This collection is a real treat; we loved three of the four films, which we had never seen before, and have put the other one on the back burner for later. So, just to give you a taster, this a summary of the movies:
THE FEMININE TOUCH, 1956. This is the only one in colour (pretty good too), and for us, it was the jewel in the crown. It stars the lovely Belinda Lee, who does a very convincing job portraying one of five nurses, who are starting their careers in the NHS back in the days when matron ruled with an iron rod. There are all the usual trials and tribulations, sorrows and joys, but although the script is dated, the leading actors rise above the clichés, particularly in the relationship between Lee's nurse and her Doctor Gorgeous, played by the handsome and talented George Baker (who, much later, memorably played Inspector Wexford in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries on TV.)
THE SILENT PASSENGER, 1935, B&W. This one may not be for everyone, but we thoroughly enjoyed Peter Haddon's wonderfully dotty portrayal of Lord Peter Wimsey. He has to prove that the leading man, handsome John Loder, is innocent of murder, and there are lots of terrific scenes set in Victoria (I think) Station, with steam trains and highly realistic and glamorous sets to please the eye. Some nail-biting action too. A young(ish) Donald Wolfit also gives an excellent performance (a bit stagey, but that was how they did things in those days.)
YOUNG MAN'S FANCY, 1939, B&W. This is the story of a young aristocrat who falls in love with a music hall girl, (The Human Cannon Ball), played by Anna Lee, who later caught the eye of director John Ford and went on to do movies in the US. However, the best thing about this movie is the eccentric and very witty performances by Seymour Hicks and Martita Hunt as the young man's parents, the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont. Completely off-the-wall.
THERE AIN'T NO JUSTICE, B&W1939. This is a boxing film, starring Jimmy Hanley. We're not fans of the sport, but I do like Jimmy Hanley, so I'm sure I'll find time to watch it at a later date. (Took a look through, and it seems pretty good.)
GENERAL POINTS: Good prints, in their original aspects, but no subtitles.
I now have all 14 DVDs so far issued, and they are simply commendable as requiem for Basil Dean and, far more importantly, Michael Balcon. For volume 1, the main critic took offence at picture quality; subsequently others have made not dissimilar comments. These films are part of our kinematic history, not a reflection of Hollywod values - or lack of them - before and after the war. We should be grateful.
This Ealing Rarities set of four films is, as many such selections are likely to be, a mixed bag, one or two good things with one or two poor. The Feminine Touch follows a group of trainee nurses in a hospital of the newly formed NHS. It does what it does well enough, though the characters are all obvious types, and the situations predictable. The NHS depicted is reasonably accurate for the day, although there is no blood and guts on screen. The child actress of Mandy has a small role as a very upset child calmed by the caring doctor, and from this point onward it is clear that one or two of our trainees are destined for surgical romances, which inevitably leads to their choosing between marriage and hospital, the two together being incompatible. Just when you think the matron will make a fine speech about the worthiness and importance of nursing at the end of the film, she cruelly lets the viewers and nursing generally down by stating that by marrying a surgeon they are doing far more for healthcare than they could have done as a nurse - bit of an empty ending really!
Young Man's Fancy is a 1939 romantic comedy playing strongly on English class relations, the predictable storyline being a duke's son being forced by parents to marry a brewers daughter (for the money), rebelling and finding in a music hall (which his father visits on the sly to get away from his domineering wife) a human-cannon-ball Ada - the rest of the story follows the usual lines, but don't be put off by this poor description. This is a romantic comedy of the day with all guns blazing - the script is consistently strong, funny, emotional, and is performed by a super cast of actors, even playing the lesser and walk-through roles, I was chuckling all the way through, the leads are lovely, and never a scene that isn't perfectly judged and played. A real gem!
There Aint No Justice is a film that purports to dramatise the boxers career of the time, highlighting the way they were systematically treated as no more than fairground entertainers, taken advantage of by managers, agents and showmen. Jimmy Hanley is the attractive young hero who gives up his garage mechanic job to try his hand at boxing, only to discover its pitfalls. Other characters, such as his sister and her spiv boyfriend, add to the storyline which is otherwise threadbare, and the gaps really show as they trot out a dramatic fight for the finale, descending into a free-for-all brawl. A make-weight for the dvd really.
The Silent Passenger is a Lord Peter Whimsy story, inspired by Dorothy L Sayers stories. It concerns a murdered blackmailer's body turning up in the luggage of one of his other innocent victims. Almost the first five minutes is lacking dialogue, just action around a railway terminus as a large trunk is manhandled about, its very shaky and uncertain of itself, but as it progresses and Whimsy's character starts to dominate the film there is some improvement. There is dirty work afoot as the real murderer, himself a victim of blackmail, seeks to destroy the young lovers, who happen to know his face, and it feebly builds to a finale. Rather dull really, despite the station-yard action. Watchable, but no thriller.