on 7 March 2010
The main draw for this soft-spoken little film is the presence of Derrick De Marney. His softly-sarcastic demeanor and low-level sexiness are charming and winning. And he is featured in all-too-few films. He got his start, of course, in Hitchcock's early classic, Young and Innocent. After seeing him in that, with his youthful good looks and exuberance, one wanted to get all his films.
He is a bit longer in the tooth as Mr. Callaghan, but still has the charm. He is smart, broke, and refuses to work for a 'big' detective agency. Sort of a working class, veddy-English Philip Marlowe, without the sleaze. He spars heatedly with his secretary, who wants revenge; condescendingly with his co-star, who is a spoiled little rich girl; and amusingly with the police official who wants his hide for working outside the law.
Good re-mastered print and sound. So glad to have it. There is also a wonderful Region 1 set called 'British Cinema: Renown Pictures Crime & Noir' which contains this film and five other British gems for what amounts to a bargain price, and is beautifully boxed.
I would have loved to give this film more than 3 stars, but frankly I struggled to give 3. The DVD from RENOWN is perfectly acceptable quality, if not quite perfect, and the sound is good. No subs or extras. The good parts from my point of view were Harriette Johns as Cynthis, a most attractive almost statuesque blonde (I think), Delphi Lawrence as "Effie" Callaghan's hard done by, hard bitten secretary, Belinda Lee in a very early role as a nanny (brunette!), and Adrienne Corri as a chanteuse (1 song in the proverbial "night club"), but I haven't yet worked out the purpose of her character apart from the song. The rest of the cast range from poor to passable. Derek de Marney was almost OK as Slim, but basically came over as unlikeable and not in a Mike Hammer/Phillip Marlowe way. The film also suffers from showing it's stage origins which slow the film down. Too much talk, not enough action. A word of warning if you get this DVD, do not read the synopsis on the back cover. Amazingly it tells you who the killer is (as does, word for word, Quinlan's British sound films reference book).
on 1 March 2011
Whilst Hollywood was going through its `Golden Era', the rest of the world was doing pretty well in the cinema stakes as well, and this includes dear old Blighty. One genre cheap to make was Film Noir and many `B' movies made it on the big screen in the 30-50s. Film Noir is dominated by the great crime and melodramas of America, but Europe had some good ones too. However, as the genre felt so in tune with the likes of Chandler et al it was a very American genre at times. Therefore, British Film Noir done badly can be painful - let us `Meet Mr Callaghan'.
`Meet Mr Callaghan' is a very British take on American crime drama; all clipped vowels and dirty London town. Slim Callaghan is the eponymous PI who is dragged into a murky tale of murder. He is out to get as much as he can from the various blackmail ready (blackmalleable?) suspects - he has to solve the crime without getting pinched himself. With a one of the bleakest antiheros I have seen at its centre, `Meet' is a hard film to like. Derrick De Marney as Slim is not particularly attractive, charismatic or nice; in fact he is a borderline tramp. Do we really want to see someone like him succeed? Film Noir is a genre adept at making bad guys into good leads. However, in this case the film fails.
The problems are not just with the characters. The film is shot on a shoe string budget and this affects the sets and some of the cheap actors (if you can call them actors). The dialogue is also incomprehensible at times. The pithy wisecracks of American PIs are lost in the mouths of the cast, their clipped tones are so high and fast that they are perhaps only audible to those of the canine persuasion. Overall, `Meet Mr Callaghan' is a mess of a film that is not American enough to be good Film Noir and not British enough to matter. One to avoid unless you are a complete Noir follower.