Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Thrillers - Colin McGuigan ""

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Colin McGuigan

"My name's Colin McGuigan. I'm originally from Northern Ireland but resident in Greece for many years now. I've been a fan of classic Hollywood as long as I can remember and caught the western bug early on - watching Randolph Scott on Saturday afternoons on TV probably sealed it for me. It's a vast genre, always offering up new surprises and even the stuff I've become most familiar has the ability to reveal different aspects and perspectives. I've come to love the westerns of the 50s most of all, even though I can and do appreciate every era, and feel that decade saw the genre at the peak of its maturity and sophistication."

Colin's Blog is 'Riding The High Country' - found here:

Tread Softly Stranger (1958)
A neat noir/thriller which uses the right kind of working-class, urban setting, something British efforts sometimes failed to do. It has that suitably desperate feel to it - poverty, lust and bleak prospects laying the foundations for crime. The highlight of the movie is Diana Dors' turn as Calico, a sexy hostess who acts as the catalyst for the downfall of two smitten brothers. It's all very stylishly photographed by Douglas Slocombe and features a strong cast of reliable British character players.

The Long Memory (1952)
A quest for revenge that turns into a journey towards redemption: a theme common to a fair few westerns but one that blends seamlessly into this gritty crime drama. Robert Hamer was one of the best directors working in British cinema at this time and John Mills was a subtle yet compelling screen presence. Together they gave us this tale of a wronged man consumed by bitterness whose heart is gradually thawed by Eva Bergh's refugee waitress. Along with the absorbing story, the use of authentic locations is an added boon.

Payroll (1961)
Another British thriller, and this time a heist movie. In addition to a well-staged robbery, we're treated to corruption, betrayal, double-crosses and revenge in the north-east of England. This pacy and tight little B movie sees strong performances by Michael Craig, Kenneth Griffith and Billie Whitelaw. Once again the location filming stands out and adds a layer of realism to a tough and diamond-hard yarn. More people need to see this film.

Obsession (1949)
Nightmare noir is a subset of a genre or style that itself is hazily defined at best. Edward Dmytryk left his Hollywood troubles behind and came to Britain to make this thriller which is reminiscent of a Cornell Woolrich story in its treatment of dread and despair. Robert Newton completely owns the movie as one of the most chillingly determined and seemingly invincible villains you're likely to see. The whole setup has the kind of macabre plausibility that grabs your attention and never lets go.

The River's Edge (1957)
And a quick hop across the Atlantic takes me to my final selection here. Allan Dwan was one of those cinematic pioneers who never seems to get the credit he's due. The latter stages of his career is studded with little gems, visually and thematically rich films which defied the constraints of their budgets. Anthony Quinn, Ray Milland and Debra Paget form the three points of a treacherous romantic triangle in this tense pursuit through the wilderness thriller.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Great choices there Colin - always great to see PAYROLL get some proper love - RIVER'S EDGE is the one I have yet to see and will crack on with it - cheers mate.

john k said...

All of these films are truly underrated,Colin and you have certainly
reminded me that I must catch up with TREAD SOFTLY STRANGER sooner rather
than later.
I second Sergio's comment that it's high time PAYROLL got some proper love!

Laura said...

I'm starting to catch up on things after a hectic couple of weeks! Colin, I throughly enjoyed this list -- as did my father, who reminded me I have TREAD SOFTLY STRANGER in a set of British "B" films that I've not yet cracked open! Having seen Dors in MAN BAIT and THE LONG HAUL in recent months this sounds very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

Likewise I bought THE RIVER'S EDGE at a great price recently but haven't opened the many movies, so little time!

Love the British crime films more all the time so your list will be bookmarked for future reference!

Best wishes,