certificate in Britain, a certificate normally afforded blood drenched horror or pornography, the picture garnered some notoriety on account of its brutal violence and frank language. By today's standards it's obviously tame, but transporting oneself back to 1960 it's easy to see why the picture caused a stir. The other notable thing to come with the film's package was the appearance of Peter Sellers in a very rare serious role. In short he plays a vile angry bastard, and plays it brilliantly so, but the critics kicked him for it, and his army of fans were dismayed to see the great comic actor playing fearsome drama. So stung was he by the criticism and fall out, Sellers refused to do serious drama again. And that, on this evidence, is a tragic shame.
What about my car? Out of Beaconsfield Studios, Guillermin's movie is a clinically bleak movie in tone and thematics. Todd's amiable John Cummings is plunged into a downward spiral of violence and helplessness by one turn of fate, that of his car being stolen. As he is buffeted about by young thugs, given the run around by a seemingly unsympathetic police force, starts to lose a grip on his job and dressed down by his adoring wife, Cummings begins to man up and realise he may have to become as bad as his nemesis, Lionel Meadows, to get what he rightly feels is justice. But at what cost to himself and others? The classic noir motif of the doppleganger comes into play for the excellently staged finale, made more telling by the build up where Cummings' "growth" plays opposite Meadows' rod of iron approach as he bullies man, woman and reptiles. Visually, too, it's classic film noir where Challis (Footsteps in the Fog) and Guillermin (Town on Trial) use shadows and darkness to reflect state of minds, while the grand use of off kilter camera angles are used for doors of plot revelation. Layered over the top is a jazzy score by John Barry.
It's not perfect, Sellers' accent takes some getting used to here in London town, Adam Faith is not wholly convincing as a bully boy carjacker and there's a leap of faith needed to accept some parts of the police investigation. But this is still quality drama, it's nasty, seedy and expertly characterised by the principal actors. In this dingy corner of 1960 London, film noir was very much alive and well. 9/10
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