The adventures of a diplomat in the South Seas in 1912.
A pleasant bit of colonial travelogue, most notable for being Britain's first fiction film in Cinemascope.
Script adapt.: Richard Mason (o.a. Sir Arthur Grimble)
Director: Wolf Rilla
Players: Denholm Elliott, Susan Stephen, Michael Horden, Gordon Jackson, Inia Te Wiata, Moira Macdonald, Henrietta Godinet, Ollie Crichton, Hans Kruse, Felix Felton, Petr Bathurst, Clifford Buckton, Rosie Leavasa
While the war was drawing to its close and doodlebugs were raining down on the south east, one happy film unit was pottering about the Great Union Canal making a picture about life on the canals. Using many of the realist techniques developed during the war period, they hoped to capture the reality of a traditional way of life that was fast disappearing. Painted Boats was the result. And not an entirely happy one.
The story concentrates on one family: the Smiths. Mary and her mother and father work the waterways hauling cargo on the canal network. Their boat is drawn by horse. Mary has the hots for Ted Stoner, whose family boat has an engine. The war is on, but Ted, to his chagrin, is exempt from being called up because he works in transport. The Smiths' boat's owner insists on it being converted to engine power. Mr Smith dies and Mary and her mother vow to continue on the canal. Mary's long-awaited reunion with Ted is thwarted when they discover he has been called up after all. The Smiths take in Ted's little brother Alf and they continue on their way.
Even at a tiny 63 minutes, that's not a lot of plot to fill a feature so the story is overlaid with a history lecture about the development of the canal network. It makes the film feel like a documentary short, but stretched out over an hour. This gets rather wearing after a while, though since there's little action in the plot it doesn't feel like we're missing much.
The drama part of the docudrama features nice, naturalist performances. Jenny Laird gets the star role of Mary. Like most of the performers, she's pleasant enough without being especially dynamic. Young Harry Fowler is perhaps the most familiar face in the film, playing Alf with an unexplained cockney accent.
The film's big draw is Douglas Slocombe's cinematography which captures the beauty of the English countryside. Though the film's wartime documentary roots are obvious, this loving look at rural England harks back to productions of the 20s and 30s which sought to appeal to audiences by showing them what Hollywood could not: their own landscapes.
Painted Boats failed at the box office because it is dull. Its fatal flaw is trying to marry docudrama techniques to an undramatic subject. A film like Fires Were Started can get away with a realistic background because in the foreground it has the blitz and a massive docklands fire, Painted Boats just has people pootering along a canal bank.
Script: Stephen Black, Michael McCarthy. (commentary: Louis MacNeice)
Director: Charles Crichton
Players: Robert Griffith, Bill Blewett, May Hallatt, Harry Fowler, Megs Jenkins, Grace Arnold, John Owers, James McKechnie (narrator)
James Mason is the legendary Flying Dutchman, cursed to roam the seas forever unless he meets a woman willing to sacrifice herself for him. Ava Gardner is the unhappy heartbreaker who's about to discover the meaning of true love. A fair contender for the silliest love story ever made, this film is kept afloat by the gorgeous photography.
Script: Albert Lewin
Director: Albert Lewin
Players: Nigel Patrick, Sheila Sim, Mario Cabre, Harold Warrender, Marius Goring, Pamela Kellino, John Laurie
Tom Conway plays yet another variant on the Saint/Falcon character he was giving in Hollywood B movies a decade earlier. The plot is just as familiar as the character and only Eva Bartok as the blonde makes an effort to treat the material as worth the effort.
Script adapt.: Bernard Knowles, Albert Fennell, Bertram Ostrer. (o.a. Berkeley Gray)
Director: Bernard Knowles
Players: Tom Conway, Eva Bartok, Joy Shelton, Sidney James, Robert Adair, Richard Wattis, Carl Jaffe, Frederick Schiller, Anton Diffring, Ian Fleming, Edwin Richfield, Michael Balfour, martin Boddey, Terence Alexander, Victor Platt, Leon Davey, Richard Marner, Tony Hilton, Alan Rolfe, Derek Prentice, Frank Seiman, Brian Moorhead, Billie Hill, Anthony Woodruff
When the crew of a merchant ship is stuck at sea with Diane Cilento is it any wonder they start getting itchy?
Script adapt.: William Fairchild. (o.a. Richard Armstrong)
Director: Roy Baker
Players: Anthony Steele, Peter Finch, Cyril Cusack, Geoffrey Keen, Hugh Griffith, Duncan Lamont, Bryan Forbes, Gordon Jackson, Michael Craig, Michael Bryant, Robert Brown, Martin Benson, Patrick McGoohan, Sam Kydd, Glyn Houston, Patrick Westwood, George Woodbridge, John Warren, Ian Whittaker, Scott Harold, Arthur Lovegrove, Leonard White, Peter Ventham, Gerald Andersen, Philip Ray
Ann Todd is stuck married to Claude Rains but keeps having the hots for Trevor Howard.
There's no sign of the off-screen passion of Todd and director David Lean in this tedious drivel.
Script adapt.: Eric Ambler, David Lean, Stanley Haynes. (o.a. H. G. Wells)
Director: David Lean
Players: Betty Ann Davies, Isabel Dean, Arthur Howard, Wilfrid Hyde White, Guido Lorraine, Marcel Poncin, Natasha Sokolova, Helen Burls
The British community in Jamaica get into a tangle of relationships which lead to tragedy.
Decent cast find it difficult to get through this turgid melodrama.
Script adapt.: Joan Henry. (o.a. Richard Mason)
Director: Rudolph Cartier
Players: Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna, Yvonne Mitchell, Alexander Knox, Guy Middleton, Carl Mohner, Ellen Barrie, Martin Stephens, Gordon Heath, Pearl Prescod, Harry Quashie, Roscoe Holder, Danny Daniels, Jan Holden, Waveney Lee
The ultimate in post-war austerity wish-fulfilment. The discovery of an ancient document in a bomb crater proves that part of London is in fact part of Burgundy. No more rationing! But the British government isn't going to let the Burgundians go without a fight. This is the most politically astute of the Ealing Comedies and is full of the cream of British character actors all making the most of their roles. Absolutely irresistible.
Script: T.E.B. Clarke, Henry Cornelius
Director: Henry Cornelius
Players: Stanley Holloway, Barbara Murrey, Margaret Rutherford, Paul Dupuis, Betty Warren, Jane Hylton, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Raymond Huntley, Hermione Gingold, John Slater, Frederick Piper, Sydney Tafler, Charles Hawtrey, Michael Horden
French girl gets tricked into going on the game.
The more hypocritical end of the X-rated market, supposedly an examination of a serious social problem but really an excuse to gawp at a bit of sex and violence.
Script: Patrick Alexander
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Players: Odile Versois, Diana Dors, Herbert Lom, Eddie Constantine, Brenda de Banzie, Robert Brown, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Cyril Shaps, Denis Shaw, Joan Sims, Lana Morris, Robert Fabian, Jackie Collins
A peaceful German village. As the Nazis come to power in Germany, a pastor preaches resistance.
The play on which this was based was a success in 1938 and many production companies saw it as a natural for the screen. The censors had other ideas - they were always hyper-sensitive to the feelings of foreign governments and certainly weren't about to stir things up with the Chamberlain government in such a delicate situation - and banned it and anything else set under Nazi tyranny as a subject. Once war broke out, the race was on to be the first to get a why-we-daren't-lose picture out. Pastor Hall won.
The Boulting Brothers got the chance to bring the play to the screen. As committed anti-Fascists (John was an ambulance driver in the Spanish Civil War) they seemed like a natural choice. However, the cheapness of the production and the (understandable) lack of location footage serve to make the film seem artificial. The Boultings had also yet to learn the lesson that propaganda needs a bit of fun injected into it to be palatable. Pastor Hall is very dry.
As the Pastor, Wilfrid Lawson gives a curiously laid-back performance. There's precious little righteous anger in his demeanour, it's more like he's seen a five-year-old smash a vestry window than witnessed civilisation fall to the barbarians. He doesn't even convey that strange stiff-upper-lipped thing that English actors usually do so well. It's as if he's aiming for sainthood and doesn't want anything to make the Pastor human.
Like many anti-Nazi films of the period, Pastor Hall looks very tame now. It was made before the Final Solution really got underway and so Germany looks like any other country under a dictatorship. On first release it was probably very hard hitting, but arbitrary floggings, starvation and loads of mud really don't say Nazi any more. So many classic films have been made since which handle the events better that Pastor Hall looks rather sad. Besides, Bernard Miles as a stormtrooper ("Well, it's a job") really can't be taken seriously.
The final scene where the Pastor preaches to his congregation and then walks out to be shot by the waiting Nazis is affecting, but it would be a spectacularly poor production if that set-up didn't work.
Script adapt.: Leslie Arliss, Anna Reiner, Haworth Bromley. (o.a. Ernst Toller)
Director: Roy Boulting
Players: Nova Pilbeam, Seymour Hicks, Marius Goring, Percy Walsh, Peter Cotes, Brian Worth, Hay Petrie, Eliot Makeham, Lina Barrie, Manning Whiley, Edmund Willard, J. Fisher White, Barbara Gott, Raymond Rollett
Paul Temple and Steve go on the hunt for a kidnapped scientist.
Bargain basement radio serial adaptation.
Script adapt.: A.R. Rawlinson. (o.a. Francis Durbridge)
Director: Maclean Rogers
Players: John Bentley, Dinah Sheridan, Jack Livesey, Beatrice Varley, Barbara Cooper, Jenny Mathot, Andrew Leigh, Hugh Dempster, Bruce Seton, Ivan Samson, Dino Galvani, Leo de Pokornay, Michael Brennan, Joseph O'Conor, Shayam Bahadur, Gerald Rex, Ben Williams, Anne Hayes, Peter Butterworth, Hamilton Keene, Jean Packer, Frederick Morant, Denys Val Norton, Michael Hogarth
An artist's model with a yen for adventure uncovers a Nazi escape route.
After the Second World War the time seemed right for Rank Studios to move into a more industrial mode of production based on the Hollywood model. The government were encouraging increased production in order to stop the drain of currency which paid for Hollywood product, and with a new Cinematograph Bill due in 1948 it was a good idea to position the company to take advantage of the times.
As part of this, Rank decided to dedicate its Highbury studios to the production of B movies. It intended to use these films to develop the careers of production staff and stars, particularly the lovely young things attending the Rank Charm School – another initiative designed to mirror Hollywood. Penny and the Pownall Case was the first film to come out of the Highbury experiment.
The script came from inexperienced writer William Fairchild and was directed by first-time director Slim Hands. The cast was an attractive mix of beauties and serious actors. The film came in at 47 minutes, just long enough to count as a supporting feature. And even at that short length it was considered an ordeal by the critics.
The problem for the critics was the comic-book nature of the story. The main character was obviously based on the Jane strip in the Daily Mirror though, unlike Jane, Penny kept well covered. While a comic strip can get away with creating an exotic location with a few lines of ink, Penny's Mediterranean jaunt stretched the resources of Highbury to breaking point.
The stars struggle too. Peggy Evans in the title role is pleasant enough, but doesn't have the comic timing to lift the material. Ralph Michael as the detective/love interest looks too old to hook up with Penny and his heavy eye makeup puts one in mind of Quentin Crisp. Christopher Lee as the main villain does better.
Down the cast list we find Diana Dors as Evans' dowdy best friend. Though she's hardy the glamour puss she'd become, she certainly gives the most natural performance and her character's disdain for her tedious job gives us a glimpse of the star persona she would develop.
Penny and the Pownall Case still isn't much of a film but it's not too trying.
Script: William Fairchild
Director: Slim Hand
Players: Frederick Piper, Olaf Pooley, Ethel Coleridge, Sam Costa, Dennis Vance, Duncan Carse, Shaun Noble, Philip Saville, John Lorrell, Peter Madden
Liverpool, and struggling tug boat captain Edmund Gwenn thinks he's won the pools. Unfortunately, workmate Jimmy O'Dea didn't post the coupon.
Enjoyable working-class comedy, though try not to worry about the Mancunian accents of the cast. These days the biggest point of interest is seeing Betty Driver in an early role as a Gracie Fields style act. Gwenn does most of the heavy lifting as far as the drama is concerned leaving the comedy to O'Dea.
Script: Thomas Thompson, W.L. Meade, Thomas Browne
Director: Carol Reed
Players: Maire O'Neill, Ethel Coleridge, Syd Crossley, James Harcourt, Jack Livesey
An innocent wins big on the Pools and takes off for Brighton to spend the dosh - but a couple of conmen have their eyes on the money.
With its low, low budget and unsophisticated script, Penny Points to Paradise should have been long forgotten, and it was. But it's been resurrected due to its stars: Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan - The Goons. At this stage in their careers, their radio sitcom was yet to be broadcast and they were still developing the range of characters and voices which would become so much a part of 50s life.
Even though the film was only due to shoot for a month, it was actually finished in three weeks. With a week left over, there was time enough to make a quick short with many of the same cast: Let's Go Crazy. It's a shame they didn't spend the extra week making the film better.
Script: John Ormonde
Director: Tony Young
Players: Alfred Marks, Vicky Page, Paddy O'Neil, Bill Kerr, Freddie Frinton, Joe Linnane, Sam Kydd, Hazel Jenkins, Patience Rentoul, Dina Leslie, Bob Bradfield, Felix Mendelssohn and his Hawaiian Serenaders
Mancunian was Britain's answer to Republic - a Poverty Row studio whose films rarely rose to the level of B-movies. This is one of their better efforts, starring Luanne Shaw and Tommy Fields as a couple who try to win the pools. There's plenty of slapstick and if the routines feel old at least they're done by professionals.
Script: Arthur Mertz
Director: George Black
Players: Billy Nelson, Duggie Wakefield, Charles Sewell, Harry Terry, Chuck O'Neil, Jack Butler, Mascotte, The Marie Louise Sisters, Macari and His Dutch Serenaders
Yolanda Donlan is the American who inherits a tiny kingdom and brings the joys of capitalism to it. Dirk Bogarde plays a cheese salesman - seems about right!
Script: Val Guest
Director: Val Guest
Players: A.E. Matthews, Mary Clare, Edwin Styles, Reginald Beckwith, Kynaston Reeves, Peter Butterworth, Desmond Walter-Ellis, Laurence Naismith, Eric Pohlmann, Richard Wattis
The people of Britain are urged to lobby their MPs to prevent the coming war.
Possibly the most controversial three-minute film in British cinema history, this political advert was seen in 570 cinemas when it eventually got released.
Director: Paul Rotha
Boring couple Kerr and Donat join the services, but the adventurous life changes them and they dread the post-war reunion.
One of the few Korda films to deal with a modern social issue, Perfect Strangers deals with the changes the war had made to people's lives. Great acting and lovely production values made this a popular and critical hit.
Script: Clemence Dane, Anthony Pelissier
Director: Alexander Korda
Players: Glynis Johns, Ann Todd, Roland Culver, Elliott Mason, Eliot Makeham, Brefni O'Rorke, Edward Rigby, Muriel George, Allan Jeayes, Henry Longhurst, Billy Shine, Billy Thatcher, Brian Weske, Rosamund Taylor, Harry Ross, Vincent Holman, Leslie Dwyer, Caven Watson, Jeane Carre, Molly Munks, Roger Moore, Bill Rowbotham, Ivor Barnard
Absent-minded professor, Miles Malleson, has perfected a robot woman but he needs to have her tested out. An advert in the paper for an adventurous young man produces idle man-about-town Nigel Patrick and his butler Stanley Holloway who agree to take "Olga" out for the evening at a swanky hotel. Meanwhile the professor's niece, Patricia Roc, is feeling a bit stir crazy, since the professor won't let her out alone to prevent her meeting men. She decides to pretend to be Olga and see a bit of life.
Thus, the scene is set for an enjoyable farce as hotel staff, inquisitive aunts and housekeeper Irene Handl get involved in the mayhem. On this level the film is great fun, everything building up nicely to the inevitable moment when Olga goes berserk. On another level, it's a fascinating examination of sexual politics.
The theme of men creating and owning women is carried right through the film thanks to the witty script. Inventor Malleson is contrasted with couturier Michael Ward and his creations, and dialogue describing objects is continually misapplied to flesh and blood women. "Olga" (well played by Pamela Devis) follows every command unthinkingly, though she is programmed to go mad if someone uses the word Love.
Patricia Roc, in a rare comedy role, is delightful. The end, when she agrees to marry Nigel Patrick is very like The Tempest and you want to shout out "You've only seen one man - you can do better than that". Still, it passes for a happy ending and that's what counts.
Script adapt.: Bernard Knowles, George Black, J.B. Boothroyd. (o.a. Wallace Geoffrey, Basil Mitchell)
Director: Bernard Knowles
Players: Anita Sharp-Bolster, Fred Berger, David Hurst, Constance Smith, Patti Morgan, Noel Howlett
Wreckers are at work in this quota-quickie starring Gordon Harker and Ian Hunter.
Script adapt.: Austin Melford, Ralph Smart. (o.a. Evadne Price, Joan Roy Byford)
Director: Michael Powell
Players: Binnie Hale, Milton Rosmer, Donald Calthrop, Reginald Tate, Mickey Brantford, Herbert Lomas, Fewlass Llewellyn, Alice O'Day, Barry O'Neill, Edgar K. Bruce, Louie Emery
Standard, but enjoyable, whodunit which showed that its director was on the way up.
Script: Walter C. Mycroft
Director: Mario Zampi
Players: Ronald Adam, John Stuart, Jock McKay, Olga Lindo, Howard Marion Crawford, Louise Lord, John Varley, Cyril Conway, Leslie Armstrong