Archive H

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Sherlock Holmes gets the Hammer treatment ("It's ten times the terror in Technicolor!"). Peter Cushing makes a fair Holmes though the production looks cheap and the hound is a bit disappointing.

Poster for The Hound of the Baskervilles

Script adapt.: Peter Bryan (o.a. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Director: Terence Fisher

Players: Christopher Lee, Andre Morell, David Oxley, Miles Malleson, Francis de Wolfe, Ewen Solon, John le Mesurier, Sam Kydd, Helen Goss 

Hour of Decision (1957)

A reporter covering the murder of a gossip columnist discovers the mystery woman being sought in connection with the crime is his own wife. He resolves to cover her trail while searching for the real murderer.  

Watchable whodunit with a dull lead but lots of glimpses of 50s London to compensate.

Script: Norman Hudis

Director: C. Pennington Richards

Players: Jeff Morrow, Hazel Court, Mary Laura Wood, Lionel Jeffries, Anthony Dawson, Carl Bernard, Vanda Godsell, Alan Gifford, Robert Sanson, Garrard Green, Margaret Allworthy, Richard Shaw, Marne Maitland, Anthony Snell, Michael Balfour

The House in the Woods (1957)

An author and his wife take an isolated cottage, but begin to suspect their landlord has an ulterior motive for letting the place to them.

Minimalist thriller which is short enough not to wear out its welcome.

Script adapt.: Michael Munden. (o.a. Walter C Brown)

Director: Michael Munden

Players: Patricia Roc, Ronald Howard, Michael Gough, Andrea troubridge, Bill Shine, Norah Hammond, Tony Doonan, Leigh Crutchley, Geoffrey Goodhart

House of Blackmail (1953)

A blackmailer gets done in and there's a houseful of suspects on hand for the script to sort through. Maurice Elvey directs like he's past caring.

Script: Allan Mackinnon

Director: Maurice Elvey

Players: William Sylvester, Mary Germaine, Alexander Gauge, John Arnatt, Denis Shaw, Ingeborg Wells, Patricia Owens

House of Darkness (1948)

A gifted pianist is determined to get the family house from his stepbrother by whatever means necessary.

Curious psychodrama most notable for an early role for Laurence Harvey who seems determined to get a lifetime of scenery-chewing into one film. The tale is bookended by scenes of George Melachrino telling this spooky story to a director.

Script adapt.: John Gilling, Robin Estridge. (o.a. Betty Davies)

Director: Oswald Morris

Players: Laurence Harvey,Lesley Brook, Lesley Osmond, John Stuart, Alexander Archdale, Henry Oscar, George Melachrino 

House of Secrets (1956)

Michael Craig is the good guy who, as a double of a forger, is sent undercover.  

Script adapt.: Robert Buckner, Bryan Forbes. (o.a. Sterling Joel)

Director: Guy Green

Players: Brenda de Banzie, Julia Anall, Barbara Bates, David Kossoff, Geoffrey Keen, Gerard Oury, Anton Diffring, Eric Pohlmann

The House of Silence (1937)

A reporter investigates a haunted house and finds the key to a murder mystery.

Standard quota-quickie thriller.

Script: Paul White

Director: George King

Players: Tom Helmore, Terence de Marney, Jenny Laird, Roddy Hughes, D.J. Williams, Isobel Scaife, Howard Douglas, Dorothy Vernon, Billy Bray

Housemaster (1938)

When the housemaster at a posh boarding school gets lumbered with looking after three young girls, his life and the lives of the pupils are disrupted.

Housemaster is just one in a depressingly-long line of British films set in private schools. Occasionally an If or a Goodbye Mr Chips raises itself above the mass to say something different or get the genre so dead right it's compelling viewing, but Housemaster just treads the same old ground. Even the addition of three young girls can't lift it out of the ordinary.

Despite the arrival of the women, the focus of the film is on the housemaster himself and his attempt to keep to tradition despite the eagerness of the new headmaster to make changes. Otto Kruger plays him with an air of depression and a transatlantic accent that does more to hint at a backstory for the character than the script allows. It's a decent-enough performance but not one that justifies the star focus.

None of the players makes much of an impression. The girls are remarkably sexless despite two of them courting a teacher and an over-aged schoolboy. Apart from the equally-sexless objects of their affections and the brother of the third girl the pupils scarcely notice they are there and most seem more interested in their car than their figures. It was truly a more innocent age.

A less innocent aspect of the age is its emphasis on corporal punishment. The film opens with Kruger giving a child a beating. There's no condemnation of this, indeed a theme running through the film is spare the rod and spoil the child. The teacher courting one of the girls finally becomes effective by losing his rag and caning a misbehaving child. Child abuse as a rite of passage is not a theme that plays well these days.

Ultimately Housemaster is just another run-of-the-mill film that struggles to make an impression. 

Script adapt.: Dudley Leslie, Elizabeth Meehan. (o.a. Ian Hay)

Director: Herbert Brenon

Players: Otto Kruger, Diana Churchill, Joyce Barbour, René Ray, Phillips Holmes, Kynaston Reeves, Cecil Parker, Walter Hudd, John Wood, Henry Hepworth, Michael Shipley, Jimmy Hanley, Rosamund Burnes, Lawrence Kitchen

Housing Problems (1935) Available on the Land of Promise DVD set

The living conditions of the poor are alleviated by slum clearance and the construction of new homes.

The British Commercial Gas Association, as part of its PR campaign to persuade the nation that gas wasn't an outdated fuel, sponsored a number of short films in the 1930s. Few were as significant as Housing Problems, for its makers filmed real people talking about their own lives and problems. Looking directly at the camera and standing in their own homes, Mr Norwood, Mrs Hill and others explain what they have to put up with.

Hundreds of them, every direction. And not small ones, but large ones, just like beetles. You couldn't discern whether they were beetles or what, but they were bugs.

Looked at today, the stars seem awkward and stilted. Most appear to be speaking pre-prepared lines and their Cockney chipperness is easy to mock. What's not so easy to mock are their living conditions. Their homelife is a constant battle against rats, bugs and damp. Some of their accommodation is downright unsafe and it's a wonder how some of the houses remained standing.

Luckily, slum clearance is on the way with lovely new houses and flats for the people. To modern eyes, the flats look like the slums of the future but that's unkind. They're certainly a vast improvement on what went before and the tenants seem very happy.

Many of the ambitious plans for slum clearance would be disrupted by the coming of World War II. And some of the plans would be helped by Hitler's bombs finally flattening the shored-up hovels. 

The vox pop is now a staple of documentaries but at the time this was revolutionary. For all the worthy intentions of 30s documentary makers, working-class people were firmly in the seen-but-not-heard category. Admired as a group, but not allowed to speak for themselves. Housing Problems was the start of a new era in film making. Of course, their words were still filtered through the work of middle-class film makers, and that's largely still true today, but it was a step forward. And it still connects with audiences today.

Director: Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey

Hue and Cry (1947)

When a gang of kids suss that their weekly comic, The Trump, is being used by crooks for coded communication, they decide to round up the villains.

The synopsis of Hue and Cry makes it sound like one of those dire Children's Film Foundation efforts forced onto a generation of Saturday morning cinemagoers. However, this is the original next to which all imitations pale. It's also the very first Ealing Comedy.

Ealing as a film studio had made comedies previously, but this is the one that marks The Ealing Comedy as a recognisable entity. Hue and Cry is untypical of the genre - Alastair Sim is the only middle-class character in it, it's got lots of kids, and it mainly avoids the studio for the bombed-out ruins of London. It also has no pretensions to being satirical - indeed it's not really much of a comedy, more a light thriller.

What makes it an Ealing Comedy are its credits (director Charles Crichton, script T.E.B. Clarke, producer Michael Balcon), its determination to be totally British, its lack of sentimentality and the fact that it's gloriously entertaining.

Much of the entertainment comes from the vigour of the young performers. Of the gang only Harry Fowler and Joan Dowling would go on to make much of a career in cinema, but they're all good. The acting isn't exactly naturalistic, but it's as close as the conventions of the time would allow. Of the grown ups, Alastair Sim goes way over the top as the cowardly hack, but he's allowed to because he's brilliant.

It's full of memorable moments particularly in the climax with what seems to be every child in London running through the rubble to capture the crooks. The joyous nature of these scenes are contrasted with the creepy atmosphere of a bombed-out warehouse where Harry Fowler is menaced by the chief villain. 

It's a picture that has improved with age, thanks to the location shooting. The ruins of London's docklands provides a spectacular backdrop to the action. The more "ordinary" backgrounds also impress. This is a world in which kids work in fruit markets or printing offices, get on buses, hang about on street corners. It's normal life as it was sixty-odd years ago.

Still from Hue and CryStill from Hue and Cry

Script: T.E.B. Clarke

Director: Charles Crichton

Players: Jack Warner, Valerie White, Jack Lambert, Vida Hope, Frederick Piper, Gerald Fox, Grace Arnold, Douglas Barr, Stanley Escane, Ian Dawson, Paul Demel, Bruce Belfrage, Joey Carr, Robin Hughes, Howard Douglas, Heather Delane, David Simpson, Albert Hughes, John Hudson, David Knox, Jeffrey Sirett, James Crabbe, Alec Finter, Arthur Denton

The Huggetts Abroad (1949)

The family decide to emigrate but, after getting entangled in a smuggling operation, change their minds and go home.

End of the line for the Huggetts.

The cast pose for The Huggetts AbroadPressbook for The Huggetts Abroad

Script: Mabel and Denis Constanduros, Ted Willis, Gerard Bryant 

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Susan Shaw, Petula Clark, Jimmy Hanley, Dinah Sheridan, Peter Hammond, Hugh McDermott, Amy Veness, John Blythe, Esma Cannon, Everley Gregg, Brian Oulton, Olaf Pooley, Martin Millar, Meinhart Maur, Philo Hauser, Peter Illing, Frith Banbury, Marcel Poncin, Ferdy Mayne

Hungry Hill (1946)

Two families feud through the generations in this Margaret Lockwood star vehicle.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Daphne du Maurier, Terence Young, Francis Crowdy

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: Dennis Price, Cecil Parker, Dermot Walsh, Michael Denison, Eileen Crowe. Peter Murray, Eileen Herlie, Jean Simmons, Siobhan McKenna, James Robertson Justice, Guy Rolfe 

Hunted (1952)

Dirk Bogarde is the killer who goes on the run with the child who can shop him. Bogarde and director Charles Crichton cut through the clichés and the sentiment to create a fine film.

Still from Hunted

Script: Jack Whittingham

Director: Charles Crichton

Players: Jon Whiteley, Kay Walsh, Elizabeth Sellars, Frederick Piper, Julian Somers, Jane Aird, Jack Stewart, Geoffrey Keen