Archive H

He Snoops to Conquer (1944)

George Formby is the council oddjob man who exposes corruption - accidentally.

Script: Stephen Black, Norman Lee, Howard Irving Young, Michael Vaughan, Langford Reed

Director: Marcel Varnel

Players: Robertson Hare, Elizabeth Allen, Claude Bailey, Gordon McLeod, James Harcourt, Aubrey Mallalieu, Vincent Holman, William Rodwell, James Page, Robert Clive, Frank Atkinson, Hugh Dempster, Ian Fleming, Richard Harrison, Charles Paton, John Coyle, Katie Johnson, Jack Vyvyan, John Rae, Arthur Hambling, Jack Williams, Ted Venebles, Frank Raymond, Gerald Moore

The Head of the Family (1922)

A sailor poses as a woman's dead son in order to liberate her family from her tyrannous second husband.

Hugely enjoyable rural comedy with fine location shooting and great performances.

Script adapt.: Lydia Hayward. (o.a. W.W. Jacobs)

Director: H Manning Haynes

Players: Johnny Butt, Cynthia Hurtagh, John Ashton, Daisy England, Bertie White, Moore Marriott

Head Over Heels (1937)

A nightclub artiste is torn between a nice, steady technician and her handsome but unreliable dance partner.

We're in Paris, or at least the best approximation a British studio can manage, for this tale of showbiz folk and our star is Jessie Matthews. She's at the peak of her career but her usual director/producer Victor Saville has moved on and directing duties have passed to her husband Sonnie Hale on the theory that he'd be best able to cope with her temperament and provide the reassurance she needed to give her best.

After the glories of the Saville years, Head Over Heels represents a step down for Matthews' career. She's matched with Robert Flemyng and Louis Borell, neither of whom have enough star power to spark effectively with Matthews. Borell has the looks to pass himself off as the sort of guy who could wangle a Hollywood contract but Flemyng seems neither interesting enough nor handsome enough to land the girl.  

Plot wise, the to-ings and fro-ings of Matthews' love life just isn't interesting. She has a lovely meet-cute with Flemyng in a market at the start of the film, where his dog first steals her sausages and then her chicken and she thinks it's him doing it, but after that it's all very functional. There's a lack of wit to the script which keeps the action grounded. Even the dog disappears.

Still, we're not here for plot, we're here for singing and dancing. Matthews gets three dance numbers and she's fine in them. In one she floats around in back-lit chiffon, in another she floats around in back-lit chiffon with some men, and in the third she shows off her tap-dancing skills in some hot-pants. All perfectly acceptable, but all filmed in the same night club setting and all from the same angles. She sings a few more songs, but she's either at a piano or a radio mike so... static - and a static Jessie Matthews isn't really what an audience pays for. What the film lacks is a big production number. You wait for it. It just never arrives.

Despite this, Jessie Matthews still charms. She looks fab - lit and dressed to perfection. But it's a one-woman show and her appeal is too gossamery to survive when everyone else around her is so defiantly ordinary. 

Script adapt.: Dwight Taylor, Fred Thompson, Marjorie Gaffney. (o.a. Francois de Crosset) 

Director: Sonnie Hale

Players: Jessie Matthews, Louis Borell, Robert Flemyng, Romney Brent, Buddy Bradley, Eliot Makeham, Helen Whitney Bourne, Paul Leyssac, Edward Carpenter, Leonard Berry, Arthur Denton, Paul Sheridan, David Farrar, Peter Popp, Cot d'Ordan, Molly Weeks, John Barrie, Harold Birch, Marcel Duchamps, Clement Dutton

The Headless Ghost (1959)

Two American students and a French tourist get themselves locked in a castle to investigate reports of spooky activities and attempt to reunite a ghost with its head.

Childish rubbish with a script that would shame Scooby Doo.

Script: Kenneth Langtry, Herman Cohen

Director: Peter Graham Scott

Players: Richard Lyon, Liliane Suttane, David Rose, Clive Revill, Jack Allen, Alexander Archdale, Carl Bernard

Heads We Go (1933)

A model and a rich man fall quickly in love and she decides to cash in her savings to follow him to Deauville. There she is mistaken for a film star, and he might not be all he seems either.

Brisk romantic comedy of misunderstandings. The supporting cast do well, but this is Constance Cummings' film all the way. She's effortlessly glamorous  and watchable.

Script: Victor Kendall

Director: Monty Banks

Players: Constance Cummings, Frank Lawton, Binnie Barnes, Claude Hulbert, Gus McNaughton, Fred Duprez, Ellen Pollock, Peter Godfrey, Tonie Edgar Bruce, Michael Wilding

The Heart of a Man (1959)

Silly story about a sailor promised 1000 if he can earn 100 in a month.

This is most notable as the last film directed by Herbert Wilcox, but it's so unmemorable it doesn't even rate a mention in Wilcox's autobiography.

Script: Jack Trevor Story, Pamela Bower

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Frankie Vaughan, Anne Heywood, Tony Britton, Anthony Newley, Peter Sinclair, George Rose, Harry Fowler, Leslie Mitchell, Kent Walton, Hogan "Kid" Bassey, Harold Kasket, Vanda Hudson

Helen of the Four Gates (1920)

A young girl is at the mercy of her abusive guardian.

This rural melodrama benefits greatly from the photography of the scenery around Heptonstall. Where it suffers is from Hepworth's annoying habit of putting a few blank frames between every cut.   

Script: Blanche MacIntosh. (o.a. Mrs E Holdsworth)

Director: Cecil M Hepworth

Players: Alma Taylor, Gerald Ames, James Carew, Gwynne Herbert, George Dewhurst, John MacAndrews

Hell Below Zero (1954)

Alan Ladd joins the crew of an icebreaker to investigate a death. Lots of action once it gets going in this Hammond Innes adaptation.

Still from Hell Below Zero

Script adapt.: Alec Coppel, Max Troll, Richard Maibaum. (o.a. Hammond Innes)

Director: Mark Robson, (Antarctic scenes) Anthony Bushell

Players: Joan Tetzel, Stanley Baker, Jill Bennett, Basil Sydney, Joseph Tomelty, Niall MacGinnis, Jill Bennett, Peter Dyneley, Susan Rayne, Philo Hauser, John Witty, Genine Graham, Ivan Craig, Paddy Ryan, Cyril Chamberlain, Paul Homer, Edward Hardwicke, Brandon Toomey, Basil Cunard, Fred Griffiths, John Warren, Philip Ray, Paul Connell, Glyn Houston

Hell Drivers (1957)

Britain's best attempt at doing a road movie. How much you rate it depends on how seriously you can take the life or death struggles of a bunch of British lorry drivers. The stars Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan give it all they've got and the supporting cast is close to perfect.

Poster for Hell Drivers

Script: John Kruse, Cy Enfield

Director: Cy Enfield

Players: Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, William Hartnell, Wilfrid Lawson, Sidney James, Jill Ireland, Gordon Jackson, Alfie Bass, David McCallum, Sean Connery, Vera Day, Marjorie Rhodes, Robin Bailey, Marianne Stone

Hell is a City (1959)

... called Manchester. And Stanley Baxter is the police inspector who tries to clean it up. It's a tough thriller, much liked in its day but now looking a bit like every other television cop drama (c.f. Gideon's Day)

Script adapt.: Val Guest (o.a. Maurice Proctor)

Director: Val Guest

Players: John Crawford, Donald Pleasence, Billie Whitelaw, Sarah Branch, Maxine Audley, Joseph Tomelty, George A. Cooper, Geoffrey Frederick, Vanda Godsell, Warren Mitchell

Helter Skelter (1949)

A pretty young heiress is stricken with an attack of the hiccups. Her quest for a cure takes her to a psychiatrist, a haunted house and the corridors of the BBC.

So, you take a delightfully whimsical plot, people it with the cream of hot young comic talent, and what do you get? One of the biggest turkeys in British film history.

At the centre of this disaster is Carol Marsh fresh from her appearance as the young girl in Brighton Rock. There are times when she looks astonishingly lovely, but mostly she looks frumpy and grumpy and utterly incapable of developing any comic rapport with the crazies she meets in the course of the film. Her career never recovered from this debacle.

The other participants emerged from the wreckage with their careers intact; largely, it must be said, because few people actually went to see the film. Most of the comedians were of the demob generation and were just beginning to make names for themselves. This gives Helter Skelter some historical interest. Some of the comics already have their comedy personas established, such as Harry Secombe and Jimmy Edwards; others (particularly Jon Pertwee, in the middle of his "Danny Kaye tribute act" phase) have yet to work out where their talents lie.

The most successful of the acts on show is Terry-Thomas. He does a great sketch as a harassed radio presented trying to keep his cool while everything goes wrong about him.

Best of all is an extract from Would You Believe It!, Walter Forde's 1929 silent film. Even projected at the wrong speed and "helped" by wacky sound effects, it still wipes the floor with the modern comedy on show here.

Helter Skelter is curiously out of its time. It's packed full of gag appearances, tricksy editing, slo-mo sequences - just about anything to up the wackiness quota. It feels like a 60s comedy fifteen years too early. And just like so many of those star-packed 60s comedies, it dies on its arse.

Script: Patrick Campbell, Jan Read, Gerard Bryant

Director: Ralph Thomas

Players: David Tomlinson, Mervyn Johns, Peter Hammond, Richard Hearne, Peter Haddon, Geoffrey Sumner, Henry Kendall, Zena Marshall, Patricia Raine, Colin Gordon, Judith Furze, Wilfrid Hyde White, Danny Green, Sandra Dorne, James Hayter, Edmund Willard, Bill Fraser, Michael Medwin, Kenneth Griffith, George Benson, Wally Patch, Andrew Crawford, Jacques Brown, Robert Lamouret, Shirl Conway, Glynis Johns, Valentine Dyall, Dennis Price

Henry V (1944)

Laurence Olivier finally cracked the problem of how to film Shakespeare with this wonderfully imaginative Technicolor epic. Moving effortlessly from the tiny stage of the Globe to the fields of Flanders this patriotic spectacle was just what the country needed during WWII.

Script adapt.: Laurence Olivier, Alan Dent. (o.a. William Shakespeare)

Director: Laurence Olivier

Players: Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Esmond Knight, Renee Asherson, Leo Genn, Ralph Truman, Jimmy Hanley, John Laurie, Niall MacGinnis, Gorge Robey, Roy Emerton, Griffith Jones, Harcourt Williams, Ivy St Hellier, Max Adrian, Francis Lister, Valentine Dyall, George Cole, Felix Aylmer, Robert Helpman, Freda Jackson, Frederick Cooper

Her First Affaire (1932) 

A teenager falls for a famous novelist.

Ida Lupino makes her debut and shows why she was quickly snapped up by Hollywood.

Script: Dion Titheradge, Brock Williams

Director: Allan Dwan

Players: George Curzon, Diana Napier, Arnold Riches, Harry Tate, Muriel Aked, Kenneth Kove, Helen Haye, Roland Culver, Melville Gideon 

Her Last Affaire (1935)

Hugh Williams gets mixed up in the death of a politician's wife.

Script adapt.: Ian Dalrymple. (o.a. Walter Ellis)

Director: Michael Powell

Players: Viola Keats, Francis L. Sullivan, Sophie Stewart, Felix Aylmer, Cecil Parker, John Laurie, Eliot Makeham, Googie Withers, Shayle Gardner, Gerrard Tyrell, Henry Caine 

Here Come the Huggetts (1948)

Tarty cousin Diana Dors disrupts the life of archetypal British family - the Huggetts.

After the success of Holiday Camp the Huggetts get their own (short-lived) film series.

Still from Here Come the HuggettsPressbook for Here Come the Huggetts

Script: Mabel and Denis Constanduros, Muriel and Sydney Box

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Jane Hylton, Susan Shaw, Petula Clark, Jimmy Hanley, David Tomlinson, Peter Hammond, John Blyth, Amy Veness, Clive Moreton, Maurice Denham, Doris Hare, Dandy Nichols, Hal Osmond, Esma Cannon

Here Comes the Sun (1945)

Bud Flanagan's tamperings with the script of his new film is the excuse for a series of wild adventures. Bud insists they abandon the desert picture and do the story he's made up. He's a tipster on a newspaper whose old boss has just died leaving all his money to a crook. Naturally, the will's fake. Chesney Allen is Bud's attorney, brought in when Bud is framed by the new boss to keep him quiet. He also owns a newspaper (The Sun) and Bud goes to work for it incognito when he accidentally breaks out of prison.

This is the last proper film for the duo of Flanagan and Allen, though they were re-united for one nostalgic scene in Life is a Circus and played themselves briefly in the reconstruction of Dunkirk in the late fifties. It's not a bad one to go out on but it's not their best by a long chalk.

Script: Geoffrey Orme, Bud Flanagan, Reginald Purdell

Director: John Baxter

Players: Elsa Tee, Dick Francis, Roddy Hughes, Edie Martin, "Peter" (Peter Artemus)