Richard Greene portrays an Edwardian theatrical impresario who takes London by storm, but W.W.I disrupts his success. One of producer/director George King's more ambitious productions.
Script: Katherine Strueby
Director: George King
Players: Ann Todd, Peter Graves, Hazel Court, Leni Lynn, Ursula Jeans, Morland Graham, Frank Pettingell, Wally Patch
A woman tries to trick a lawyer out of evidence that could convict her lover.
Slight but enjoyable episode from Fred Paul's Grand Guignol series.
Script: Laurence Therval
Director: Fred Paul, Jack Raymond
Players: Charles Tilson-Chown, Enid Sass
The Crazy Gang tie their mobile fish-and-chip shop to a barrage balloon and accidentally get carried to Nazi Germany. They break out of their prison, Teddy Knox impersonates Hitler and they get back home in a new secret weapon - an underground tank.
The whole film is a blissful two-fingers up to Germany and WWII at a period when it looked like we were losing. It has some truly outrageous moments and could well be Britain's most anarchic comedy.
Script: Val Guest, Marriott Edgar
Director: Marcel Varnel
Players: The Crazy Gang (Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton, Jimmy Gold), Moore Marriott, Wally Patch, Peter Gawthorne, Frederick Valk, Torin Thatcher, Irene Handl
This was long thought to be a lost film because when MGM did the remake they bought up all the prints. It's the tale of wife Diana Wynyard driven to madness by her husband Anton Walbrook in his search for her family's missing rubies. More tight-arsed than the American version which suits the claustrophobic atmosphere.
Script: A.R. Rawlinson, Bridget Boland
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Players: Robert Newton, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell, Jimmy Hanley
Another version of Edgar Wallace's The Ringer with a script by Sidney Gilliat to keep things lively.
Script adapt.: Sydney Gilliat. (o.a. Edgar Wallace)
Director: Walter Forde
Players: John Longden, Wilfrid Lawson, Sonnie Hale, Louise Henry, Patrick Barr, Alexander Knox, Patricia Roc, Peter Croft, George Merritt, Charles Eaton, Arthur Hambling
An insurance man goes after the reward for the capture of a gang of safeblowers but puts himself and the company's secretary in danger.
50s cinema was full of low-budget crime films filling in as support for the main feature. If you have to pick a typical example then Gelignite Gang would be a good choice.
Its star is a minor America actor whose career had long since faded and who, even at its height, most filmgoers would have struggled to pick out of a line-up. Wayne Morris had his best chance as the title role in Kid Galahad, the Warner Brothers' boxing picture starring Edward G Robinson and Bette Davies. But that had been twenty years earlier.
The leading man needs a leading lady to get into danger and provide mild love interest. That role goes to the genre stalwart Sandra Dorne. Dorne normally played the bad girl, but here she's regulation practical, resourceful and sexually non-threatening.
The police, naturally, rely on our Yank hero for most of their leads though do enough at the end to suggest they weren't a bunch of incompetents who needed outside help. They also provide much of the exposition needed to drive the plot along. The villains are played by a bunch of minor character actors, some familiar and some not, who can do this sort of thing in their sleep.
Most of the real action takes place in the last ten minutes, in time to entertain those in the audience who've turned up ready for the main feature. This action is also enough to fill a decent trailer particularly when the film also contains a nightclub scene featuring a sultry singer to give the trailer some sex appeal.
Despite its by-the-numbers appeal, Gelignite Gang does provide some pleasure - particularly from those character actors quietly going about their business. And that last ten minutes is a cracker.
Script adapt.: Brandon Fleming
Director: Terence Fisher, Francis Searle
Players: Patrick Holt, James Kenny, Simone Silva, Eric Pohlmann, Arthur Young, Lloyd Lamble, Hugh Miller, Ossie Waller, Bertha Russell, Leigh Crutchley, Monti de Lyle, Bernadette Milnes, Mark Daly, Tony Doonan
Friends Kenneth More and John Gregson become rivals when they take part in the London to Brighton vintage car rally. With Kay Kendall and Dinah Sheridan along for the ride this is a delightful mix of the childish and sophisticated. When it was first released it was a massive, and unexpected, success and has now aged as beautifully as the old cars.
Script: William Rose
Director: Henry Cornelius
Players: Geoffrey Keen, Harold Siddons, Joyce Grenfell, Arthur Wontner, Reginald Beckwith, Michael Medwin, Leslie Mitchell, Michael Balfour, Edie Martin
A Russian nihilist is shopped to the police by his wife and her lover. He escapes and builds a new life as an East End doctor, but finds his wife is one of his patients.
An episode from Fred Paul's Grand Guignol series.
Script: George Saxon
Director: Fred Paul
Players: Fred Paul, Olive Elton
During the London Blitz, an IRA cell continues its bombing campaign. But their location is betrayed and when two of its members are sent to a Belfast prison a plan is hatched to free them.
The relationship between Britain and Ireland was always a tricky one for British cinema to tackle. The reaction of the British government to the Famine and the struggle for independence made portraying the British as the good guys problematic, censors were touchy about any political issues, and cinema audiences weren't crying out for films on the subject. Therefore film makers tended to ignore the Emerald Isle unless they wanted to make daffy comedies with lashings of Oirish stereotypes.
There were however a handful of films that dealt with the Troubles. They usually fell into the genre of poetic melodrama and this is the slot that The Gentle Gunman fits into. They concentrated on divisions and doubts within the IRA and generally presented a world in which members of the organisation were at even more of a threat from the leadership than the British army. And in order to overcome audience indifference without alienating the possible Irish (and American) audience the films use star power. In this case, The Gentle Gunman uses two of our greatest stars just to be sure.
The stars in this case are Dirk Bogarde and John Mills and they are the film's fatal flaw. They put in committed performances but, oh dear, those accents! It's not that the accents seem bad, at least to these non-Irish ears, but coming from those mouths they just sound plain peculiar. Bogarde's doing his hysterical bad boy act and Mills is doing his enigmatic hard man act and though neither are totally convincing they're entertaining enough. Providing you can accept that they're playing brothers.
Supporting Bogarde and Mills is a familiar roster of actors, though you have to go a fair way down the list to find anyone who's actually Irish. Robert Beatty who plays the real villain of the piece and Elizabeth Sellars as love interest for both brothers score strongly.
Basil Dearden's direction has a great eye for location, backed up by Gordon Dines's photography. Both the early London Blitz scenes and the bleak border garage where much of the later action takes place are well captured. There's enough here to suggest that if only the production had avoided the temptation of using the two biggest stars of the day then maybe The Gentle Gunman would have turned out to be a classic instead of a minor pleasure.
Script adapt.: (o.a.) Roger Macdougall
Director: Basil Dearden
Players: James Kenney, Joseph Tomelty, Gilbert Harding, Barbara Mullen, Eddie Byrne, Michael Golden, Patric Doonan, John Orchard, Michael Dunne, Patricia Stewart, Tony Quinn, Edward Byrne, Seamus Kavanagh, Terence Alexander, Jean St Clair, Doric Yorke, E.J. Kennedy, Harry Brogan
Just about every branch of the services had a film glorifying its work. Here it's the turn of the ATS. Leslie Howard co-produced and co-directed (and narrated) this tale of women at war. It's a good one too. Who would have thought lorry driving could be this fascinating!
Script: Moie Charles, Aimee Stuart, Roland Pertwee, Phyllis Rose
Director: Leslie Howard, Maurice Elvey
Players: John Gates, Jean Gillie, Joan Greenwood, Joyce Howard, Rosamund John, Lilli Palmer, Barbara Wearing, John Justin, Frederick Leister, Mary Jerrold, Everley Gregg, John Laurie, Rosalyn Boulter, Meriel Forbes, Jimmy Hanley, Ronald Shiner, Miles Malleson, Roland Pertwee, Leslie Howard (narration)
Bill Travers is the hunky Scots gamekeeper trying to win the hammer throw at the Olympics. Pleasant comedy that made a star of Travers. It doesn't have too many laughs and the cast of comic actors seems a little under par but it's difficult not to think of the film with affection.
Script adapt.: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat. (o.a. David Walker)
Director: Frank Launder
Players: Alastair Sim, Molly Urquhart, Norah Gorsen, Doris Goddard, Jameson Clark, Francis de Wolff, Alex Mackenzie, Raymond Huntley, Brian Reece, Miles Malleson, Stanley Baxter, Duncan Macrae, Michael Ripper
Thanks to a mix-up at the Town Hall, a couple of East End ladies end up volunteering to escort evacuees to the country.
Elsie and Doris Waters were a popular double act whose Gert and Daisy characters made them a big hit on radio and on the halls. As a couple of Cockneys chars they moaned their way through the war good-naturedly complaining about rationing and the blackout. There were two attempts to capture their appeal on film of which Gert and Daisy's Weekend was the first.
As comediennes, Gert and Daisy have quite a modern feel. They back chat to each other in a laid-back style that would suit the current fashion for laugh-track free sitcoms. They were probably perfect for the intimacy of radio in their day, but maybe not suited to the big screen.
There are a few laughs, but the film is mainly of sociological interest these days. Most films featuring evacuees see them as poor little angels who need support; the evacuees in this film make St Trinian's seem like a bunch of nuns. Judging by contemporary accounts, this film gets it right. There are many tales of the horror felt by the rural middle-classes as they were faced with housing the feral poor.
Of course, just watching a bunch of brats misbehaving gets a bit wearing after a while so there is a plot of sorts about a pair of jewel thieves. As usual with this type of plot, it doesn't get in the way of the fun. Neither does a romance between a sailor and a neighbour's daughter.
Script: Maclean Rogers, Kathleen Butler, H.F. Maltby
Director: Maclean Rogers
Players: Iris Vandeleur, John Slater, Wally Patch, Elizabeth Hunt, Annie Esmond, Aubrey Mallalieu, Gerald Rex
A camera falls from a castle window into a passing car. When the car's owner (Henry Kendall) discovers it he develops the photos and finds what looks like a murder. The picture is stolen so no one believes him. He uses the remaining photos to track down the owner. He finds a girl (Ida Lupino) whose missing brother (John Mills) owned the camera and together they search for the place the murder occurred.
The plot is riddled with holes and the dialogue is dross. Director Bernard Vorhaus tries to use as much cinematic technique as he can muster to spice up the film but it's an uphill battle. The main interest for an audience today is seeing the early performances of Lupino and Mills. She is almost unrecognisable as a blonde and has none of the intensity of her Hollywood performances. He, well, he's John Mills and never changed much throughout his sixty-odd year career.
All in all it's just an interesting curiosity. David Lean was the editor and keeps the action moving. The music is awful - the sort of haunted house spooky stuff you'd expect in a Three Stooges film. No one owns up to composing it. Who can blame them?
Script adapt.: H. Fowler Mear. (o.a. J. Jefferson Farjeon)
Director: Bernard Vorhaus
Players: S. Victor Stanley, George Merritt, Felix Aylmer, Fred Groves, Davina Craig
When a Scottish castle is exported to America, its ghost goes with it.
Script: Robert E Sherwood, Rene Clair, Geoffrey Kerr, Eric Keown
Director: Rene Claire
Players: Robert Donat, Eugene Pallette, Jean Parker, Elsa Lanchester, Ralph Bunker, Everley Gregg, Patricia Hilliard, Morton Selton, Chili Bouchier, Mark Daly, Herbert Lomas, Elliot Mason, Jack Lambert, Hay Petrie, Colin Lesslie, Richard Mackie, J Neil More, Neil Lester, Quinton McPherson, Arthur Seaton, David Keir
It's schooltime for Will Hay again. This time his school is evacuated to a castle in Skye where there are ghostly goings-on. Surprise, surprise - It's really a gang of Nazi spies. For once, his sidekicks aren't Marriott and Moffatt but Charles Hawtrey and Claude Hulbert.
Script: Angus Macphail, John Dighton
Director: Marcel Varnel
Players: Felix Aylmer, Raymond Huntley, John Laurie, Elliot Mason, Hay Petrie, Brefni O'Rorke
When a couple buy an old ship, they fear it might be haunted. Their investigations uncover an old murder mystery.
Spooky and rather fun.
Script: Vernon Sewell
Director: Vernon Sewell
Players: Dermot Walsh, Hazel Court, Hugh Burden, John Robinson, Hugh Latimer, Patricia Owens, Melissa Stribling, Joan Carol, Mignon O'Doherty, Joss Ambler, Laidman Browne, Meadows White, Pat McGrath, Joss Ackland, John King-Kelly, Colin Douglas, Jack Stewart, Anthony Marlowe, Geoffrey Dunn, Ian Carmichael, Anthony Hayes, Barry Phelps, Robert Morse, Ewan Solon, Jock Finlay, Madeline Thomas, Graham Stuart, Gordon Bell
Sadly the 1931 version with Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge is lost so we have to make do with this one. It's still directed by Walter Forde but is now a star vehicle for Band Wagon stars Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch. Like the play it's based on, it takes a while to get going but it's well worth hanging around for the finale.
Script: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest
Director: Walter Forde
Players: Kathleen Harrison, Morland Graham, Linden Travers, Peter Murrey Hill, Carole Lynne, Herbert Lomas, Raymond Huntley, Betty Jardine
Robert Morley and Felix Aylmer are the ghosts condemned to haunt a Mayfair mansion until a reigning monarch visits. But their schemes to make it happen are doomed to failure.
Script adapt.: James Seymour. (o.a. Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon)
Director: Vernon Sewell
Players: Yvonne Arnaud, Claude Hulbert, Abraham Sofaer, Ernest Thesiger, Marie Lohr, Martita Hunt, John Longden, A.E. Matthews, Ronald Frankau, Wilfrid Hyde White, Martin Miller, Wally Patch, Esme Percy, Mary Jerrold, Robert Beaumont, Madge Brindley, Strelsa Brown, Ronald Shiner, Harry Fine, James Hayter, Tom Walls Jr
When Boris Karloff left these shores he hadn't even started acting professionally. When he came back he was a star and The Ghoul was the film chosen to mark his brief return.
It should have been a huge success. Karloff was supported by a good cast, the production design was expensive and the photography of Gunther Krampf was luminous. However the script was bad and T. Hayes Hunter's direction failed to get much of a performance out of anyone.
The plot is simple. Karloff is rich and dying, but he believes in the old Egyptian religion. He also believes that being buried with an ancient gem will bring him immortality. Unfortunately greedy old Ernest Thesiger steals the gem before Karloff is shut up in his crypt. A bunch of disgruntled heirs and would-be gem thieves gather at the house during the next full moon. These include Dorothy Hyson and Anthony Bushell as the most irritating pair of bickering cousins (who will end up as lovers), Ralph Richardson as a passing vicar and Kathleen Harrison - comedy cockney. She's lumbered with the worst lines ("Oh, I'm making sandwiches for a sheikh!") but copes quite well with them.
The main problem with the plot is that there is so little of Karloff. He's dead within ten minutes and doesn't pop back up until the last half hour. Even then he has little more to do than lurch around looking threatening. He does have one great moment when he tries to stab himself in front of an Egyptian statue only succeeding in carving chunks out of his chest. Nobody ever expressed the tragedy of horror better than Karloff.
All in all, a disappointment. Though at least we can still enjoy the cinematography in the terrific restoration available in MGM's Region 1 DVD release.
Script adapt.: (o.a.) Frank King, Leonard Hines, L. DuGarde Peach, Roland Pertwee, John Hastings Turner, Rupert Downing.
Director: T. Hayes Hunter
Players: Cedric Hardwicke, Harold Huth, D.A. Clarke-Smith, Jack Raine