on 3 January 2002
I was very pleasantly surprised by this film!
I bought it out of curiosity but thoroughly enjoyed it. It's quite fast paced and half way through you really don't know who is a goodie and who is a baddie! It's a very British film with some wonderful British actors, set during WW2. John Mills is in his element as a RAF flier who gets shot down near the home of a secret Government scientist. Alistair Sim turns up and is wonderfully mysterious and I'm sure you'll enjoy watching a very young George Cole playing an evacuee who is involved in most of the story. It has spies, secrets, action, bravery, deception, romance - what more do you want? The scientists wife is delightfully eccentric which makes for plenty of confusion. If you enjoyed The Spy in Black with Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson, you'll enjoy this one too. It's a good fun spy film with a lovely sinister twist so typical of this sort of British film. I heartily recommend it.
on 7 March 2007
Prospective buyers should know that this item contains a fantastic extra - the full 53 minute 1975 Granada TV play the Prodigal Daughter, starring Alastair Sim (in one of his last TV performances) and a young Jeremy Brett. The rarity value of that extra makes this DVD well worth purchasing.
Cottage To Let has a "straight from video" feel to it, but that's no bad thing for a 66 year old film - almost adds to the charm in fact.
Overall, I cannot rate this item highly enough - superb!
NB - Extras also include a short stills gallery from Cottage To Let.
Wordy? A little. But this British home-front spy mystery from 1941 is also fine entertainment, reasonably exciting and features two first-rate performances by Alastair Sim as the suspicious Charles Dimble and 16-year-old George Cole as the 15-year-old London kid, Ronald, resourceful and energetic. Ronald thinks Sherlock Holmes is "the greatest man whatever lived" and is pretty good at deducing things. Bear in mind that Sim and his wife took Cole into their household when he was a boy and became Cole's foster parents. Sim saw to Cole's education. When Cole wanted to become an actor like Sim, Sim also saw to Cole's training. They appeared together in more than a dozen movies, not as a team but as two skilled comic actors.
John Barrington (Leslie Banks) is a brilliant, eccentric British inventor. He works at his grand manor house in Scotland and has almost developed a revolutionary bomb sight. The Nazis want his secrets, preferably with Barrington as well. Barrington has a flighty, well-meaning wife (at one point she kindly tells Ronald, who has nearly destroyed a suit of armor, "Never mind, never mind. Just forget what a nuisance you are.") and a good-looking daughter. He also has an assistant who longs for the daughter. Suddenly the cottage on their grounds, which had been up for rent, is taken over as a military hospital. In it goes Flight Lieutenant Perry (John Mills), a Spitfire pilot who had to bail out and landed in a nearby loch with a bad arm. Then there's Dimble, who says he had arranged to rent the cottage and now has nowhere to stay. He's put up in a room next to Perry. There's young, confident Ronald, sent up from London because of the blitz and lodged in the manor house. There's the butler, a bull-necked, taciturn man who was recently hired and a housekeeper who leaves with little notice. And before long we see Dimble has a revolver, Perry makes odd phone calls, Barrington seems over-confident, his assistant seems unduly interested in the bombsight and we learn Scotland Yard and MI-something have each sent a man up there. They have learned a Nazi spy ring has targeted Barrington and now has an agent in place. But who are the spies and who are Barrington's protectors? Well, one of the Nazi agents is not hard to figure out and one of the protectors is. The fun is in seeing how the game is played.
Cottage to Let has serious themes and clever characterizations. Barrington's well-bred wife comes from the Billie Burke school of thespianism, well-meaning and ditzy. Addressing the townsfolk who have come to the manor for the annual pageant, she quotes Churchill in honoring all the volunteers, "Never," she says, "has so much owed so many to so little." There's snappy dialogue, plenty of skullduggery, a shoot-up escape and death by rolling millstone. It's always fun to listen to the careful, well-bred diction of the upper-class coming from actors of assorted backgrounds who had to learn how to speak "properly" if they were to get leading roles. So many "girls" to be turned into "gels," so many a "here" and a "dear" to be turned into a nasal "heah" and a nasal "deah." The main actors all do fine jobs, but once again it's Alastair Sim who captures the movie. He was a superb actor with a unique style, and he is just about impossible not to watch. With Cottage to Let, however, his foster son, George Cole, just about gives him a run for his money. Cole turns in a supremely assured job as the supremely assured Ronald, no one's fool yet still a very likable young man.
The DVD transfer is in much better shape than we might have expected for a movie more than 55 years old. The main reason, however, for getting this Network DVD is the extra, a 1975 television drama, "The Prodigal Daughter." Sim was 75 when he starred in it, sharing top billing with Jeremy Brett. It's the story of three Catholic priests and what happens when a young housekeeper is hired for them. Sim is the older parish priest, a man who is wise in the ways of the world and cooks terribly. Brett is a younger priest who undergoes a crises of his calling. It's a solid, hour-long teleplay. Once more Sim is the man you wind up watching despite a fine performance by Brett. The transfer of The Prodigal Daughter is crisp and clean, with fine color.
This film was made during the war when nobody knew whether Britain would prevail or not. That's important: films made after the war have the inbuilt certainty that the viewer knows the overall outcome. This one had uncertainty as its backdrop: a very real fear that the nation could be overrun.
The message of the film is 'beware to whom you are talking - they could be spies' and the plot twists and turns until the eventual revelation and ending.
By modern day standards the production is minimalist - not surprising when there was no scope for extravagance. But nothing can detract from the roll-call of first rate actors, including one of my favourites, Alastair Sim. He is superb - dominating the screen whenever he is on.
A brilliant film? No, at least not by later standards. An important film? Yes, very much so. It transmits the sense of fear and uncertainty of the war years. Watch it in that context and you will find it gives an important historical perspective of the tension through which everyone was forced to live at the time.
on 22 February 2004
As a confirmed fan of Sir John Mills, George Cole, Michael Wilding and Alistair Sim, I just had to get my hands on this video, shame its not on DVD. The story is about a nosey evacuee cue George Cole in the role, Sir John Mills in the guise of a RAF hero (as he was in The Way To The Stars)or is he? and Alistair playing the nosey but vague character ( similar to Inspector Cockerill in Green for Danger; should be on video/dvd but not.)German sixth columists and spies after the inventor of various gadgets to help us to win WW2 who is currently developing a new bomb sight. With the inventor kidnapped, George Cole stowed away in the back of the kidnap car and being lead up the garden path that Alistair Sim is the baddy, all is revealed in a windmill next to a Scottish Loch. The threads of the plot are abley held together by brilliant direction; if you are fan of this type of film it is a must have.
on 14 April 2014
The real reason for my buying this (which I haven't actually watched yet) is that one of the two pipers (the tallest and most handsome - naturally!) is my late uncle who was a pipe major in the Scots Guards. He was also in the Robert Donat version of the 39 Steps. Anyway, I've seen Cottage to Let a couple of times on tv so I know the plot. It was interesting, as someone else has noted, to see some 'youngsters' starting out on their careers - most notably George Cole. However, I have to say that on the whole it is really nothing more than a quite a harmlessly entertaining piece of nonsense/propaganda.
on 6 December 2010
This an excellent little old film, with some classic British movie stars of the 40s and 50s - including a 15 year old George Cole (looking more like 12), Alastair Sim and John Mills. Only one thing, if you get this, don't read the introduction on the outside of the DVD box - it gives away a key plot element (and what should be a surprise) in the movie. That said, well worth getting if you're a fan of these old movies and these stars.