Archive M

Mr Denning Drives North (1951)

Curious comedy/drama in which John Mills accidentally bumps off crook Herbert Lom, his daughter's bad boyfriend. Good boyfriend Sam Wanamaker tries to uncover the truth.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Alec Coppel

Director: Anthony Kimmins

Players: Phyllis Calvert, Raymond Huntley, Eileen Moore, Bernard Lee, Wilfrid Hyde White, Freda Jackson, Ronald Adam, Ambrosine Phillpotts

Mr Emmanuel (1944)

Felix Aylmer has the title role as the elderly Jew who goes into Germany in 1938 to find the mother of a refugee. This fascinating film is one of the few from the period to examine the Nazi regime with an emphasis on its anti-Jewish policy.

Script adapt.: Gordon Wellesley, Norman Ginsburg. (o.a. Louis Golding)

Director: Harold French

Players: Greta Gynt, Walter Rilla, Peter Mullins, Ursula Jeans, Elspeth March, Frederick Richter, Frederick Schiller, Maria Bergner, Charles Goldner, Irene Handl, Margaret Vyner, Jean Simmons

Mr Perrin and Mr Traill (1948)

Teachers clash over traditional or progressive teaching methods, and over the attentions of the school nurse.

Interesting movie, very much of its time. Though since the teachers are David Farrar and Marius Goring there's no prize for guessing which one gets nurse Greta Gynt.

Pressbook cover for Mr Perrin and Mr Traill

Script adapt.: L.A.G. Strong, T.J. Morrison. (o.a. Hugh Walpole)

Director: Lawrence Huntington

Players: Raymond Huntley, Edward Chapman, Mary Jerrold, Finlay Currie, Ralph Truman, Lloyd Pearson, Viola Lyel, Archie Harradine, Donald Barclay, David Spencer, Roddy Hughes, Maurice Jones, May McDonald, Pat Nye, Brendan Clegg, John Campbell, David Lines, Cavan Malone, Brian McDermott, Roy Sargent, Sheila Huntington, Howard Douglas, Johnnie Schofield, John Warren

Mr Reeder in Room 13 (1938)

In order to break a counterfeiting gang, Mr J.G. Reeder, the civil servant/detective, persuades an up-and-coming Foreign Office man to go to jail undercover to gather information. When he comes out he discovers his girlfriend has married the head of the gang.

 Gibb McLaughlin does an okay job as Edgar Wallace's detective, but in a J.G. Reeder film you rather expect a little more JG Reeder than you actually get. The film choses to focus on Peter Murray Hill as the handsome hero, but the action gets so convoluted it's easy to switch off. There is however a good fight at the climax.

Script adapt.: Doreen Montgomery, Victor Kendall, Elizabeth Meehan. (o.a. Edgar Wallace)

Director: Norman Lee

Players: Gibb McLaughlin, Peter Murray Hill, Sally Gray, Leslie Perrins, Sara Seegar, Malcolm Keen, D.J. Williams, Robert Cochran, George Merritt, Philip Ray, Rex Carvel, Florence Groves  

Mr Satan (1937) 

War correspondent uncovers the dealings of an illegal arms trader and falls in love with his beautiful accomplice.

Unremarkable tale of international intrigue made tolerable by good photography from Robert Lapresle.  

Script: John Meehan Jr., J. O. C. Orton

Director: Arthur Woods

Players: James Stephenson, Chili Bouchier, Franklin Dyall, Skeets Gallagher, Betty Lynne, Robert Rendel, Mary Cole, Eric Clavering, Dino Galvani, Cot D'ordan, Brian Powley, Victor Fairley, Patricia Medina

The Mudlark (1950)

Street urchin tries to see Queen Victoria.

Andrew Ray gets his best child-star role, but he can't steal the film from Alec Guinness as Disraeli and Irene Dunne as the Queen.   

Script adapt.: Nunnally Johnson. (o.a. Theodore Bonnet)

Director: Jean Negulesco

Players: Beatrice Campbell, Anthony Steele, Finlay Currie, Raymond Lovell, Marjorie Fielding, Constance Smith, Ronan O'Casey, Edward Rigby, Kynaston Reeves, Wilfrid Hyde White, Robin Stevens, William Strange, Ernest Clark, Patricia Hitchcock, Eric Messiter, Pamela Arliss, Ian Selby, Maurice Warren, Michael Brooke, Jane Short, Howard Douglas, Richmond Nairne, George Dillon, Leonard Sharp, Vi Kaley, Freddie Watts, Y. Yanai, Paul Gerrard, Leonard Morris, Marjorie Gresley, Bob Head, Vi Stevens, Alan Gordon, Grace Denbigh-Russell 

The Mummy (1959)

Archeologists discover an Egyptian tomb and bring its contents back to England. But the tomb has its protector: a mummified priest whose task is to avenge the desecration.

Not top-notch Hammer, but enjoyable enough.

Poster for The Mummy

 Script: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Players: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Raymond Huntley, Felix Aylmer, George Pastell, Eddie Byrne, John Stuart, Harold Goodwin, Denis Shaw, Michael Ripper, Frederick Rawlings

Murder (1930)

Jury member Herbert Marshall decides to do some snooping himself to get the accused (Norah Baring) off the hook.

It's a rare whodunit from Hitchcock, and shows how well he could overcome the limitations of the primitive sound system when he wanted to. It was Marshall's first talkie and he copes effortlessly. The first half hour is full of imagination and sound experiments, including chorus work, but once the investigation gets underway it slows to a crawl. It only picks up again when the murderer meets his end.

Script adapt.: Alma Reville, Walter C. Mycroft, Alfred Hitchcock. (o.a. Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: Phyllis Konstam, Edward Chapman, Miles Mander, Esme Percy, Donald Calthrop, Amy Brandon Thomas, Joynson Powell, Marie Wright, Hannah Jones, Una O'Connor, Violet Farebrother, Kenneth Kove, Clare Greet, Gus McNaughton, R.E. Jeffrey, Alan Stainer, Drusilla Vills, Robert Easton, William Fazan, George Smythson

Murder at the Windmill (1949)

At the end of the night at Soho's famous Windmill theatre, a body is discovered in the front row. And the fatal shot must have been fired from the stage.

The uninitiated might be expecting a creepy old mill in some isolated rural setting, but for 40s audiences Windmill had an extra meaning: Soho's Windmill theatre and naked girls! First opened in 1909, the Windmill was a largely unprofitable venue for the first 20-odd years of its life - sometimes arty plays, sometimes a cinema - that struggled to find a purpose. Then by some quirky miracle, owner Laura Henderson and manager Vivian Van Damn managed to persuade the censor's office that if nude statues were acceptable in the name of Art, so were nude women - provided they didn't move. Suddenly the Windmill was a hit. Its place in popular culture was cemented by its boast that, during the Blitz, "We Never Closed".

The other thing that put the Windmill on the cultural map is the roster of acts, particularly comics, that got a break there providing filler between the girlie numbers. This heritage was already being celebrated in 1949 which a plaque prominently featured at the start of the film listing some of the people who went on to fame after featuring at the Windmill. Most are now long forgotten, some like Beryl Orde and Eric Barker raise a smile amongst nostalgia obsessives, and some like Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe are still household names. Among those who became famous later are Kenneth More, Bruce Forsyth, Dick Emery, Barry Cryer, Tony Hancock. 

Another who was famous enough to just sneak into the bottom of the board was Jimmy Edwards and we're treated to a significant slice of his act all the better to judge the standard audiences had to endure in order to get their fix of bare flesh. It's not a bad act but now looks dated and seems to fill in an awful lot of time.

Back to the whodunit. And the primary conceit is that since the bullet was fired from stage the cast have to go through the entire performance again so that the finest brains of Scotland Yard can spot when the fatal shot was fired. So, there are a lot of musical numbers, plus Jimmy Edwards, to sit through. They're not bad, though filmed from a front-of-stalls position which makes them less than cinematic. There's no Busby Berkeley here to open them out. There is also no nudity. The nearest the film comes to it is a rather decorous fan dance, which wouldn't have scared audiences in Queen Victoria's day. They don't even pretend to have a tableau vivant. Presumably the BBFC was less of a pushover than the Lord Chamberlain's Office.

Garry Marsh is the cream of Scotland Yard brought in to investigate the case. He's lumbered with Jon Pertwee as his comedy sidekick who seems to mistake gurning for humour. Peter Butterworth makes a brief appearance as a nervous copper. None of the acts are noteworthy, apart from Diana Decker, who comes across as a young Ethel Merman - not a compliment.

And as for the whodunit? Well, you'll guess through the usual least likely is most likely route, though the motive can be filed under "Will this do?". Anyway, it's hard to care about it because the film clearly cares nothing about it.

Despite the lack of actual nudity, Murder at the Windmill did great business, though it's unlikely to feature on anyone's best film list then or now. 

Script: Val Guest

Director: Val Guest

Players: Garry Marsh, Jack Livesey, Jon Pertwee, Diana Decker, Eliot Makeham, Donald Clive, Jill Anstey, Margo Johns, Genine Graham, Peter Butterworth, Jimmy Edwards, Pamela Deeming, Ivan Craig, John Powe, Mary Valange, Constance Smith, Barry O'Neil, Robin Richmond, Christine Welsford, Johnnie Gale, Ron Perriam, Anita d'Ray, Johnnie McGregor, The Windmill Girls

Murder at 3 a.m. (1953)

A series of vicious doorstep robberies turns to murder, but when a Scotland Yard Inspector digs further into the case, he finds the killer might be close at home. 

The killer's modus operandi is insane even for a psycho. He chooses a rich lady victim. She must leave a nightclub with a name beginning with the next letter in a certain phrase. She has to live near where he has his getaway boat moored and must arrive home to coincide with a high tide at 3 a.m. so he can get onto his boat. However, this isn't as insane as the Inspector's plan to catch him. The plan is to disguise his own sister and get her to leave the right nightclub at the right time, despite her fiancÚ being the chief suspect. Even in those pre-feminist days, there must have been some woman officer who could act as a decoy. The Inspector even brings Sis along for the final confrontation with the killer.

Star Dennis Price as the Inspector has the shell-shocked air of a man who knows his career has disappeared down the pan. Four years earlier he was starring in the classic Kind Hearts and Coronets, now he's appearing in this dreck and doesn't even get his name above the title. He goes through the motions like a man at a funeral, too polite to mention the deceased has started to stink. His co-star, Peggy Evans, puts enough effort for both of them into her performance. It's still not enough to overcome the script.

The most interesting role goes to Philip Saville as the fiancÚ. He does his best with it but clearly his talents lay elsewhere. Soon he'd be working behind the cameras in television, going on to direct Boys from the Black Stuff and other classics.

Director Francis Searle does his usual workman-like job with the production. He gets the odd spooky moment out of the script, but these are generally undermined by the background music: radio thriller-like organ music. Far from adding to the atmosphere, it destroys any suspense. The rest of the film is standard 50s police procedural: dull men in dull offices.

Murder at 3 a.m. is fairly typical of the lower end of the B-picture market: a cheap lead with a recognisable name, some easily exploitable angles (murdered women), inoffensive enough to be a safe booking. It wouldn't have excited audiences back then, and still doesn't.

Script adapt.: John Ainsworth

Director: Francis Searle

Players: Greta Mayaro, Rex Garner, Arnold Bell, Leonard Sharp, Norah Gordon, Renee Goddard, Arthur Lovegrove, Daphne Maddox, Robert Weedon, John Davis

Murder in Reverse? (1945)

A newly-released convicted murderer is determined to prove that his victim is still alive.

William Hartnell is superb as the wronged man. He's supported by Jimmy Hanley as the cub reporter after the story that could be his big break. Also on his side is Dinah Sheridan as Jimmy's love interest who's far smarter than him. 

Still from Murder in Reverse?

Script: Montgomery Tully. (o.a. Seamark)

Director: Montgomery Tully

PlayersChili Bouchier, John Slater, Brefni O'Rourke, Wylie Watson, Maire O'Neill, Ellis Irving, Maudie Edwards, Scott Sanders, Kynaston Reeves, Edward Rigby, Petula Clark, John Salew, Ben Williams, Ethel Coleridge, Cyril Smith, K. Lung, Paul Ley,  Vi Kaley, Hendry White, Aubrey Mallalieu, Alfred Harris, Sonny Miller, Johnny Catcher, Ivor Barnard, Dick Francis, Peter Gawthorne, Cyril Luckham, Geoffrey Dennis, May Norton, Danny Green

Murder in the Family (1938)

Rich woman leaves her money to the wrong person and promptly gets murdered.

Dull thriller with an interesting before-they-were-famous cast which includes Jessica Tandy, Evelyn Ankers, Glynis Johns and Roddy McDowell.

Script adapt.: David Evans. (o.a. James Ronald)

Director: Albert Parker

Players: Donald Gray, David Markham, Barry Jones, Rani Waller, Jessie Winter, Annie Esmond, Claire Arnold, A. Bromley Davenport, Stella Arbenina, W. Simpson Fraser, David Arnold, Edgar K. Bruce, Charles Childerstone

Murder Without Crime (1951)

After his wife walks out, a writer picks up a good-time girl and brings her home. However during a quarrel, she hits her head and the writer's landlord takes advantage of the situation to indulge in a bit of blackmail.

In 1942, screenwriter J Lee Thompson scored a notable hit on the West End stage with Murder Without Crime. It ran for two years and even reached Broadway. However, he was too busy to fully enjoy its success since he was serving with the RAF. On his demob he reentered the film business.  While Murder Without Crime was not the hottest property by the end of the decade, J Lee Thompson had put enough work into the business to be allowed to direct it as his debut production.

The film bears clear evidence of its source's stage origins. The production is effectively a four-hander and despite a couple of scenes in a night club and the good-time girl's flat, the action is confined to the author's drawing room. The main alteration to the source is the addition of a narrator. He speaks in hard-boiled journalese with an American accent: sort of Ed Murrow meets Walter Winchell. It gets remarkably wearing remarkably quickly.

The four featured actors do adequately with what's on offer but can't disguise the artificial nature of the enterprise. What works in the West End doesn't always transfer to the screen and Lee Thompson doesn't yet have the experience to coax three-dimensional performances out of his cast.  

Script adapt.: (o.a.) J Lee Thomson 

Director: J Lee Thompson

Players: Dennis Price, Derek Farr, Patricia Plunkett, Joan Dowling

Music Hath Charms (1935)

Musical centred around Henry Hall and his Orchestra. This is a bizarre film mostly consisting of sketches in which Hall's radio audience react to the music. It doesn't work but it's an interesting attempt to bring a radio star to the pictures.

Script: Jack Davies, Courtney Terrett, L. DuGarde Peach

Director: Thomas Bentley, Alexander Esway, Walter Summers, Arthur Woods

Players: Carol Goodner, Arthur Margetson, Antoinette Cellier, Aubrey Mallalieu, Howard Marion Crawford, Norma Varden

My Brother Jonathon (1947)

In Edwardian days a man dreams of being a surgeon, but has to sacrifice his ambitions to help his brother.

Big hit for Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray.

Script adapt.: Leslie Landau, Adrian Arlington. (o.a. Francis Brett Young)

Director: Harold French

Players: Beatrice Campbell, Ronald Howard, Stephen Murray, Mary Clare, Finlay Currie, Arthur Young, Beatrice Varley, James Robertson Justice, James Hayter, Jessica Spencer, John Salew, Peter Murray, Wylie Watson, Hilda Bayley, Josephine Stuart, Wilfrid Hyde White, R. Stuart Lindsell, Fred Groves, Kathleen Boutall, Felix Deebank, Eric Messiter, Paul Farrell, Jack Melford, David Ward, Peter Hobbes, George Woodbridge, Leslie Watson, Merle Tottenham, Grace Denbigh-Russell, Howard Douglas, Hilary Pritchard, Derek Farge, Eunice Gayson, Norah Gordon, Cameron Hall, Kathleen Heath, Paul Blake, Thora Hird, Maureen Jones, Vi Kaley, Fred Kitchen, Daniel King, Ruth Lodge, Johnnie Schofield, Elsie Wagstaff, Hazel Adair, Grace Arnold, Ernest Borrow, Ernest Butcher, Basil Cunard, Andrea Malandrinos, Beatrice Marsden, Sydney Monckton, Paul Sheridan, Janet Morrison, Ray Cooney, Elizabeth Maude, Jane Shirley, Wendy Thompson, Desmond Newling, Alan Goodwin, Michael Cabourne

My Brother's Keeper (1948)

Convicts on the run handcuffed together. Make your own plot up from the first things that come to mind and you'll be doing what the writers did. Still, the convicts are Jack Warner and George Cole. You can't get much more mean and dangerous than that(!)

Script: Frank Harvey

Director: Alfred Roome

Players: Jane Hylton, David Tomlinson, Bill Owen, Yvonne Owen, Raymond Lovell, Brenda Bruce, Susan Shaw, John Boxer, Beatrice Varley, Wilfrid Hyde White, Maurice Denham, Frederick Piper, Valentine Dyall, Christopher Lee 

My Learned Friend (1943)

Useless lawyer Will Hay finds one of his clients is killing off anyone involved in his trial, and Hay is last on the list.

Will Hay's last film isn't as celebrated as Oh, Mr Porter! but it's one of his best. Claude Hulbert makes a great sidekick and Mervyn Johns is wonderfully mad.

Script: John Dighton, Angus Macphail

Director: Will Hay, Basil Dearden

Players: Ernest Thesiger, Charles Victor, Hy Hazell, Lloyd Pearson, Maudie Edwards, G.H. Mulcaster, Gibb McLaughlin, Aubrey Mallalieu, Leslie Harcourt

My Song Goes Round the World (1934)

Titchy tenor Joseph Schmidt plays one corner of a love triangle with John Loder and Charlotte Ander as the other corners. He should have learnt the first rule of cinema romances: "no man under five foot tall shall get the girl". 

Script: Clifford Grey, Frank Miller, Ernest Neubach

Director: Richard Oswald

Players: Jack Barty, Jimmy Godden, Hal Gorden

My Teenage Daughter (1956)

Anna Neagle tries to prevent daughter Sylvia Syms going off the rails.

Sylvia's debut film marks Anna's last hit.

Script: Felicity Douglas

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Kenneth Haigh, Norman Wooland, Wilfrid Hyde White, Helen Haye, Julia Lockwood, Josephine Fitzgerald, Wanda Ventham, Murray Mayne, Michael Shepley, Avice Landone, Michael Meacham, Grizelda Hervey, Ballard Berkley, Edie Martin, Myrette Morven

The Mysterious Mr Davis (1936)

Henry Kendall invents a partner in order to keep his creditors at bay. Claude Autant-Lara's only British film - thank goodness for that.

Script adapt.: Claude Autant-Lara

Director: Claude Autant-Lara

Players: Kathleen Kelly, Alastair Sim, A. Bromley Davenport, Guy Middleton, Morris Harvey

Mystery on Bird Island (1954)

Kids uncover a smuggling racket and petition Guernsey's parliament to set up a bird protection watch.

So Enid Blyton it's a surprise she didn't sue, this is the archetypal example of the Children's Film Foundation 50s output. It's watchable with some lovely scenery.

Script: John Haggerty

Director: John Haggerty

Players: Mavis Sage, Vernon Morris, Nicky Edmett, Jennifer Beech, Roddy Hughes, Alexander Guage, John Drake, Howard Connell, Peter Arne, Alan Mackay