Thursday, 24 September 2015


One of the best Home Viewing releases of 2015 is this Kino Classics 5 movie set of British Film Noir from the 40s and 50s. There are no frilly extras, but the films, representing the darkness of Dear Old Blighty are more than enough for any fan of war-time and post-war crime cinema.

They Met in the Dark (1943)
Dir. Carl Lamac
Scr. Anatole de Grunwald, Miles Malleson,
Basil Bartlett, Victor MacClure, James Seymour
Nvl. "The Vanished Corpse" by Anthony Gilbert
Starring: James Mason, Joyce Howard, Tom Walls, Phyllis Stanley, Edward Rigby

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Debonair Mason and babe Howard
seek, romance, redemption and
some good old-fashioned Nazi-busting.

A terrific cast, ace Czech expat Otto Heller's (Peeping Tom, The Ladykillers, Richard III) moody cinematography and the sprightly editing of Terence Fisher (the eventual director of such legendary Hammer films as The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, Brides of Dracula), all contribute to making this otherwise routine wartime spy thriller, well worth seeing. Even in 1943, They Met in the Dark would have fallen into the been-there-done-that chasm of propaganda-rooted noir pictures, but it's a well produced effort that still manages to yield considerable entertainment value.

A youthful (and bearded) James Mason as a dashing and sexy naval commander, imbued with the tortured Mason-ian ennui (as per usual), is duped by a babe (secretly working for the Krauts) into delivering erroneous information which jeopardizes the lives of Brit sailors and their ship. He receives a court martial which forces him into deeper depression, but also provides the resolve he needs to tomcat his way into the heart of a plucky Canadian babe (Joyce Howard). With the Canuck lassie'e assistance, he seeks to clear his name and bring down the Nazi spies.

Thankfully, he also turfs the facial hair for the final two-thirds of the picture.

Plenty of intrigue abounds, including a nice set piece within a dark old house which yields a surprise corpse that spirals into even more seemingly insurmountable odds for our hero. The romantic chemistry twixt the debonair Mason and the luscious Howard crackles with major sex appeal and the main villain of the film is a deliciously dastardly, though (on the surface) antithetically refined Tom Walls as the show business agent Christopher Child, a Nazi pig in Savile Row finery.

The screenplay, cobbled together by no less than five credited writers, not including an unofficial sixth, the author of the original novel upon which the film is based, yields (not surprisingly) a somewhat generic work. Though the writing is strictly minor key, it's not without proficiency. Finally though, it is the fine cast and production value which render a calorically rich, though nutritionally empty appetizer to the other titles in this Box Set of Brit Noir delights.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half Stars

There's nothing more entertaining than
an amnesiac considering suicide, especially
when played by the magnificent John Mills.

The October Man (1947)
Dir. Roy Ward Baker
Scr. Eric Ambler
Starring: John Mills, Joan Greenwood, Edward Chapman,
Kay Walsh, Jack Melford, Frederick Piper, Joyce Carey

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Take a solid screenplay by Eric Ambler, the directorial debut of Roy Ward Baker (A Night To Remember and several great Hammer Horror classics), an atmosphere of amnesiac ennui resembling that of Mervyn LeRoy's Random Harvest and an astounding performance by John Mills (replete with joy, suffering, kindness, bravery and romantic yearning) and you get The October Man, a terrific British post-war offering that's ripe for re-discovery.

Mills is Jim, a chemist with a big industrial corporation who suffers a horrible head injury in a bus accident - one in which he's been entrusted with the care of a friend's child (played by Mills' real life daughter Juliet) and who dies horribly (through no fault of his own) in the crash. Jim spends a year in an asylum, wracked with amnesia, save for the recurring memories of the child's death.

Though released into the world, all is not right with our hero. His firm arranges a job for him at one of their plants in London and puts him up in a strange old rooming house. Here he tries to build his life back to what it once was, but it's not easy, especially being surrounded by a wide variety of provincially-minded fellow boarders including the horrible, old gossip Mrs. Vinton (Joyce Carey) and an extremely risible snoop and travelling salesman Peachey (Edward Chapman).

Jim eventually meets Jenny (Joan Greenwood), a sweet young woman who takes a shine to his gentle demeanour. The two begin dating and quickly fall in love. Alas, life keeps throwing curve balls at our sad-eyed hero. He befriends the doomed Molly (Kay Walsh), a fellow border who aspires to be an actress, practises lay-astrology and is the kept woman of a married rich businessman. Though she's obviously attracted to the kindness of Jim, she also sees a mark that she might be able to play for a sucker.

One night, Molly is brutally murdered and the prejudicial views against mental illness rear their ugly heads and Jim becomes the prime suspect. Jenny sticks by his side, but the odds of him being railroaded for Molly's murder increase exponentially, as do his deep suicidal tendencies.

The real killer must be found, but is Jim up to the task? The late Molly would have thought so. She dubbed him an October Man due to his astrological sign, but will the inherent qualities she saw in him be enough to avenge her death and save Jim?

I highly suggest you watch this wonderful melodramatic post-war bit of Blighty darkness to find out.


One can never go wrong with Herbert Lom
as a greedy, villanous NAZI!

Snowbound (1948)
Dir. David MacDonald
Starring: Dennis Price, Robert Newton,
Stanley Holloway, Herbert Lom, Mila Parély, Marcel Dalio

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A motley crew of disparate personalities converges upon an isolated ski resort in the Italian Alps wherein, it is said, the Nazis hid a fortune in stolen valuables. A screenwriter (Dennis Price), a director (Robert Newton) a cameraman (Stanley Holloway), a courtesan (Mila Parély) and a Nazi (Herbert Lom) are amongst those who are all there to find the buried treasure. Much intrigue and double crosses ensue in this snowbound locale, building to a thrilling climax in which true colours are revealed and death, for some, will be imminent.

The performances, especially Herbert Lom as the villainous Hun hellbent on financing a Fourth Reich, are all delightful and the intrigue clips along at a supremely entertaining pace. There are elements of post-war darkness to be sure, but for the most part, the picture doesn't take itself too seriously and offers up plenty of fun.


Wilfred Hyde-White as Hoagy Carmichael.

Golden Salamander (1950)
Dir. Ronald Neame
Nvl. Victor Canning
Scr. Lesley Storm, Canning, Neame
Starring: Trevor Howard, Wildred Hyde-White, Herbert Lom, Anouk Aimee

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Doing the math on this one, we come up with more than a few tasty post-war morsels tucked into a tale of greed and shady shenanigans. Based upon a Victor Canning novel, we're introduced to an archeologist (Trevor Howard) in Tunis. Attempting to track down some rare Etruscan items, his official visit turns into a nightmare. Amidst a group of nasty gunrunners, a sleazy local crime chieftain and corrupt constabulary, our eggheaded hero gets himself into a whole heap of trouble. He also falls in love with the gorgeous teenage proprietress (Anouk Aimee) of the hotel-bar he stays in.

It is here where we're blessed with the inimitable Wilfred Hyde-White doing his own rendition of Hoagy Carmichael as the bar's butt-puffing piano player - with divided loyalties, 'natch.

There are more double crosses than you can shake a stick at and at the centre of it all is the always-welcome presence of the dastardly Herbert Lom, here playing a big game hunter, strong-arm sharpshooter for the bad guys and general miscreant. Plenty of suspense is to be had in this nicely directed (by Ronald Neame of The Poseidon Adventure fame) thriller with a stellar blend of gorgeously shot location footage matched to studio interiors (courtesy of the legendary DoP Oswald Morris).

And for those who can't watch any thriller without one, there is, I kid you not, a wild boar hunt during the nail biting climax. Boar hunting and Herbert Lom is what one might best call, a "win-win" situation.


Eva Bartok and Richard Todd in post-war Venice

The Assassin (aka The Venetian Bird) (1952)
Dir. Ralph Thomas
Scr. Victor Canning
Starring: Richard Todd, Eva Bartok, John Gregson, George Coulouris, Sidney James

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Director Ralph Nelson ably steers Victor Canning's screenplay (from his novel) about a private detective (Richard Todd) who is sent to Venice to track down an Italian freedom fighter to reward him for his stellar work during war time. Gorgeous location photography and a haunting score by Nino Rota add up to a fine post-war noir thriller with plenty of double-crosses and a gorgeous femme fatale (Eva Bartok) to keep things delectably dark. Nelson's brother Gerald (eventual director of the "Carry On" series) handles the editing with aplomb - especially given the convolutions of the stirring plot line.

This is standard, but stirring post-war Brit suspense which keeps one on the edge of the seat thanks to a great cast and superb production value all round. Plenty of Hitchcockian touches and a Third Man-like flavour all round.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half-stars

The Kino Classics Brit Noir 5 DVD set is available via Kino-Lorber. Purchas directly from the Amazon links below and contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner: