Top positive review
65 people found this helpful
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.