Top critical review
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British low budget noir that just misses the mark
on 2 November 2008
Baker, Whitelaw, Pleasance, some big names in a low budget attempt at gritty noir. The grit is supplied by the setting, Manchester, but this itself causes the film its biggest problems. Baker's accent wobbles all over the place, as it does for one or two other non-northern actors in the film. One of them, the villain of the piece, an old school friend of Baker's who went astray and is now a dangerous killer, doesn't have that problem at all, because he's an American and has clearly taken the sound advice not to even try the fairly tricky Manchunian lilt. Hmm, casting in the 1950s was a very peculiar art, as so many leads happened to be Americans playing British characters. Back then I suppose it seemed normal or acceptable at the cinema, but these days it looks and sounds downright peculiar.
So lets get to what's good about the movie - it is stylish to a degree, sharply played despite the accents, and pretty gritty, albeit in a slightly naive and contrived way. But it does create a reasonable minor noir atmosphere and tense cat and mouse moments. Some of the dialogue is good, and some of it a bit naive and cliched but it isn't that bad. The movie scores best on some of its location scenes, especially the tense finale where we get to see the main star of the film, the city of Manchester, splayed out in its hard but warm 'northernness'. This film does do well to connect the crime with the grime of a semi-notorious, semi-loved old heartland of the north. Definitely worth a look if you love the old Edgar Wallace type of B thriller, but do not expect a whole lot more - Val Guest was used for his small budget competence, not his inventiveness or expression.