Archive S

Sea Devils (1952)

It's 1805 and Yvonne de Carlo is in France spying for the British. Rock Hudson is the smuggler who took her there thinking she was working for Napoleon. Director Raoul Walsh does well by a ropey script and makes the Channel Islands look great, but it's still hard to take seriously.

Script adapt.: Borden Chase. (o.a. Victor Hugo)

Director: Raoul Walsh

Players: Maxwell Reed, Denis O'Day, Bryan Forbes, Arthur Wontner  

Sea of Sand (1958)

John Gregson, Michael Craig, Richard Attenborough and some more fifties stars are trying to blow up a German fuel dump in this desert war tale. A good example of the genre - small-scale heroics, bit of class tension, the odd bit of self-sacrifice - but it's not terribly interesting any more. The obvious day-for-night shooting of many of the night scenes also undermines the realism of the desert locations.

Poster for Sea of Sand

Script: Robert Westerby

Director: Guy Green

Players: Dermot Walsh, Vincent Ball, Percy Herbert, Barry Foster, Andrew Foulds, George Murcell, Ray McAnally, Harold Goodwin, Tony Thawnton, Wolf Frees, George Mikell

Sea Wife (1957)

Four survivors of a sinking drift in shark-infested water.

Unconvincing melodrama.

Script adapt.: George K Burke. (o.a. JM Scott)

Director: Bob McNaught

Players: Richard Burton, Joan Collins, Basil Sydney, Cy Grant, Ronald Squire, Harold Goodwin, Gibb McLaughlin, Roddy Hughes, Lloyd Lamble, Ronald Adam, Nicholas Hannen, Beatrice Varley, Otokichi Ikeda, Tenji Takagi

Second Fiddle (1957)

When an advertising agency changes its policy on married women working, a couple can finally tie the knot, but that's just the start of their problems.

And so we bid a fond farewell to Maurice Elvey, for this is his last film in a career that stretched back to 1913 and covered hundreds of films. Second Fiddle is not a great one to go out on, but compared to much of Elvey's 50s output, it's a minor classic.

The main problem with Second Fiddle is not with Elvey's direction, it's with the script. The first 15 minutes concentrates on a debate about whether married women should be employed and the disadvantages to a firm of regularly sacking qualified staff. It's an interesting social document, but it's not much of a drama. After that it settles down to a fairly typical newlyweds comedy with slightly more emphasis on sharing household responsibilities.

The comedy is of the wry smile variety rather than the belly laugh sort. The players are adept at this sort of thing and manage to make as much as they can out of the material they are handed. Thorley Walters, as the husband, bumbles his way around nicely but Adrienne Corri has little to do but be glamorous working wife. Of the other players, only Lisa Gastoni gets much of a look-in as the vampy threat to the marriage.

At this distance, it's hard to sympathise with the minor trials of a well-off couple dealing with a tricky boiler. Even the difficulty of a sustaining long-distance relationship, when the wife has to jet off to New York, fails to resonate when the tone is so resolutely light. The trouble is, the characters are so comfortable and ultimately so artificial that any audience recognition is lost in the gloss. Elvey just can't make their travails universal.

Second Fiddle is worth a look as glimpse into 50s attitudes, but doesn't really cut it as a good night out at the pictures.

Script: Allan Mackinnon, Robert Dunbar

Director: Maurice Elvey

Players: Thorley Walters, Adrienne Corri, Lisa Gastoni, Richard Wattis, Bill Fraser, Aud Johanson, Madoline Thomas, Brian Nixon, Ryck Rydion, Jill Melford, Joy Webster, Dino Galvani, Johnny Briggs, Launce Maraschal, Frederick Piper, Beckett Bould, Frederick Victor, Christina Lubies, Yuh Ming, Ian Whittaker, Doreen Dawne, Cyril Renison

Secret Agent (1936)

John Gielgud has the licence to kill in this W.W.I spy saga, but he blunders big time. Hitchcock meets Maugham, and though the parts don't hang together to make a satisfying whole, at least the parts are good.

Photo of Madeleine Carroll and Robert Young in Secret Agent

Script adapt.: Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Jesse Lasky Jr., Alma Reville. (o.a. play Campbell Dixon, stories Somerset Maugham)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: Madeleine Carroll,  Peter Lorre, Robert Young, Percy Marmont, Lilli Palmer, Florence Kahn, Michael Redgrave

The Secret of Stamboul (1936)

James Mason and Valerie Hobson are mixed up in espionage in Turkey. Dennis Wheatley's original novel was called The Eunuch of Stamboul, but some words don't look good on cinema posters.

Script adapt.: Richard Wainwright, Howard Irving Young, Noel Langley. (o.a. Dennis Wheatley)

Director: Andrew Marton

Players: Peter Haddon, Frank Vosper, Kay Walsh, Cecil Ramage, Leonard Sachs

Secret Mission (1942)

Four British officers are sent into occupied France to reconnoitre the German defences.

Okay-ish drama, more interesting for being filmed during the war rather than in the 50s during the war film boom, but not terribly memorable.

Script: Anatole de Grunwald, Captain Sir Basil Bartlett

Director: Harold French

Players: Hugh Williams, Michael Wilding, Roland Culver, James Mason, Carla Lehmann, Nancy Price, Percy Walsh, Anita Gombault, David Page, Betty Warren, Nicholas Stuart, Brefni O'Rourke, Karel Stepanek, Herbert Lom, John Salew, Beatrice Varley, F.R. Wendhausen, Yvonne André, Stewart Granger, Oscar Ebelsbacher 

The Secret of the Loch (1934)

Night. A local runs through the darkness and bursts into the village pub. He's seen it! Well, the village is near Loch Ness and there's no prize for guessing what he's seen.

A local professor decides to discover once and for all what sort of monster lurks in the depths of the loch, but he is mocked by the London scientific establishment. London reporters are equally cynical, but they know a good story when they see one. They descend on the village pub en masse and one is even bold enough to break into the home of the fierce professor. Unfortunately, the room he enters by is the bedroom of the professor's beautiful granddaughter. Ooops! He's given the bum's rush, but manages to spy on a dive where the diver vanishes. The professor is accused of manslaughter so the reporter volunteers to go down to the depths to find out what really happened. What will he find?

The Secret of the Loch is a standard big monster tale. It's unusual to see one from the thirties rather than the fifties but apart from that all the clichés of the genre are present and correct. The star is Seymour Hicks as the Professor Challenger-like figure. He grabs at every speech and gives them everything an old pro can. He's a bit less convincing towards the end when he's meant to go mad with a shotgun, but then the script gives only the thinnest reason for this behaviour.

The reporter and granddaughter are played by Frederick Peisley and a debuting Nancy O'Neill. Their affair is the worst bit of the film and sorely tries the patience of anyone waiting for a bit of monster action.

Another debutant is Rosamund John playing the local barmaid. She doesn't look her usual sleek self. Frankly she's hefty. Being a dedicated actress it's possible she did a Robert De Niro-style weight-gain to get into the part, but more likely she took one look at herself in this and stopped eating for a month. On the acting side, her inexperience doesn't show too much and if you had to pick which member of the cast would go on to stardom, then she's the one you'd go for.

But enough of all the acting stuff: what you want to know about is the monster. Is it any good? Does it cause terror? You'll not be surprised to learn that the special effects are achieved with a big lizard and some back projection. It's okay. Most of the underwater scenes look like they were filmed in a dry studio, but occasionally a stream of bubbles comes from the diver's helmet so either they had access to some sophisticated film processing or they actually went to the trouble of filming in a tank. It certainly doesn't look convincing.

If you were ten when The Secret of the Loch came out then this would have been the best film you'd ever seen. Particularly since it had a U certificate and the previous year's King Kong usually played with an H. For the rest of us, The Secret of the Loch is a pleasant timewaster if you're into rotten old movies. And if you aren't, what are you doing on this site? 

Script: Charles Bennett, Billie Bristow

Director: Milton Rosmer

Players: Gibson Gowland, Eric Hales, Ben Field, Robert Wilton, Hubert Harben, Fewlass Llewellyn, Cyril McLaglen, Stafford Hilliard

Secret People (1951)

Valentina Cortesa and Audrey Hepburn are sisters exiled in London in 1937. They get caught up in a bomb plot. The direction is by Thorold Dickinson and there is some interest along the way but the film never really gels.  

Script: Thorold Dickinson, Wolfgang Wilhelm, Christianna Brand

Director: Thorold Dickinson

Players: Serge Reggiani, Charles Goldner, Megs Jenkins, Irene Worth, Michael Shepley, Athene Seyler, Geoffrey Hibbert, Sydney Tafler, Charlie Caroli and Paul, Michael Ripper, Bob Monkhouse, Sam Kydd

The Secret Place (1956)

Teenage tearaways get involved with crime.

Interesting slice of 50s drama – not quite the Rebel Without a Cause it would like to be, but tolerable.

Script: Linette Perry

Director: Clive Donner

Players: Belinda Lee, Ronald Lewis, Michael Gwynn, David McCallum, Geoffrey Keen, Maureen Pryor, George Selway, Michael Brooke, George A Cooper, John Welsh, Hugh Manning, Anne Blake, Brendon Hanley, Philip Ray, Wendy Craig

The Seekers (1954)

Jack Hawkins and Glynis Johns try to settle in New Zealand in 1820, but find things are more difficult than they imagined.

This film never worked in the 50s and it's just embarrassing now.

Script adapt.: William Fairchild. (o.a. John Guthrie)

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Inia Te Wiata, Laya Raki, Noel Purcell, Kenneth Williams, Patrick Warbrick, Thomas Heathcote, Tony Erstich, Francis de Wolff, Edward Baker, James Copeland, Norman Mitchell, Ian Fleming, Maharaia Winiata, Henry Gilbert, Patrick Rawiri, Mac Hata, J. Ward Holmes, Fred Johnson, F.B.J. Sharp, Kim Parker

Sensation (1936)

Despite promising his fiancée to avoid the seedier end of Fleet Street work, a reporter can't resist joining a pack of newshounds fighting to get the latest news on a murder for just one more case.

"FLEET STREET/The Street of news - /The Street of ink - /The street of /ADVENTURE!" So goes the title card at the start of this film over a montage of street life, but it's not long before we leave Fleet Street and spend most of the rest of the film confined in a rural pub. And at this point it becomes clear that this is yet another adaptation of a "well-made play" opened out slightly, but not too expensively, to meet the demands of the quota quickie market.   

It's quite clear that Basic Dean's original play and the subsequent film were heavily influenced by Hecht and MacArthur's The Front Page. Where it fails in comparison, at least in the film version, is in not making any of the press pack particularly distinctive. They're a pack rather than a group of individuals, with the exception of the star. John Lodge makes an authentically-smug hero. He's in full newspaperman mode: brash and unscrupulous, bulldozing any opposition with equal parts of charm and deceit.

The female actors get a better deal. They all have moments of humour or drama where they can shine. Athene Seyler does a welcome mad clairvoyant act which is the sort of part she was born to play. Joan Marion, Diana Churchill and Margaret Vyner get some of the best material they got in their careers to work with as they chip away at John Lodge's self image. 

Director Brian Desmond Hurst does his best with the material. There are some great individual shots and the performances are universally good. Where he fails in is blocking the actors. There are too many really obvious shots where the gang are lined up in a loose row trying to pretend it's perfectly natural to talk at each other down the line rather than huddle together in a circle. It's stage blocking rather than film blocking and once you see it it becomes very obvious.  

Just as at the end of his previous film The Tenth Man there is a coda pushing the merits of John Lodge. "You have now seen/ John Lodge in his latest film /'Sensation'. Associated British Pictures Corporation Ltd/ have this artist under long term contract/ and his next film will be/ 'Bulldog Drummond at Bay' in which he will star with Dorothy Mackail/ Victor Jory/ and Claude Allister'.

Script: Dudley Leslie, Marjorie Deans, William Freshman. (o.a. Basil Dean, George Munro)

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: John Lodge, Joan Marion, Diana Churchill, Francis Lister, Margaret Vyner, Athene Seyler, Richard Bird, Jerry Verno, Martin Walker, Leslie Perrins, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, James Hayter, Dennis Wyndham, Antony Holles, Sybil Grove, Arthur Chesney, Billy Shine, Brian Herbert, Joe Cunningham, Michael Gainsborough

Seven Days to Noon (1950)

Back in the days when they gave out Oscars for stories as well as scripts, Paul Dehn and James Bernard won one for this tale of a scientist (Barry Jones) who is so appalled by the bomb that he gives the authorities a week to stop all work on it or he'll detonate one in London. The Boulting Brothers are better known today for their comedies but this thriller shows they can produce tension as well as laughs.

Script: Roy Boulting, Frank Harvey. Scenario: Paul Dehn, James Bernard

Director: John Boulting

Players: Olive Sloane, Andre Morell, Sheila Manahan, Hugh Cross, Joan Hickson, Ronald Adam, Marie Ney, Geoffrey Keen, Russell Waters, Wyndham Goldie, Frederick Allen, Victor Maddern

Seven Sinners (1936)

A detective and an insurance claims investigator uncover a gang prepared to wreck trains to hide murders.

When it came to genre film making, we struggled to compete with Hollywood in the 1930s. We didn't have the budgets for big musicals, the censors wouldn't have passed gangster films and we were never going to manage to make decent westerns. However there was one genre in which we constantly beat Hollywood hands down: the light thriller. Of course we had Alfred Hitchcock developing his art, but we also had plenty of other directors and writers pushing the genre forward.

Seven Sinners is a partial remake of The Wrecker (1928). The stars, Edmund Lowe and Constance Cummings, are American - an early instance of a trend that would dominate later. They at least earn their money by having an easy charm and good chemistry together.

There are three train wrecks in the film. Two are achieved through special effects and snappy editing while the third is done for real. It's taken from the original The Wrecker but it's still jaw dropping. After the model work we've got used to it's hard to believe they've actually wrecked a real train for our entertainment. 

Probably the most significant aspect of Seven Sinners is that it marks the first script teaming of Launder and Gilliat. Gilliat had already contributed to several thrillers including Rome Express, Bulldog Jack and The Ghost Train. From here they'd go on to providing the scripts for The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich and directing the thrillers I See a Dark Stranger and Green for Danger as well as many other other comedies and dramas. 

Script adapt.: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder, L. du Garde Peach, Austin Melford. (o.a. Arnold Ridley, Bernard Merrivale)

Director: Albert de Courville

Players: Thomy Bourdelle, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, Joyce Kennedy, Allan Jeaves, O.B. Clarence, Mark Lester, Antony Holles, David Home, Edwin Laurence, James Harcourt, Patrick Ludlow, Henry Hallatt, Margaret Davidge

Seven Thunders (1957)

Two escaped POWs try to cross occupied France and get helped by kindly James Robertson Justice. But is he as helpful as he seems?

Script adapt.: John Baines. (o.a. Rupert Croft-Cooke)

Director: Hugo Fregonese

Players: Stephen Boyd, Tony Wright, Kathleen Harrison, Eugene Deckers, Rosalie Crutchley, Anna Gaylor, Anton Diffring, Martin Miller, Leonard Sachs, Shirley Ann Field, Marne Maitland

The Seventh Survivor (1941)

After being torpedoed, a group of survivors find themselves find themselves on a lighthouse with the captain of the U-boat that sunk their ship.

Good moments and a satisfying dénouement, but outweighed by a cardboard-looking set and a central performance that would have been considered too broad for Allo Allo

Script: Michael Barringer

Director: Leslie Hiscott

Players: Austin Trevor, Linden Travers, John Stuart, Martita Hunt, Frank Pettingell, Jane Carr, Wally Patch, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, Ralph Truman, Ronald Shiner

The Seventh Veil (1945)

Gifted pianist Ann Todd's psychoses prevent her from playing. Herbert Lom is the psychiatrist who tries to get to the root of her problems. 

Melodrama was never madder - but it's irresistible.

Script: Sydney and Muriel Box

Director: Compton Bennett

Players: James Mason, Albert Lieven, Hugh McDermott, Yvonne Owen, David Horne, Manning Whiley, grace Allardyce, Ernest Davies, Beatrice Varley, John Slater, Margaret Withers, Arnold Goldsborough, Muir Matheson

Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror (1938)

George Curzon plays Sexton Blake, and the Hooded Terror is an international criminal organisation headed by none other than Tod Slaughter. Curzon played the part in three movies but the series never really took off. Since this is the best of them it's hardly surprising.

Script adapt.: A.R. Rawlinson. (o.a. Pierre Quiroule)

Director: George King

Players: Greta Gynt, Charles Oliver, Tony Sympson, Marie Wright, Norman Pierce, David Farrar, Max Faber, Carl Melene, Alex Huber, Philip Holles, Len Sharpe, H.B. Hallam