In its day the most expensive British film ever made, it was also the biggest flop. Shaw's drama is talky at the best of times, but this production makes it seem endless. The set design is impressive but can't compensate for the static posing of the cast.
Script adapt.: (o.a.) G.B. Shaw, Marjorie Deans, W.P. Lipscomb
Director: Gabriel Pascal
Players: Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Stewart Granger, Francis L. Sullivan, Renee Asherson, Olga Edwards, Basil Sydney, Cecil Parker, Ernest Thesiger, Raymond Lovell, Stanley Holloway, Leo Genn, Michael Rennie, Jean Simmons, John Laurie, Felix Aylmer, Valentine Dyall, Zena Marshall, Kay Kendall, Cathleen Nesbitt, Roger Moore
Jean Simmons was always more fun as victimiser than victim, but here she plays a young bride deserted by the caddish David Farrar. Thinking he's dead, she re-marries but he pops back up to blackmail her. The plot is fairly predictable but that adds to the fun, and everyone plays this tosh like they really believe it.
Script: Jack Whittingham
Director: Basil Dearden
Players: James Donald, Herbert Lom, Bernard Lee, Madeleine Lebau, Gladys Henson, Maria Mauban, Gregoire Aslan, Harcourt Williams, Campbell Singer, Arthur Lowe
Eric Portman is the Cairo Chief of Police trying to catch drug smugglers. The dullness is only slightly relieved by an early appearance by Laurence Harvey as Portman's young assistant.
Script: Robert Westerby
Director: David Macdonald
Players: Maria Mauban, Karel Stepanek, Gregoire Aslan, John Gregson
An Edgar Wallace tale of misdeeds in the world of horse racing starring Greta Gynt and John McCallum. She's a bad lot who gets him framed on a cheating rap, but lady trainer Sonia Holm proves his innocence in the end.
Script adapt.: Geoffrey Kerr. (o.a. Edgar Wallace)
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Players: Raymond Lovell, Leslie Dwyer, Charles Victor, Felix Aylmer, Diana Dors, Noel Howlett
A couple of lads follow a couple of ladies to the Continent in a clapped out old car.
Strange little short which seems more like an advertorial for the new car ferry terminal at Dover than an actual film. Certainly the scenes of building the terminal are a lot more interesting than any of the comedy on offer.
Script: Maclean Rogers
Director: Maclean Rogers
Players: Cardew Robinson, John Fitzgerald, Adrienne Scott, Pauline Olsen, Spike Milligan (voice only)
An accident at a record company means a diverse selection of artistes have to be gathered to re-record their discs. Flotsam and Jetsam volunteer for the job.
That wisp of a plot is of course just an excuse for a variety show. What distinguishes Calling All Stars is the quality of the acts. Many of them are long-forgotten, others still have names which resonate. Calling All Stars is a valuable record of their skills.
After a quick tour of the recording studio, we're off to London for a good, old cockney knees-up with Leon Cortez and his Coster Band. Doreen Harris gives us One of the Old Ruins Cromwell Knocked About a Bit while Ethel Revnell and Gracie West do their shtick. After a quick stop in Hungary we hit Harlem for the most impressive sequence which includes The Nicholas Brothers and Elisabeth Welch. Then back to London and the Savoy for the climax. It's at the Savoy that Arthur Askey makes his film debut with one line: "Oh, it's The Whirlwind Skaters".
No one takes credit for the script and who can blame them: there's scarcely two minutes of dialogue in the whole film, and what there is is hardly memorable. However, the acts are memorable, and make Calling All Stars a very enjoyable film.
Director: Herbert Smith
Players: Ambrose and His Orchestra, Evelyn Dall, Sam Browne, Max Bacon, Larry Adler, Carroll Gibbons and his Savoy Hotel Orchestra, Allen and Broderick, Billy Bennett, Turner Layton, The Twelve Aristocrats, Buck and bubbles, Eugene Pini and his Orchestra, Al Craig and his Band, The Three Canadian Bachelors, Davy Burnaby, Joan Emney, Leslie Carew, Billy 'Popeye' Costello, Bega Four
Jack Hulbert is the bungler investigating a drug smuggling operation in Egypt. Anna Lee is the love interest. The most interesting thing about this film is the location shooting. It was rare enough for movies of the period to film in the local high street, so seeing Jack Hulbert wandering around Egyptian ruins is a novelty. Unfortunately, what he does in the ruins is below par. He does, however, get to sing his big hit "Who's been polishing the sun?".
Script: Guy Bolton, Jack Hulbert, W.P. Lipscomb
Director: Tim Whelan
Players: Hartley Power, Harold Huth, Allan Jeyes, Peter Gawthorne, Norma Whalley, Peggy Simpson, Percy Parsons, Tony de Lungo
In a far-East POW camp, the inmates struggle to keep the commandant from learning the Japanese have lost WWII for fear of his threat to kill them all.
1958 was a memorable year for Hammer. It released Dracula and The Revenge of Frankenstein but it was the long-forgotten The Camp on Blood Island that was by far its most controversial release of the year. And possibly ever. Critics lined up to condemn the film as a sordid exercise in sadism and a disgracefully cheap use of the suffering of the war for entertainment. It was a smash hit.
The violence in the film is still on the strong side, but for today's audiences there's one thing that's far more likely to cause offence: white actors playing Japanese characters. It's possible to forgive benign Charlie Chan-style portrayals as just one of those silly things they did in the old days, but when the characters are uniformly vicious sadists then the film veers into racism - an accusation that was made of the film even in the 1950s. Respectable actors like Marne Maitland and Lee Montague get to don the ludicrous eye makeup and strut around unconvincingly but the true depths are reached when poor old Michael Ripper has to pass for Oriental. I can only assume there was a law stating that Ripper had to appear in every Hammer film and he was too well fed to play a prisoner.
If you can get past that then the film has its merits. It lacks the subtlety and emotion of A Town Like Alice or Bridge on the River Kwai but then it's more of a Boy's Own adventure in which the only function of the Japanese characters is to be nasty then go Arghh! when they get killed at the end. On that level it's a gripping tale that's well structured with enough characterisation to cover the lulls in the plot.
I suspect that some of the critics' antagonism is due to the fact that the end is a messy bloodbath in which the British also do horrible things in their struggle to survive. During the battle people get killed in what we now call friendly fire. The death of Michael Ripper's character is either murder or an actual war crime since he's the only Japanese we meet who's realised the war is over and is trying to surrender. It's all very distasteful for anyone who wants to believe in a good war.
The Camp on Blood Island may make uncomfortable viewing but it does make an interesting contrast to the bulk of British war films which tend to treat soldiers on the other side as victims of the war or of their political systems.
Script: Jon Manchip White, Val Guest
Director: Val Guest
Players: Andre Morell, Carl Mohner, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgerald, Phil Brown, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goodliffe, Richard Wordsworth, Mary Merrall, Michael Gwynn, Ronald Radd, Wolfe Morris, Edwin Richfield, Peter Wayn, Michael Brill, Barry Lowe, Max Butterfield, Alan McNaughton, Howard Williams, Michael Dea, Anthony Chinn, Kenji Tagaki, S. Goh, Jimmy Raphael, David Goh, Don Lee, Liliane Sottane, Grace Denbigh-Russell, Geoffrey Bayldon, Jacqueline Curtiss, Jan Holden, Betty Cooper, Anne Riddler, Barbara Lee, Milton Reid
After a doctor tells Dirk Bogarde he's dying he goes to Canada and tries to prevent Stanley Baker from flooding a valley for a hydro-electric scheme. Nice scenery helps distract the mind from niggling plot worries (not least during the climactic dam failure only twelve hours after they start filling it. We knew Baker was using dodgy concrete but he'd have to be building with tissue paper to get that sort of failure).
Script adapt.: Robin Estridge (o.a. Hammond Innes)
Director: Ralph Thomas
Players: Barbara Murray, Michael Craig, James Robertson Justice, Athene Seyler, John Laurie, Sidney James, Finlay Currie
One of director George King's best films benefits from an early performance by James Mason. He plays a British agent trying to smuggle top secret film out of Algeria in WWII.
Script: Katherine Strueby, Brock Williams
Director: George King
Players: Carla Lehmann, Walter Rilla, Raymond Lovell, Enid Stamp-Taylor
A rich man dies in suspicious circumstance. To everyone's surprise, he leaves his money to a distant relative, on condition that she stays in his house for a month. The other relatives plot to ensure that she fails to meet this condition.
Candles at Nine has all the ingredients of a standard B-picture, but what sets it apart from the crowd is that this is the picture that finished off Jessie Matthews' career. This strange, broken-backed thriller features a rickety plot, off-colour jokes and, because it's Jessie, a musical number. It's a mixture that just doesn't work. The comedy and music just remind audiences of how effortless Jessie used to make it all seem, while the thriller aspect looks hopelessly cheap and harks back to the days of the quota quickie.
The supporting cast are undistinguished. John Stuart as the detective/love-interest makes no impact whatsoever. Beatrix Lehmann gets the prize role as the Mrs Danvers-like housekeeper, but she's revealed as the killer far too early and her plot is so full of holes any tension is dissipated by the audience puzzling "now what the hell is she up to?" Winfred Shotter does a good turn as the bitchiest relative, but doesn't get enough screen time.
Reginald Purdell and Hugh Dempster get most of the comic lines as a pair of brothers who try to snare Jessie with their meagre charms. At one point, one looks at the other in the bath and says "that's never five inches!" He is of course referring to the water conservation regulations in force during wartime, but how they got such a double entendre past the censor is the biggest mystery the film has to offer.
Candles at Nine isn't the great disaster its reputation would insist, but it's not much cop. No wonder Jessie never starred in another film.
Script adapt.: Basil Mason, John Harlow. (o.a. Anthony Gilbert)
Director: John Harlow
Players: Eliot Makeham, John Salew, Joss Ambler, Vera Bogetti, Andre Van Gysegham, Hugh Dempster, Ernest Butcher, C. Denier Warren, Patricia Hayes, Gerry Wilmot, Guy Fielding
A madman stalks wartime Kent pouring glue on the head of any girl who goes out at night.
Powell and Pressburger's examination of wartime morality baffled audiences when it first came out. Now it seems one of the most intriguing films to come out the war. It's certainly one of the few that expresses the ambiguity between needing American help (and the help of women) to fight Hitler and resenting that need. The meandering plot takes its own sweet time but delivers an emotional kick that's all the stronger for being so unexpected.
Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Players: John Sweet, Dennis Price, Sheila Sim, Eric Portman, Esmond Knight, Charles Hawtrey, Hay Petrie, George Merritt, Edward Rigby, Freda Jackson, Betty Jardine, Eliot Makeham, Harvey Golden, Leonard Smith, Esma Cannon, Antony Holles, Wally Bosco, Charles Paton, Jane Millican, John Slater, Graham Moffatt, Michael Howard, Margaret Scudamore, Joss Ambler, H.F. Maltby
A young woman seizes her chance to leave her tawdry life as a nightclub hostess in the South Seas and marries a middle-aged lighthouse keeper. Soon the dullness of her new life on a remote New Zealand island overcomes her and she starts an affair with the lighthouse keeper's assistant. Life gets even more complicated when a yacht is capsized on the island and she falls in love with the survivor: a man on the run for swindling a building society.
Cape Forlorn comes at the end of the transition to sound. There are still remnants of silent technique - notably a long travelling shot into and through a nightclub - but fundamentally the film is an adaptation of a play and as such displays its origins. As with many films of this period it was made in several languages - French (with Harry Baur) and German (with Conrad Veidt). That travelling shot is also giveaway here since it features none of the main cast; hard enough to do once, almost impossible to organise three times.
The acting also shows how the unease with sound was gradually being overcome by actors. Frank Harvey as the cuckolded lighthouse keeper was in the original cast and his performance is very much that of a stage actor projecting for all he's worth and using the tricks that served him so well on stage. Fay Compton, as his wife, carries some of her silent screen tricks but has enough experience to modify her screen habits for sound and her stage habits for screen. Director E.A Dupont is still experimenting with telling silences and pregnant pauses from his actors but they are much more successful than in the ludicrous Atlantic.
As a film rather than a historical curio, Cape Forlorn still has its moments, though it's clear that it would work better as a silent for the most part, particularly if that would mean dispensing with the dull dialogue. There are moments of suspense and even eroticism. Fay Compton making the effort to tart herself up for her husband is surprisingly erotic and his rejection of her efforts make for great tragedy.
Cape Forlorn is a hard sell for the casual viewer, but a must for anyone interested in the history of British film.
Script: E.A. Dupont, Victor Kendall. (o.a. Frank Harvey)
Director: E.A. Dupont
Players: Edmund Willard, Ian Hunter, Donald Calthrop
Cecil Parker is the 19th century Irish Landlord whose name is about to be added to the dictionary. Launder and Gilliat get a lot of mileage out of this historical drama. British films rarely tackled Irish history so this stands out as an interesting endeavour. The need for historical accuracy on such a delicate matter means it doesn't have the glorious hysteria of a Gainsborough melodrama but it is at least free of the sort of Irish whimsy that mars most films set in the Emerald Isle. It is however burdened with a closing speech so mawkish that even Alastair Sim can't deliver it.
Script adapt.: Frank Launder, Wolfgang Wilhelm, Paul Vincent Carroll, Patrick Campbell. (o.a. Philip Rooney)
Director: Frank Launder
Players: Stewart Granger, Kathleen Ryan, Robert Donat, Mervyn Johns, Niall MacGinnis, Eddie Byrne, Liam Redmond, Maurice Denham, Bernadette O'Farrell, Ian Fleming, Reginald Purdell, Michael Ripper, James Hayter
The adventures of a 19th century sea captain.
This is an early example of the Hollywood productions that flocked to British studios in the 50s to take advantage of tax breaks and cheap period backgrounds. Here the imported stars are Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. The result is not much like C.S. Forester's novels but it's fun.
Script adapt.: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Aeneas Mackenzie. (o.a. C.S. Forester)
Director: Raoul Walsh
Players: Robert Beatty, James Robertson Justice, Denis O'Dea, Terence Morgan, Richard Hearne, James Kenney, Stanley Baker, Christopher Lee, Michael Goodliffe, Richard Johnson, Moultrie Kelsall, Michael Dolan, Kynaston Reeves, Ronald Adam, Amy Veness, Sam Kydd
Alec Guinness is the sailor with a different wife in each of his two ports of call. They are played by Celia Johnson and Yvonne de Carlo and you can't get more different than that. Not one of the great British comedies, but there's enough here to enjoy if the weather's lousy.
Script: Alec Coppel, Nicholas Phipps
Director: Anthony Kimmins
Players: Charles Goldner, Miles Malleson, Bill Fraser, Sebastian Cabot, Peter Bull, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Roger Delgado
On a transatlantic liner on route to New York, a musician's wife is found murdered.
Standard murder mystery with a couple of nice touches.
Script: John Paddy Carstairs
Director: Percy Marmont
Players: Percy Marmont, Marian Spencer, Louis Goodrich, Daphne Courtney, Pat Fitzpatrick, Gerald Fielding
John Gregson is the captain put in charge of a cruise ship when he's more used to cargo boats. He soon puts a lot of backs up, but all ends well in this mild comedy.
Script adapt.: John Whiting, Bryan Forbes, Nicholas Phipps. (o.a. Richard Gordon)
Director: Jack Lee
Players: Donald Sinden, Peggy Cummins, Maurice Denham, Nadia Gray, Richard Wattis, Reginald Beckwith, Bill Kerr, Nicholas Phipps, John le Mesurier, Lionel Murton, Joan Sims, Miles Malleson, James Hayter, Joseph Tomelty, June Jago, Nora Nicholson, John Warner, Harry Locke, Ed Devereaux, Rosalie Ashley, Donald Churchill, Oliver Reed, Sam Kydd
Fine POW drama with Michael Redgrave as the Czech trying to pass himself off as a British officer, and falling in love by post with the officer's wife. Sounds a bit sickly but it's done with such restraint that it works.
Script: Angus Macphail, Guy Morgan
Director: Basil Dearden
Players: Rachel Kempson, Mervyn Johns, Basil Radford, Jack Warner, Jimmy Hanley, Gordon Jackson, Karel Stepanek, Guy Middleton, Frederick Leister, Meriel Forbes, Gladys Henson, Rachel Thomas, Torin Thatcher, Sam Kydd