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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Yield To The Night [DVD] [1956]
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on 17 November 2008
This must surely be one of the best British films of the 1950s, if not of all time. Often mistakenly described as either the story of, or based on the story of Ruth Ellis, "Yield to the Night" was already in production when Mrs Ellis shot her lover. This powerful film never preaches or moralises at it's audience. It's strength is in it's depiction of a human being in extraordinary circumstances facing up to both the past and the ever shortening future.

Diana Dors' performance must have been a revelation to a public who knew and adored her as a glamorous star who retained her girl next door quality. Her portrayal of Mary Hilton is astonishing for any actress, let alone one predominantly known for light comedies. The use of flashbacks to Mary's life before her crime opens the way for Miss Dors to vividly depict the change in her character, thus making the prison scenes even more affecting. In these scenes she shows her absolute command of film acting by carrying whole scenes acting purely with her eyes. The scene with the Governess and the letter is almost painful to watch thanks to this ability. The contrast between Mary's deceptively still moments and the accompanying voice over of her anguished thoughts is riveting.

As other reviewers have said, special mention has to go to that unsung great of British cinema, Yvonne Mitchell. Her gentle prison guard who cautiously befriends Mary is a delicate counterpoint to the bleak regime. Her character is an emotional prisoner, almost ironically condemned by domestic circumstances to a life with little purpose or meaning. Apart from the prison visitor, a delightful performance from the wonderful Athene Sayler, she is just about the only genuinely unselfish person in Mary's life.

Michael Craig is brilliant as the pathetically weak willed young man who draws Mary into a doomed relationship. When watched in relation to "Payroll", this shows what a superbly versatile actor he was. Dandy Nicholls is also note perfect as Mary's self pitying mother who manages to make herself the victim of the tragedy in her brief scenes.

The photography is excellent, sharply contrasting the prison environment with the optimistic mood of paost war, post rationing Britain shown in the flashbacks. The prison regime is indeed bleak and full of casual cruelties, from guards chatting as though Mary isn't there, through the brightly lit nights which deprive her of sleep, to the terrible door at the foot of her bed. But ultimately this is a moving and rewarding movie that explores the human spirit in a way that is rarely seen, and hardly ever as well as this.
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on 7 December 2008
I will not attempt to cover ground that other reviews have. J. Lee Thompson directed based on Joan Henry's book about Mary Hilton and the agony she feels while awaiting her execution in prison for murder. Flashbacks reveal her musician/boyfriend's affair with another woman who promised him phoney career advantages but rejected his love to marry a wealthier man. That caused him to commit suicide, thus provoking Hilton's furious gunfire crime of passion. Rumored to be based on the story of the last woman in Britain to be executed by hanging, the book and film came out some time before that happened. Thompson somehow convinces us in some sharply edited scenes that even the most unrepentent killers don't deserve to be sentenced to die. Movie is also available in a boxed set, The Diana Dors Icon Collection. Prisoners of concience and torture victims around the world could identify with parts of this film, especially where Mary Hilton has to sleep in a cell lighted all night with guards sitting inside of it. Anyone who has ever been imprisoned, even in a holding cell for a few days, will tell you that it is more terrifying than any film will ever be able to depict. The stigma of being thus confined can last forever. I would also like to recommend another film based on Joan Henry's books, The Weak and the Wicked, where Glynis Johns portrays a woman sent to prison for a crime she did not commit, also co-starring Diana Dors. Statistics prove that most real life prisoners were really innocent of their crimes.
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on 6 June 2011
Whenever I saw Diana Dors interviewed on TV, she frequently referred with great pride to "Yield to tne Night" - and justly so. She was Britain's "blonde bombshell" answer to Marilyn Monroe and the public tended to think of her as just a glamour-puss, with her sultry lips, peroxided hair and curvy body - and probably viewed her just as the stereotypical empty-head. Most of her films didn't give her a chance to break the mould she had been poured into.

However, cast as Mary Hilton, a murderess condemned to to hanged in "Yield to the Night", Diana Dors proved beyond all doubt that she was an actress of great sensitivity and phenominal talent. In part of the film (the flash-backs) she played the usual sexy, glamorous vamp part, but in the major part of the film her clinging dresses were replaced by a shapeless prison uniform, her hair was scraped back into a scraggy pony-tail, and her face appeared to be devoid of make-up but, nevertheless, she did not flinch from unflattering close-ups.

The fact that the film was shot entirely in black and white (as many of the films of the 1950s were), helps to underline the helplessness of Mary Hilton as she waits for reprieve in her dismal cell with its bare, shiny, painted brick walls, incessantly glaring overhead light and door with no handle. Mary Hilton never shows any remorse for what she has done (she has killed a woman in cold blood - the culmination of an "eternal triangle" situation) but, even so, Dors creates very sympathetic and vulnerable character so that one finds oneself hoping that the footsteps of the prison Governor approaching down the corridor outside are bringing news of a reprieve from the Home Secretary.

At all times the condemned woman is accompanied by prison warders who sit with her, two at a time, in shifts but none of them is an unkind or even unsympathetic character. A special mention must be made of Yvonne Mitchell who very sensitively plays the part of a warder who establishes a special rapport with the prisoner, becoming fond of her, while always preserving the necessary distance between them and never, ever, overstepping her professional mark - another remarkable performance.

It is not easy viewing, and the film must have helped to some extent in getting the death penalty for murder abolished and Diana Dors proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was a great actress. It would not not be easy to create a sympathetic character out of someone who had committed such a heinous crime, but she achieves just that. Over the years, she reinvented herself over and over again, going from glamour girl to character actress, to comedienne, to TV presenter, even appearing on the panel of "Any Questions" on the radio, rather to the surprise of listeners, on at least one occasion. But whatever else she did, she was justly proud of herself for her performance in this powerful and absorbing film. It is a great pity that she did not have more opportunities to prove herself in the way she did in "Yield to the Night".
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on 12 May 2011
Ruth Ellis had been an 'extra' in Diana's film LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN and just four years later would become part of history as the last woman to be hanged in Britain after shooting down her boyfriend in the street. The case provided the model for YIELD TO THE NIGHT except that here the boyfriend commits suicide after being dumped by a second woman who is subsequently killed in an act of revenge by the first. But Mary Hilton (Diana) shows no triumph at the scene, just sombre resignation, it won't bring her man back and may probably end her own life. Sentenced indeed to death she enters into the protocol of the final weeks, a last-minute reprieve her only hope. She's not a monster just a girl who took a tragic turning though she feels no remorse for what she did and doesn't ask for sympathy. Her protective bitterness softens occasionally in the company of the prison officers who must share her existence in shifts, day and night (when the light must remain on). There's the gallows humour of "you could catch your death" when they go outside for exercise and the irony of the setup that must regularly monitor her health down to a blister on the foot. But every visit of the Governor (Marie Ney), however incidental, brings a feeling of dread and there's always the presence in the cell of "the door without a handle" through which she will pass should the worst happen. Mary's voice-overs like an unwritten diary express her love of poetry and her realisation that she wants to go on living. But the reprieve is denied... The many flashbacks to life before the shooting tend to dissipate the tension of the prison scenes though Lee-Thompson's overall control is extraordinarily compelling. There are weak spots - Mary's family are straight from stock and her estranged husband about as convincing as a speaking-clock - but support in the main is impeccable. Athene Seyler plays a kindly prison-visitor who tries to make Mary's final hours comprehensible, Geoffrey Keen the chaplain who must function in a conflict of rituals - "You hate it, don't you," Mary observes quietly and he cannot answer. And Yvonne Mitchell impresses as the emotionally-repressed officer who finally bonds with Mary in a touching moment during the final night. We don't hang people over here anymore, a good thing for the most part, it sidesteps the terrible error that can't be rectified though I think it should be held in reserve for offences beyond the social pale (against children, for instance). A relic of the past when it was the norm, its strange blending of the medieval and the 'everyday' that held it in place carries a haunting echo like Mary's last walk into darkness leaving behind a freshly-lit cigarette still burning. Her journey through sadness, anger, wonderment, raw fear and final acceptance is unforgettable and Dors brings it off magnificently.

Carol Reed's East End 'fantasy' A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS, made earlier, provided Di with a more peripheral role as the platinum-belle of Petticoat Lane, steadfastly waiting for a ring (engagement, that is) from the wooden hunk she adores who's preoccupied with bodybuilding. Joe, a six-year-old boy, buys a baby goat with one horn from a pedlar thinking it's a 'unicorn' that can make wishes come true and scampers around arranging same among the market-community. Di and the hunk buy their ring when he wins the purse in a wrestling-match against the Python (Primo Carnera) who'd been bothering the girl,and goes into partnership with the old tailor (David Kossoff) who can now acquire a much-desired steam-presser. And Joe and his mum (Celia Johnson), waiting for her husband in South Africa to send for them, finally get the letter. Reed creates a colourful and lively kaleidoscope with a bevy of character actors but from a middle-class overview common to most British films of the period. The element of Jewish fable is not fully accommodated, it's just an old man's whimsy, only a 'miracle' in the child's fancy or if you want to pretend it's a miracle. Joe's mum is a genteel 'grass widow' uncomfortably out of place - like Celia Johnson - and waiting to move on from what is supposedly her husband's surroundings. The same could be said of Diana who seems more West End than East End. It could be argued that the story would not work so well if the boy was a local not given to mooning over unicorns. As an outsider he's discovering an exotic landscape rather as the film-makers are doing. It has to be said, though, that this human 'kid' with his plummy tones and irritating precocity proves far less appealing than his new-found pet who provides moments of great charm and the required touch of sadness at the end.

Diana's death from cancer thirty years later eventually yielded THE BLONDE BOMBSHELL, an ambitious two-part drama from ITV based on her own account but as dismally cliched as its title with mysterious gaps in the narrative. We see the Swindon schoolchild wearing corrective glasses which are not referred to and never seen again and her name's in lights with her first film when she wasn't even billed until her fourth. Apart from her last husband no one turns up in a parade of pasteboards looking like who they're supposed to be not even the two actresses who play her though they do manage to suggest aspects of her personality. Keeley Hawes looks like Audrey Hepburn with curves (rather nice ones, mind) while Amanda Redman gallantly follows Diana literally to her last breath. Taste and restraint are not the style here but Di would probably have enjoyed it.
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on 25 May 2014
I remember seeing this movie on TV years ago and being blown away by it so when i found it was on DVD I was eager to have it, even not if available as a bluray but even at standard res the picture was dreadful, completely uunwatchable. Apart from the usual scratches and noise you get on unrestored old movies, which I could have lived with, the picture was reminiscent of a very bad quality YouTube download. Lots of pixellation, combined with juddering movement that made it look as though it had been converted from PAL to NTSC and back again? Bitterly disappointed.
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on 30 November 2008
This a very moving film. with Diana Dors playing a very much different role than we, are all accustomed to seeing in her movies as the blonde sex bomb.Dors plays a woman who has an affair with a man who loses interest in her and finds someone else. she shoots her rival in cold blood and goes to prison for her crime whereby she is going to be hanged. the film is based on the Ruth Ellis story England's last woman to be hung. Dors plays the part so well that one feels sorry for her. there are flash backs in the film to how she was and how her affair went with the man of her dreams. the harsh prison cell and the stern prison warders give insite to prison life. it is quite a moment when she tells them and the doctor you only keeping me alive so as to kill me you all want to kill me. this is first class acting the dvd is in black and white and is sharp, crisp and clear. this film is very moving and sad this is Diana Dors much more better offerings as an actress. pity she was not given more film roles like the one in this film the film earns five gold stars all the way.
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on 2 February 2012
Before the movie's opening credits begin, the film opens with a blonde (Diana Dors) shooting a woman (Mercia Shaw) in cold blood several times in front of her home. The rest of the film is devoted to the monotonous day to day existence awaiting her execution while she recollects her past and the events leading up to the murder. If the film seems tedious and slow moving at times, it's just being real and eschewing the melodramatic cliches of prison movies. Dors' character is hard to read. She doesn't seem to have any remorse over her murder yet she's not a brazen, cold blooded killer either which makes it more difficult to condemn her but we can't quite shed any tears over her either. For those who only know Dors as a blonde bombshell, Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe, her performance is a revelation and a pity that she didn't get more roles that taxed her as an actress. This was her last English film before she left to conquer Hollywood which emphasized her sex symbol status rather than her talents as an actress. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (GUNS OF NAVARONE) and based on the book by Joan Henry who also co-wrote the screenplay. With Michael Craig as Dors' lover and the reason for her fall, Yvonne Mitchell as a sympathetic prison matron, Geoffrey Keen, Marjorie Rhodes, Mona Washbourne, Athene Seyler, Dandy Nichols and Marianne Stone.

The Optimum DVD from Great Britian is a decent transfer in a full frame 1.33 aspect ratio.
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on 21 August 2011
If anyone thought of Diana Dors as merely a 'blonde bombshell'
with little or no acting experience, let them think again,
because this film proves them wrong on all counts!

Diana plays Mary Hilton, who falls in love with Jim Lancaster
(a ghastly cad, played with relish by Michael Craig) who is still
besotted with his first girlfriend Lucy Carpenter. Lucy (showing more sense
than I would have credited her with otherwise) rejects him and Jim gasses
himself. Mary takes revenge by shooting Lucy.

Most of this brilliant film (supposedly based on the Ruth Ellis trial)
shows Mary in the condemned cell awaiting execution. She is befriended
by the sympathetic officer Pat McFarlane (a wonderful performance here
by Yvonne Mitchell) who, on the night before Mary's proposed hanging,
bids her farewell and cradles Mary in her arms.

'I know I've done wrong,' Mary says poignantly, 'but it doesn't make me want
to die. I'm not ready to die....'

One or two characters are under-characterised, notably Geoffrey Keen's
prison chaplain, and Olga Lindo is all too noticeably the 'bad screw'
('Don't let her come near me - I hate cats!') but in the main this could not
be a better protest against capital punishment.

If there ever comes a time when we think seriously as a nation about
restoring this hideous practice then this film should be shown
as a compulsory preventative.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2008
The very lovely Diana Dors gives an outstanding performance as a murderess on death row awaiting a reprieve. An all star cast of yesteryear support her in this profound drama as we are taken through flashbacks and feel her every emotion.
Contrary to other films of a similar genre, the prison staff feel her distress along with her and there are none of the usual bad eggs in the basket.
It is undoubtedly one of the most moving films I have watched ever. I am not prone to tears when watching films, but this one had me welling up.
Outstanding cinematography and direction.
We miss you Diana - always smiling - always lovely. God bless You.
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on 20 February 2018
Definitely hailed as a British cinema classic, Yield To The Night, starring Diana Dors, was a bit of a shocker at the time but shot Diana to dizzy heights of fame as she played down the blonde bombshell sexkitten image that had been her trademark, to play this really plain character, loosely based on Ruth Ellis, the last woman who was hanged in Britain. Dors was absolutely flawless in her portrayal and proved to the world that underneath that sexy image was a serious actress. It has had fans talking about it for years, even after her death, you say the name Diana Dors, and they will remember two films, Yield To The Night and A Kid For Two Farthings. She was a true star and no matter what you thought of her private life, Dors never hid the truth from her fans. I think that's why she was adored so much.
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