Escape by Night (1964)
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Part of the story follows a police investigation as they attempt to track down the culprits while another follows the melodrama taking place inside the barn. Given that this is an entirely low budget production, there isn't a great deal of suspense or tension here, but there are some fairly good performances from the familiar cast members. Terence Longdon (a familiar face from the Carry On films) is the leader of the gang, but my favourite performance came from Peter Sallis (LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE), playing a simple fellow with a passion for fire. What a performance, a total opposite to his later parts!
Although it is set back by some unconvincing and overly simplified dialogue, this modest British b-pic remains an engaging and occasionally charming crime drama from veteran director Montgomery Tully. It expands upon its typical 'B' movie plot by placing emphasis on the prisoners, how they came to be sent down and what eventually happens to them all. Tully, who co-wrote the screenplay, succeeds in fashioning a thought provoking, and at times, even critical look at the justice system. It is sympathetic to those who have been unfairly sentenced and generally harshest on those who deserve it most or are without repentance. Bart Rennison, for instance, whose gang bust him out of custody, killing one of his warders in the process are killed off early on in an ironic twist of fate when he and his confederate are making their getaway in a speeding sports car that they take over a hump back bridge at 80mph and are killed. Meanwhile, Martin Lord (Terence Longden) is a man who was convicted of unlawful killing when he intervened against an intruder who was attempting to rape his wife. We can see that he had no intention of killing him - he just wanted to knock him around a bit - but he fell and cracked his head on the fireplace and died. He strikes up a friendship with a small time burglar (Harry Fowler in a charming light comedy part) whom he persuades to turn over a new leaf by offering him a job on his poultry farm when they are both released, which he accepts. In addition, the pair find a way out of the barn and sneak away so that Martin can spend some time with his beloved wife (Jennifer Jayne) before he makes it to jail and begins his sentence. While they are gone, one of the other prisoners, the paranoid and mentally unstable Victor Lush (Peter Sallis), strikes a match setting the barn on fire. Thankfully, Lord and his mate arrive back at precisely that moment and are successful in getting most of them out in the nick of time. Only, tragedy strikes when Lush gets trapped inside and is killed in the inferno. Just before the end credits roll, the police arrive and believe that Longden and Fowler deserve remission for their bravery. We can also sympathise with Alan Wheatley's former army officer turned insurance man, Ronald Grey-Simmons, whom was sent down for embezzling his clients' funds. He has taken a very noble attitude to his sentence, no doubt due to the military discipline installed into him, that he has been found guilty and must therefore serve his time and behave impeccably whilst inside. In a flashback scene we see that his wife (Vanda Godsell) is only concerned about her standing among her friends, her son's education, money and "What will everyone think if I'm married to a convict", is her general attitude. It seems obvious to the audience that Mrs Grey-Simmons must have had expensive tastes and, in all probability, her husband probably turned to embezzlement in order to pay for the lifestyle to which she wanted to be accustomed.
Overall, I would highly recommend Clash By Night to anyone who hasn't seen it. It was available on DVD thanks to the splendid Renown Pictures and quite often turns up on Talking Pictures TV. It is one of Montgomery Tully's better second features and I found it thought provoking and charming in equal measure. The film is Harry Fowler's thanks to his delightfully comedic role as the small time crook, but there are other interesting British actors to look out for including Peter Sallis, Alan Wheatley (The Sheriff Of Nottingham in the Robin Hood series) and Jennifer Jayne who I best remember for her part alongside a young Donald Sutherland in the Vampire segment of the classic portmanteau horror Dr Terror's House Of Horrors.
PLOT SPOILER A gang boss is sprung from the coach and the remaining prisoners and guards are locked in a barn which is doused in paraffin whilst bad guys wait outside to set it alight if they try to escape (why?) In the event, the escape "plan"(Hah!)goes awry when the getaway car (a nice Austin Healey 100/6) crashes and kills him - since the budget didn't run to wrecking cars you get this in a verbal police report, meanwhile the hero remembers a trap door for dogs in the barn (don't ask)and with the chirpy Cockney goes home to wifey, but returns to the barn just as the retard sets fire to it from the inside, all escape but the retard runs back in to get some flowers and gets turned into a crispy critter. Thankfully, the police arrive, hero and Cockney are given pats on the back and driven off to jail.