Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Thrillers - Jerry Entract ""

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Jerry Entract

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelongmovie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.
------------- I crave undulgence here in that, being English, I have chosen 6 under-rated British thrillers.

1) “DEAR MURDERER” (1947) directed by Arthur Crabtree
Love and passion, rather sordid, among the English middle classes. The story sees the central character played by Eric Portman discovering his wife’s infidelity where, in a fit of jealousy, murder ensues. Complications pile up!

The central characters are all fairly unsympathetic but the drama is intelligent and suspenseful. The lead, Eric Portman, was a stage and film actor and a very good one. He appeared in numerous well-made and popular productions and was never less than excellent in all of them. A fine British cast also featured the beautiful Greta Gynt as the faithless wife, Maxwell Reed as her new lover, with Dennis Price and Jack Warner bringing up able support.

Produced by Betty Box for Gainsborough Pictures with a screenplay by Muriel Box, Sydney Box and Peter Rogers from a successful play by St John Legh Clowes.

A fine evocation of post-war Britain and a quality production.

2) “ROUGH SHOOT” (1952) directed by Robert Parrish
I’m a real fan of British thrillers per se from this era and due to tax breaks to American studios from the British government in the 1950s a lot of films featured one or more American stars.

I think “Rough Shoot” is one of the best of these, with favourite Joel McCrea in his only non-western role after 1946. He plays an American colonel living in England who finds himself innocently enmeshed in a web of foreign spies. How he deals with the situation and rounds up the spies makes for an entertaining and suspenseful ride.

He is supported by fellow American Evelyn Keyes and an all-British cast. Marius Goring, Herbert Lom and Roland Culver are all distinguished actors who add much to the overall quality of this film.

The screenplay was an adaptation by distinguished novelist Eric Ambler of a novel by Geoffrey Household for United Artists.

3) “THE GREEN MAN” (1956) directed by Robert Day (and uncredited Basil Dearden)
This enjoyable romp is a mix of thriller and comedy. Beware though, the comedy is very British in an understated yet, to me, hilarious way.

A professional assassin is hired to dispatch a pompous politician by any means. His attempts to carry out the deed make up much of the story, set largely at a country inn called The Green Man where the politician is staying with a shapely young woman (some things never change!). Innocently walking into the situation is a young vacuum cleaner salesman whose ineptness adds to the amusement.

The assassin though is played by that master actor Alastair Sim who is simply marvellous in this, as he was in anything. The young interferer is played by George Cole and the politician by Raymond Huntley, with solid support from Jill Adams and Terry-Thomas.

Screenplay was by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliatfrom their play “Meet A Body” and they also produced.

4) “THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE” (1947) directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
This movie deals with the very real problem of men returning home after WW2 and finding the old dull routines unbearable. Some sought excitement, were footloose and drifted into crime or its edges.

That fine English actor Trevor Howard plays a man just out of the RAF who drifts into the black market, prevalent in the early post-war years. When he discovers that they are dealing in drugs he wants out but finds that is not so easy to achieve. The story is exciting and suspenseful but it is the picture of post-war London and the “real” atmosphere that makes the movie so successful for me.

He is supported well by the beautiful Sally Gray and by Griffith Jones. Gray was a loss to the cinema when she married into the English aristocracy.

Noel Langley wrote the screenplay from a novel by Jackson Budd.

5) “SEVEN DAYS TO NOON” (1950) directed by John Boulting
A bit different, this! The central character is a middle-aged professor who is working on the atomic bomb. He becomes increasingly anxious about the threat to mankind and cracks under the strain. He steals a bomb and threatens to blow up London within a week if the atomic programme is not abandoned. The police begin evacuation of the capital while hunting down the professor in a race against the clock.

The premise is both powerful and tremendously suspenseful and Barry Jones is excellent as the professor. The entire cast of this film is “unstarry” which works well here and the original story by PaulDehn and James Bernard received an Academy Award.

Screen adaptation by Frank Harvey and producer RoyBoulting with some wonderfully-evocative lensing by cinematographer Gilbert Taylor.

Filmed entirely on location in London.

6) “POOL OF LONDON” (1950) directed by Basil Dearden
Ealing Film Studios in West London made some of the very best British films over a 20-year period, reaching a peak in the war and following years.

The story relates to my earlier review for “They Made Me A Fugitive” in that there is again that rootless, unsatisfied feel for returning vets from the conflict in 1945. Add a touch of racism to the mix as the central character, a Jamaican seaman, played well by Earl Cameron, is drawn into a friend’s problems. The friend, played by American expatriate Bonar Colleano, has been smuggling diamonds into London on their ship, now docked in the Pool of London. Disillusionment with the new world and rootlessness are at the core here, as well as unrequited love.

The film has a gritty realism that is enhanced by the London location shoot, especially the docks, and the camera-work of Gordon Dines. The original screenplay was by Jack Whittingham and John Eldredge.

I could easily have chosen a number of other terrific Ealing thrillers but…….


Colin said...

Absolutely first-rate selection there, Jerry. The only one I haven't seen is Dear Murderer so I'll have to keep an eye out for it.
I share your love of British thrillers of this era and couldn't fault your choices - I haven't seen Rough Shoot in years, I remember it being broadcast on Irish TV some time in the 80s and I've not seen it since. I keep hoping someone would put it out on DVD.
I also badly want State Secret, another movie which would have blended in with your choices.


john k said...

Great choices Jerry and some of my personal faves in the mix too!
I love the American poster artwork Brian has sourced for
SHOOT FIRST (Rough Shoot)
This artwork alone would entice me to buy the DVD,and the film
is pretty decent too.

Laura said...

Jerry, I really enjoyed your list!

The only title I know on this list is ROUGH SHOOT (SHOOT FIRST). Since I also enjoy the British films I'm going to keep this list for future reference! I recorded a copy of THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE from TCM a while back but despite great interest have yet to see it (story of my life...know you can all relate!).

Thanks much, Jerry, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of these lists!

Best wishes,

Jerry E said...

Thanks so much, Guys, for your kind comments. Glad if I have added to your "must see" lists!!