John Huston directs Gregory Peck and Orson Welles in a version of the classic tale that seems to last longer than reading the book.
Script adapt.: John Huston, Ray Bradbury. (o.a. Herman Melville)
Director: John Huston
Players: Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews, Bernard Miles, Noel Purcell, Edric Connor, Mervyn Johns, Joseph Tomelty, Friedrich Ledebur, Philip Stainton, Royal Dano, Seamus Kelly, Tamba Alleney, Francis de Wolff
Brash Aussie newcomer, Cyril McLaglen, threatens to steal the limelight from speedway star John Loder. Loder tries to nobble him by setting him up with a guaranteed heartbreaking woman.
The mechanics of the script are a little dreary, but boy does the speedway action make up for it! Director Bernard Vorhaus scraped together the £7000 cost of the picture by getting the thrills and spills of actual speedway on film. These sequences with editing by David Lean (who also has an uncredited bit as a journalist) form the core of the film. No other picture captures the atmosphere and excitement of one of the great spectator sports of the 30s.
McLaglen is adequate as the dupe, but the dramatic demands of the plot are a little outside his range. Loder, playing bad for a change, has never been sexier. The undoubted star of the film though has to be 15 year old Ida Lupino as the femme fatale. Other actresses might have gone way over the top in this role, but she effortlessly underplays. She knows she has no need to get the camera's attention. No wonder Hollywood snapped her up.
Money for Speed was listed in the BFI's Missing Believed Lost search. A dubbed French print and a subtitled German one was discovered. Rediscovering Money for Speed has made this search worthwhile. It's not a world classic, but it's a breath of fresh air compared to so many of its contemporaries. I can't think of an American B picture of the same period with half as much oomph as this. Money for Speed gives the lie to the belief that quota-quickies were a blot on this country's film heritage.
Script: Vera Allinson, Monica Ewer, Lionel Hale
Director: Bernard Vorhaus
Players: Moore Marriott, Marie Ault, George Merritt, Sam Wilkinson, Ginger Lees. (with the co-operation of: Ginger Lees, Frank Arthur, Jack Ormston, Colin Watson, Tom Farndon, George Greenwood, Bluey Wilkinson, Jack Parker, Vic Huxley, Eric Langdon, Tiger Stevenson, Ron Johnson, Billie Lamont, Wal Phillips, Frank Varey, Cyclone Danny, John Hoskins, Alec Jackson, F. Mockford, E.J. Bass, A.J. Elvin)
In order to inherit a fortune, a man has to be in poverty by the time the will is finalised. But he's just sold the remains of his failed business and needs to get rid of the proceeds fast.
Essentially the plot of Brewster's Millions but the interest lies in the rarity of its setting: Britain's Jewish Community. There's also an appearance from 30s boxer Kid Berg who's a good-looking lad but hardly a gift to the acting profession.
Script: Norman Lee, Frank Miller, Edwin Greenwood
Director: Norman Lee
Players: Julian Rose, Kid Berg, Judy Kelly, Gladdy Sewell, Gus McNaughton, Griffith Jones, Bernard Ansell, Lena Maitland, Hal Gordon, Mary Charles, Jimmy Godden, Rich and Galvin
Paderewski's only feature film performance is the main point of interest here. He plays a concert pianist forced to stay at the home of a countess (his plane's bust). He fixes things for the household in the sort of way George Arliss used to do. He also plays the piano a lot.
Script: Edward Knoblock, E.M. Delafield
Director: Lothar Mendes
Players: Charles Farrell, Marie Tempest, Barbara Green, Eric Portman, Binkie Stewart, Queenie Leonard
George Baker is the 17th century toff whose eponymous alter ego is helping Royalists escape in true Scarlet Pimpernel fashion. Despite being busy he still finds the time to romance Sylvia Syms in one of the best British swashbucklers.
Script adapt.: Robert Hall, Wilfred Eades, Alistair Bell. (o.a. Arthur Watkins)
Director: David Macdonald
Players: Peter Arne, Marius Goring, Richard Leech, Clive Moreton, Gary Raymond, Paul Whitsun-Jones, Iris Russell, John le Mesurier, Patrick Troughton, George Woodbridge
When a Syrian girl tries to escape from an arranged marriage she stows away on board a liner heading for England and falls for a stuffy archeologist.
Hollywood import Lupe Velez looks a million dollars, but her character is bloody annoying. Mind you, that sums up most of Velez's career. This British attempt at a screwball comedy is tolerable, but might have benefited from a more colourful supporting cast of characters.
Script adapt.: Miles Mander, Guy Bolton, H Fowler Mear (o.a. W.J. Locke)
Director: Miles Mander
Players: Lupe Velez, Ian Hunter, Adrianne Allen, Noel Madison, J.H. Roberts, H.F. Maltby, D.J. Williams, Arnold Lucy, Frank Atkinson, Johnny Nit, James Raglan, Agnes Imlay
John Mills is the captain of a stricken submarine trying to get his crew evacuated. Lots of stiff upper lip stuff for those who can take it.
Script adapt.: W.E.C. Fairchild. (o.a. Kenneth Woollard)
Director: Roy Baker
Players: Richard Attenborough, Helen Cherry, Nigel Patrick, George Cole, Lana Morris, James Hayter, Kenneth More, Andrew Crawford, Michael Brennan, Peter Hammond, Victor Maddern, Zena Marshall
This film marks the end of the long-running Old Mother Riley series and is one of the most notoriously bad British films ever made. The film loses the "Old" from the title, and the series finally ditches Kitty McShane - the world's worst comic feed. In return, the series gains a decent cast of British comedy actors and, oh lordy, Bela Lugosi!
At this point in his career, Lugosi was nearing the end of the line. An expensive drug habit and even more expensive alimony payments meant he had long since stopped being choosy about the quality of his roles. Thanks to a failed theatre tour he was stuck in this country. His fee for this movie helped him get home.
Lugosi plays a mad scientist called The Vampire who dresses like Dracula and sleeps in a coffin. He's kidnapping young ladies for unspecified purposes. He's also trying to construct an army of robots with which he can control the world. The prototype is accidentally delivered to Old Mother Riley's shop. It kidnaps her and takes her to his master. He employs her as a maid (domestic servants are hard to come by when you're trying to conquer the world) but she disrupts his plans.
The plot is baggy to say the least. It just gives the stars space to do their things. Sadly, they aren't together enough. The clash of styles between Lugosi and Riley is mind-blowing. He exists in the totally artificial world of Hollywood horror. She, despite being a cartoon character, lives in the real world where rationing still exists and the only vampire she knows is the rent collector. This difference produces one of the funniest scenes where he tries to hypnotise a victim and she continually pops in and out to interrupt. The film switches from horror to comedy and back again with bewildering speed.
Arthur Lucan, as Old Mother Riley, seems a bit elderly compared with Old Mother Riley MP and the effect of his drinking habit shows in close-up. But since Old Mother Riley is an elderly drunk that hardly matters. Lucan may not have the energy he displays in his earlier work, but he's pro enough to fake it. Lugosi, even under these strange circumstances, gives the last decent performance of his career.
Dora Bryan plays stooge to Riley and she does well in the role. She also gets romantic with Richard Wattis, the local bobby. Judith Furse does her usual hefty henchwoman act, but she's outshone by Ian Wilson as a cackling villain.
Early on in the film Old Mother Riley sings This Little Finger Goes Tweet-tweet with Hattie Jacques and Dandy Nichols as her backing group. This number, which looks as if it was rehearsed for all of two minutes, is totally charming and announces that the film is nothing but a kiddies panto.
On this level, it's hard to see why the film has such a bad reputation. It has a few laughs, and you can find plenty of more amateurish stuff on children's TV today. Virtually everyone involved would be in worse films and Lugosi would end his career with Ed Wood.
Its reputation must be due to Lugosi's presence attracting fans who would otherwise never see a low budget British film. To those familiar with Lugosi and Riley's work the mix comes as a shock - heaven knows what it must be like for people who don't know what to expect.
Script: Val Valentine
Director: John Gilling
Players: Philip Leaver, Maria Mercedes, Roderick Lovell, David Hurst, Graham Moffat, Cyril Smith, Charles Lloyd-Pack, Arthur Brander, Peter Bathurst, George Benson, David Hannaford, Bill Shine, John le Mesurier, Laurence Naismith
Jose Ferrer gets on his knees to play Toulouse-Lautrec in this brilliant recreation of 1890s Paris. The drama at the foreground isn't up to much, but the background is stunning.
Script adapt.: John Houston, Anthony Veiller. (o.a. Pierre la Mure)
Director: John Houston
Players: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Colette Marchand, Suzanne Flon, Claude Nollier, Katherine Kath, Muriel Smith, Mary Clare, Walter Crisham, Harold Kasket, Jim Gerald, Georges Lannes, Lee Montague, Maureen Swanson, Tutte Lemkow, Jill Bennett, Theodore Bikel, Rupert John, Peter Cushing, Eric Pohlmann, Arissa Cooper, Charles Carson, Walter Cross, Francis de Wolff, Michael Balfour, Christopher Lee, Jean Landier
Fondly-remembered comedy in which a tiny European duchy declares war on America in order to benefit from aid after they lose. Peter Sellers plays three roles and the whole thing is enjoyable but it's never as good as you think it was.
Script adapt.: Roger Macdougall, Stanley Mann. (o.a. Leonard Wibberley)
Director: Jack Arnold
Players: Jean Seberg, William Hartnell, David Kossoff, Leo McKern, MacDonald Parke, Austin Willis, Timothy Bateson