Archive D

The Dam Busters (1954)

In order to disrupt the German war effort a team of pilots go on a dangerous mission to destroy a dam using Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs. Would we remember this film quite as well if it weren't for the terrific theme tune by Eric Cotes? Even without it, this is a stirring tale.

Poster of The Dam Busters

Script adapt.: R. C. Sherriff (o.a. Paul Brickhill, Guy Gibson)

Director: Michael Anderson

Players: Michael Redgrave, Richard Todd, Ursula Jeans, Derek Farr, Patrick Barr, John Fraser, George Baker, Brewster Mason, Anthony Doonan, Basil Sydney, Ernest Clark, Nigel Stock, Raymond Huntley, Bill Kerr, Robert Shaw, Harold Goodwin, Laurence Naismith, Frank Phillips, Stanley Van Beers, Colin Tapley 

Dance Hall (1950)

Diana Dors, Petula Clark, Natasha Parry and Jane Hylton are the factory girls who only come alive when they are at the local Palais. The dramatic stories they get lumbered with are dull but the background is fascinating. 

Script: E.V.H. Emmett, Diana Morgan, Alexander Mackendrick

Director: Charles Crichton

Players: Bonar Colleano, Donald Houston, Sydney Tafler, Douglas Barr, Gladys Henson, Fred Johnson, James Carney, Kay Kendall, Eunice Gayson, Hy Hazell, Dandy Nichols, Harold Goodwin, Doris Hare, Geraldo and His Orchestra, Ted Heath and His Orchestra

Dancing With Crime (1947)

A taxi driver helps track down a murderer. 

It's a decent entry in the post-war Spiv cycle. Nice to see Richard Attenborough on the right side of the law at this stage of his career and lovely to see him working with his missus Sheila Sim. Nice too to see Judy Kelly get a decent part in one of her final screen roles as a glamorous, though faded, moll. 

Script: Brock Williams

Director: John Paddy Carstairs

Players: Barry K. Barnes, Garry Marsh, John Warwick, Judy Kelly, Bill Rowbotham (Owen), Barry Jones, Cyril Chamberlain, John Salew, Hamish Menzies, Peter Croft, Norman Shelley, Dennis Wyndham, Diana Dors, Patricia Dainton, Dirk Bogarde, Johnnie Schofield

Dandy Dick (1935)

Different early role for Will Hay as a vicar who bets the parish funds on a racehorse and gets involved in a doping scandal. This adaptation of a Pinero play is fun but the Hay magic hasn't quite found its true expression.

Script adapt.: Frank Miller, William Beaudine, Clifford Grey, Will Hay (o.a. Sir Arthur Wing Pinero)

Director: William Beaudine

Players: Nancy Burne, Esmond Knight, Davy Burnaby, Wally Patch, Moore Marriott 

Danger Within (1958)

POW drama with the usual stiff-upper-lip actors (Todd, Attenborough, Wilding etc.) as concerned about discovering the traitor within the camp as about escaping. It's a fair example of the genre and you can have fun spotting Michael Caine in the background.

Script adapt.: Bryan Forbes, Frank Harvey. (o.a. Michael Gilbert)

Director: Don Chaffey

Players: Richard Todd, Richard Attenborough, Michael Wilding, Bernard Lee, Dennis Price, Donald Houston, Peter Arne, William Franklyn, Vincent Ball, Ronnie Stevens, Peter Jones, Terence Alexander, Andrew Foulds

Dangerous Exile (1957)

It's 1795 and the small town of Tenby is shocked to see the tattered remains of a balloon floating above. Clinging to the wreckage is a small French lad. A visiting American heiress takes him in and it soon becomes apparent that the lad is heir to the throne of France. With the Terror raging through France, a lot of people want the lad dead.

On paper this looks like a good film. Filmed in colour and VistaVision, and starring the lovely Belinda Lee and Hollywood star Louis Jordan, Dangerous Exile should be a stirring swashbuckler, but it isn't. It's just plain dull.

For this we have to blame director Brian Desmond Hurst. He always had a taste for the gloomy which suited such projects as Scrooge or Hungry Hill, but is inappropriate in an escapist pot-boiler like this. Since he shows little interest in making a stirring tale, it's a hard slog watching this and terribly easy for the mind to drift off into other matters.

One of those other matters is journey times. Judging by how quickly people travel to and from Paris, Tenby must be situated next to Versailles rather than on the South West Coast of Wales. Maybe we were mad to abandon the horse and the sailing ship when they're obviously superior to the motor car and the jet.

The accents of the cast also occupy some thought. Lee's is particularly intriguing. She's meant to be American, but other than throwing in the occasional "Honey" she doesn't make much of an effort. So is this idleness, or a belief that in 1795 the American accent was probably not so very different from RP? You can go a whole fifteen minutes debating that one. That's about three trips to France and back.

You can spend a couple of minutes contemplating Richard O'Sullivan as the little king (slight French accent, quickly abandoned). He's so young. Bless! There's little sign that he would grow up to be king of 70s sitcom. Why did his career thrive when other child stars are on the dole by the time they hit puberty? On this evidence, it's not that he was talented.

Contemplating Geoffrey Unsworth's photography is more profitable. He gets the best out of the misty scenery even in Eastmancolor. However, the demands of VistaVision mean there are few close-ups of the stars which adds to the distancing effect of the direction.

All in all, Dangerous Exile is dull way to spend a night at the cinema.

Script adapt.: Robin Estridge. addit. dialogue: Patrick Kirwan (o.a. Vaughan Wilkins)

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: Keith Michell, Martita Hunt, Anne Heywood, Finlay Currie, Terence Longden, Jean Mercure, Jean Claudio, Frederick Leister, Laurence Payne, Austin Trevor, Jacques Brunius, Raymond Gerome, Brian Rawlinson, Derek Oldham, John Dearth, Lisa Lee, Andre Mikhelson, Sam Kydd, Richard Clarke

Dangerous Ground (1934)

Posh private eyes try to unmask the head of a criminal gang. When one of them is murdered, the other finds the murderer might be closer to home than expected.

 Pretty terrible quota picture, though it's worth a look for Joyce Kennedy. She plays one of those terribly brittle posh 30s women who is bored with her marriage and shows how that style of acting can actually be effective in the right hands even in twaddle like this.

Script: Dion Titheradge

Director: Norman Walker

Players: Jack Raine, Martin Lewis. Kathleen Kelly, Joyce Kennedy, Henry Longhurst, Gordon Begg

Dangerous Moonlight (1941)

A Polish musician falls for and marries an American journalist, but the war and memory loss get in the way.

This is the film that introduced The Warsaw Concerto to the world. The sort of soppy romance wartime audiences couldn't get enough of, there's still enough magic left in it to get through to modern audiences.

Script: Shaun Terrence Young, Brian Desmond Hurst, Rodney Ackland

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: Anton Walbrook, Sally Gray, Derrick de Marney, Cecil Parker, Percy Parsons, Kenneth Kent, J.H. Roberts, Guy Middleton, John Laurie, Frederick Valk, Philip Friend, Michael Rennie, Robert Beatty

Danny Boy (1941)

A singer returns to Britain determined to find the husband and son she abandoned to seek fame.

Nowhere near as sickly as it sounds. With its use of music and its look at the lives of the poor, it's almost like a lost John Baxter film.

Script: Oswald Mitchell, A Barr-Carson

Director: Oswald Mitchell

Players: Wilfrid Lawson, Ann Todd, John Warwick, David Farrar, Wylie Watson, Grant Taylor, Albert Whelan, Tony Quinn, Norah Gordon, Percy Manchester, Pat Lennox, Harry Herbert

The Dark Avenger (1955)

The bloom was off the peach as far as Errol Flynn's looks were concerned by the time he made this, and it was his last swashbuckler. It's an average tale of the Hundred Years' War and Flynn's attempts to rescue Joanne Dru from the clutches of the wicked Peter Finch. Nice to snooze in front of after Sunday lunch.

Script: Daniel B. Ullman

Director: Henry Levin

Players: Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Holt, Michael Horden, Moultrie Kelsall, Robert Urquhart, Richard O'Sullivan, Rupert Davies, Ewen Solon, Sam Kydd

Dark Eyes of London (1939)

Greta Gynt is determined to prove her father's death wasn't an accident, but with Bela Lugosi as head of the company which insured her father she hasn't got far to look for the culprit.

Fun horror with Lugosi on top form.

Script: Walter Summers, John Argyle, Patrick Kirwan

Director: Walter Summers

Players: Hugh Williams, Wilfrid Walter, May Hallatt, Julie Suedo, Edmon Ryan, Alexander Field, Arthur E. Owen, Gerald Pring, Charles Penrose, Bryan Herbert

Dark Journey (1937)

Victor Saville directed this tale of W.W.I spies from opposite sides falling in love. On the Allied side we have Vivien Leigh and on the German side - who else but Conrad Veight? It has all the style you would expect from Saville.

Still from Dark Journey  

Script: Arthur Wimperis

Director: Victor Saville

Players: Joan Gardner, Anthony Bushell, Ursula Jeans, Margery Pickard, Eliot Makeham, Austin Trevor, Sam Livesey, Cecil Parker, Robert Newton

The Dark Man (1950)

An actress is the only person who can identify a killer. He wants her dead, while the police want her visible long enough to draw out the killer.

The plot's not much to write home about, but it's a really good looking production mainly thanks to cinematographer Eric Cross making the most of the locations and Natasha Parry's figure. Director Jeffrey Dell creates a few good sequences too.

Script: Jeffrey Dell

Director: Jeffrey Dell

Players: Maxwell Reed, Natasha Parry, Edward Underdown, William Hartnell, Barbara Murray, Cyril Smith, Leonard White, John Singer, Geoffrey Sumner, Sam Kydd, Geoffrey Bond, Betty Cooper, Robert Lang, Grace Denbigh Russell, Norman Claridge, John Hewer, Earnest Haines, Walter Horsbrug, Denis Webb, John Derrick, Gerald Anderson, David Kier, Harry Fowler, Oscar Quitak, Gordon Bell, John Hewer, Gordon Littmann, Doris Yorke, Fred Johnson, Ewen Solon, Duggie Ascot, Digby Wolfe, Howard Douglas, Michael Hogarth, Daphne Anderson, Robert Hay-Smith, Carol Oliver  

Dark Red Roses (1929)

Sculptor's wife falls for a pianist - and the sculptor wants revenge.

Early talkie struggles a little with the new technology, but the revenge climax still grips. 

Script: Leslie Howard Gordon, Harcourt Templeman

Director: Sinclair Hill

Players: Stewart Rome, Frances Doble, Hugh Eden, Kate Cutler, Una O'Connor, Anton Dolin, Lydya Lopokova, Sydney Morgan, Jill Clayton, Jack Clayton, George Balanchine

A Date with a Dream (1948)

A wartime concert party meet after the war and reform.

Rather awful, and only notable for Norman Wisdom's blink-and-you'll-miss-it debut appearance.

Script: Dicky Leeman, Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman

Director: Dicky Keeman

Players: Terry-Thomas, Jean Carson, Len Lowe, Bill Lowe, Wally Patch, Joey Porter, Alfie Dean, Julia Lang, Harry Green, Vic Lewis and his Orchestra, Elton Hayes

Daughter of Darkness (1947)

A young Irish lass is shunned by her fellow villagers for the strangeness of her ways. When the women finally drive her out, she takes a job in an English farmhouse; but her ways stir up trouble and lead to tragedy.

With seemingly every other film these days devoted to grizzly deaths, it's easy to forget that serial killers were once almost as rare in cinema as they are in real life. Daughter of Darkness doesn't just have a run-of-the-mill serial killer, it has a repressed female nymphomaniac bumping off any man who takes her fancy. Heaven knows how the 40s audience coped with it.

Siobhan McKenna as our anti-heroine gives one of the most remarkable performances of the period. You can't call it subtle, but she does manage to capture the slightly-sour innocence that the other women find so repulsive. When she's after a man, she's provoking and teasing and most of the poor saps she targets don't know what's hit them. There are virtually no women in 40s cinema who so encourage sexual advances - or who kill those who respond.

Next to her, the other women are a pretty straight-laced lot. Chief amongst them is top-billed Anne Crawford. She's suspicious of McKenna as soon as she arrives and takes a great deal of trouble to keep her in her place. She comes across as starchy and unsympathetic, scarcely more upset by murder than by a dropped dish of potatoes. The only other woman of note is Honor Blackman in one of the healthy ingénue roles with which she wasted her time before The Avengers.

The men are an even more colourless lot. Maxwell Reed is the only one of any interest as the fairground boxer who first awakens McKenna's murderous urges. His performance might be taken more seriously if it wasn't for his extraordinary eyebrows. Seemingly pencilled-in, they change shape from scene to scene but most often resemble two millipedes squaring up for a fight.

Director Lance Comfort gets a lot of mileage out of the gothic elements of the script, helped considerably by Stanley Pavey's photography. From the unsettling design of the title card, he instantly establishes the disturbed nature of the film's world. He cleverly keeps the audiences sympathies with McKenna right up to the build-up to the second murder when it becomes clear that she's not going to stop killing.

The film climaxes with a confrontation between Crawford and McKenna in a dark church as the forces of respectability finally gain the upper hand. Crawford sends McKenna to the death with the sort of determination to finish an unpleasant job that saw us though the Blitz. She has no more sympathy for McKenna than she would for an ants nest she destroyed with a kettle of water.

It seems that Daughter of Darkness struggled to find its audience and hurt Comfort's career, though the fatal blow came with Portrait of Claire. Now it's seen as an aberration in Britain's supposedly respectable film history, even though the period provided its audience with several seriously warped entertainments such as Dead of Night and Obsession.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Max Catto

Director: Lance Comfort

Players: Barry Morse, George Thorpe, Liam Redmond, Grant Tyler, David Greene, Denis Gordon, Arthur Hambling, George Merritt, Alexis Milne, Nora O'Mahoney, Ann Clery, Cyril Smith, Norman Shelley, George Merritt, Leslie Armstrong, Iris Vandeleur, Bartlett Mullins, Jimmy Rich

David (1951)

A schoolboy recalls the life of his school's caretaker.

British cinema's main contribution to The Festival of Britain was the all-star film The Magic Box. However, the Welsh Committee of the Festival of Britain did its bit by making this short film, portraying life in a typical Welsh community. It's not a terribly ambitious film yet it is, in its own way, a far better film than its more glamorous rival.

Most of the cast are amateur actors. D.R. Griffiths takes the title role in a story based mainly on his own life: down the pit from an early age, health wrecked by an accident, job as a school caretaker, modest literary success. He has a stolid stoicism that seems capable of bearing any burden, even the death of his only son from TB.

The only familiar face in the film is Rachael Thomas, best known to English film audiences as the mother in The Proud Valley. She only has a tiny role, but she had to be in there somewhere since there's almost certainly an Act of Parliament stating that any film made in Wales has to feature her.

The film was made in the small town of Ammanford, and its grimy, respectable poverty is well captured by Ronald Anscombe's photography.

If David had come a little earlier in the history of the documentary, or had had the participation of some of the stars of the documentary movement, it would be far better known. As it is, it's an unexpected pleasure.

Script: Paul Dickson

Director: Paul Dickson 

Players: D.R. Griffiths, John Davies, Mary Griffiths, Sam Jones, Gwenyth Petty, Rachael Thomas, Gomer Roberts

A Day to Remember (1953)

A pub darts team go on a trip to France. Nice ensemble playing in this quaint comedy-drama.

Script adapt.: Robin Estridge. (o.a. Jerrard Tickell)

Director: Ralph Thomas

Players: Donald Sinden, Stanley Holloway, Odile Versois, Joan Rice, James Hayter, Harry Fowler, Edward Chapman, Bill Owen, Peter Jones, Meredith Edwards, George Coulouris, Vernon Gray, Thora Hird, Theodore Bikel, Brenda de Banzie, Lilly Kann, Arthur Hill, Marianne Stone

The Day Will Dawn (1942)

Journalist aids Norwegian freedom fighters in their struggle against the Nazis.

Popular flag-waver that's faded a bit, but still works if you're in the mood.

Script: Terence Rattigan, Anatole de Grunwald, Patrick Kirwan

Director: Harold French

Players: Hugh Williams, Griffith Jones, Deborah Kerr, Ralph Richardson, Francis L. Sullivan, Roland Culver, Finlay Currie, Niall MacGinnis, Elizabeth Man,, Patricia Medina, Roland Pertwee, Henry Oscar, David Horne, John Warwick, Brefni O'Rorke, Bernard Miles, Gus McNaughton, George Carney, Meriel Forbes, Philip French, George Merritt, John Slater, Wylie Watson

Daybreak (1946)

More interesting for the censorship battles that kept it on the shelf for two years than for the film itself, this is the story of a hangman (Eric Portman) who lets his wife's lover be falsely accused of murdering him.

Still from Daybreak    

Script adapt.: Sydney Box, Muriel Box, (o.a. Monckton Hoffe)

Director: Compton Bennett

Players: Ann Todd, Maxwell Reed, Edward Rigby, Bill Owen, Maurice Denham, Jane Hylton