Archive O

Obsession (1948)

A middle-aged cuckold decides to murder his wife's lover. Robert Newton is the man obsessed and gives it all he's got. 

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Alec Coppel

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Players: Sally Gray, Naunton Wayne, Olga Lindo, Ronald Adam, Phil Brown, James Harcourt, Allan Jeayes, Russell Waters, Michael Balfour, Betty Cooper, Roddy Hughes, Lionel Watts, Stanley Baker 

The October Man (1947)

John Mills is the loner driven close to suicide by being falsely accused of murder. Joan Greenwood is the woman who tries to save him from himself and the police.

This is one of the great unsung gems of British cinema. It was Roy Ward Baker's first directing assignment and he put everything he had into it. He gets great performances from the leads and truly memorable images from photographer Erwin Hillier.

Pressbook for The October Man

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Eric Ambler

Director: Roy Baker

Players: Kay Walsh, Joyce Carey, Felix Aylmer, Edward Chapman, Catherine Lacey, Patrick Holt, Frederick Piper, Adrienne Allen, John Salew, John Boxer, George Woodbridge, James Hayter, Juliet Mills

Odd Man Out (1946)

British cinema largely ignored the problems of Northern Ireland but on the rare occasions it did tackle the subject the star was usually on the IRA side if only temporarily (I See A Dark Stranger, The Crying Game). This time it's James Mason's turn. He is shot as he escapes from prison and gets separated from his colleagues. He spends the rest of the day trying to get to the docks, meeting the bizarre inhabitants of Belfast on the way. As his life bleeds away, the film gets more surreal.

It's a classic of British cinema and one of the rare films that combine social realism with fantasy.

Still from Odd Man OutPoster for Odd Man Out

Script adapt.: (o.a.) F.L. Green, R.C. Sherriff

Director: Carol Reed

Players: Robert Newton, Kathleen Ryan, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Cyril Cusack, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Dan O'Herlihy, Kitty Kirwan, Eddie Byrne, Dora Bryan 

Odette (1950)

Anna Neagle's another heroine, this time going underground in France against the Nazis. Not her best film but watchable and she gets to show that she's not as fragile as she looks.

Script adapt.: Warren Chetham Strode. (o.a. Jerrard Tickle)

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Trevor Howard, Marius Goring, Peter Ustinov, Bernard Lee, Alfred Shieske 

Off the Dole (1935)

A young man, who clearly has learning difficulties, has his unemployment benefits withdrawn and is forced to find work.

No, it's not the latest harrowing account of modern Britain from Ken Loach - it's a George Formby film, one of his earliest, and the last before Basic Dean got his hands on him and molded him into a major film star. Formby still has the remnants of his John-Willie persona - priest's hat, suit too tight - but he's clearly ready to move on from that. Indeed, when he dons an evening suit for the final scene he looks surprisingly presentable.

The plot is a thin one. George gets a job almost immediately as a detective and the rest of the film is a series of loosely-connected excuses for sketches that appear to have been tried and tested on the halls for generations. There is a rather perfunctory story of a young girl knocked over by a young man who then tries to release her from the clutches of her violent stepfather, but no one's interested in that one. It's the jokes that count.

See George as the least-convincing Master of Disguise ever. See George try to get into a nudist colony. And of course, see George play his ukulele. He gets six songs in this, with the pick of the bunch being With My Little Ukulele in My Hand.

Dan Young joins Formby for the fun. He's an eccentric comic who would find his cinematic niche supporting Frank Randle in the Somewhere... series of comedies. Here he provides at least as many laughs as the star. Also on board is the legendary Beryl Formby in her second and last film appearance.

Off the Dole is an improvement on Formby's first, Boots! Boots!, the massive success of which allowed Mancunian studios to up the budget of this one. It's still clearly not a super production but at least it doesn't look like it was filmed in someone's garage.

Script: Arthur Mertz, George Formby

Director: Arthur Mertz

Players: George Formby, Dan Young, Constance Shotter, Clifford McLaglen, Beryl (Formby), Tully Comber, Wally Patch, James Plant, Stan Pell, Stan Little, The Twilight Blondes, Arthur L Ward and His Band, The Boy Choristers, The London Babes

Oh, Boy! (1938)

A chemist tries to concoct a potion to bring out the cavemen in himself, but it makes him turn into a child.

Simple-minded comedy that flounders when the plot about robbing the Tower of London kicks in.

Script: Dudley Leslie

Director: Albert de Courville

Players: Albert Burdon, Mary Lawson, Bernard Nedell, Robert Cochran, Edmon Ryan, Maire O'Neill, Syd Walker, Charles Carson, Jerry Verno, John Wood, Billy Milton, Boris Ranevsky, Edmund Dalby

Oh Daddy! (1935)

Leslie Henson was a big star in the theatre but never really clicked on screen. This comedy was the last attempt at making him a movie star. He plays a social reformer who gets mixed up with a showgirl. He's good enough, but Robertson Hare shows him how it really should be done.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Austin Melford

Director: Graham Cutts, Austin Melford

Players: Frances Day, Barry Hare, Marie Lohr, Alfred Drayton,  

Oh, Mr Porter! (1937)

They say that true love is when the faults of the loved one only serve to increase their charm. Those who aren't in love just can't understand the appeal. I love "Oh, Mr Porter!".

Will Hay's most perfect comedy is one of the glories of British cinema. I can't praise it enough. Its timing is slow for modern tastes (like most old films) and it's a blatant rip-off of The Ghost Train - who cares? From Hay's first appearance as the wheeltapper who has no idea why he taps wheels ("If it goes clang, I know the wheel's still there") to the death of Gladstone - it's a delight from beginning to end.

After he messes up an unveiling ceremony, William Porter is sent by his brother-in-law to be stationmaster of Buggleskelly station - a place so out of the way  he can't possibly do any damage. However, since he's played by Will Hay, of course he can.

Buggleskelly has a reputation - stationmasters go mad or disappear altogether. He arrives with his presentation clock to see the clocks of his predecessors laid out like tombstones on the waiting room mantelpiece. His assistants turn out to be Harbottle and Albert (Moore Marriott and Graham Moffat) who make a living by nicking freight from the railway company. With British comedy's dream team assembled, the fun can really start.

Mr Porter decides to put the station on the map. Since Harbottle and Albert have sold a lot of tickets to the locals for trains that don't exist, he decides to put on an excursion train and swap the duff tickets for a day in Connemara. His first effort at getting a train organised ends with the station's entire stock of carriages being shunted over a cliff. On the eve of the next excursion he sells all the tickets to a man representing the local football team (Buggleskelly Wednesday). Only the team doesn't exist and the train disappears.

Could this be connected with the windmill on the hill and the legend of the ghostly miller who haunts it? Of course it could!

Porter, Harbottle and Albert use Gladstone, the station's ancient engine, to follow the route of the missing train and uncover a gun-running operation. After a mad chase through the old mill our heroes escape from the smugglers. There then follows a great train sequence as they are pursued along the railway lines of Northern Ireland unable to stop in case they are shot, all the time heading for the dead end of Belfast station.

A plot summary doesn't do the film justice, and listing the script's best lines ("The next train's gone", "Got your clock?", "You're wasting your time", "I'm their centre forward") is baffling if you haven't already seen it. It's great on video but the best way to see it is in a packed cinema where the pacing comes out as it was meant to.

Still from Oh, Mr Porter!

Script: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, J.O.C. Orton

Director: Marcel Varnel

Players: Sebastian Smith, Agnes Laughlan, Dennis Wyndham, Percy Walsh, Dave O'Toole, Frederick Piper

Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955)

In post-war Vienna a fixer causes mischief in the romantic life of two allied officers.

Well it seemed like a good idea on paper: the people who brought you The Red Shoes updating a well-loved light opera (Die Fledermaus) and giving it a modern twist, with added Technicolor and 'Scope. It wasn't.

The first problem is that few actors have the vocal ability to tackle an opera score. That's solved by having most of them lip-sync to proper singers. However, some of performers insisted on giving it a go and while Anthony Quale does well enough with his bit (the heavy Russian accent disguising his limitations), Michael Redgrave would have been better advised to hand the singing duties over to a pro. Even those who did get the pros in suffer from lip-synching issues and it's impossible to imagine the voice that accompanies Dennis Price coming out of his frame.

The next problem is 'Scope, and that was even harder to get over. The rage for widescreen in the mid-50s left film-makers struggling to adapt to its demands. Filling a long expanse of screen was a challenge to artists who'd used the Academy ratio all their working lives and had few examples from their peers to follow. Big landscapes and huge crowd scenes were natural subjects for 'Scope but studio-based fluff like this was not a natural fit. The camera mostly just sits there, as in the early days of sound, watching the action as if from the front row of the stalls.

It starts off promisingly but it soon becomes apparent that the issues will not be overcome and this soufflé is not going to rise. As the performers flap about inconsequentially we're left looking at the gorgeous sets provided by Hein Heckroth and photographed beautifully by Christopher Challis. Only near the end does the film come alive when Anton Walbrook addresses the audience and tells them (and the Allies dividing Vienna) to go home. It's a startlingly special moment in a film that should have delivered a lot more of them. 

Directed, Produced and Scripted: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressurger from an opera by Johann Strauss

Players: Anton Walbrook, Michael Redgrave, Ludmilla Tcherina, Mel Ferrer, Dennis Price, Anthony Quayle, Anneliese Rothenberger, Oska Sima, Richard Marner, Olga Lowe, Nicholas Bruce, Ray Buckingham, Jill Ireland. Voices (Sari Barabas, Alexander Young, Denis Dowling, Walter Berry) 

Okay for Sound (1937)

Oi! It's the Crazy Gang in a loose collection of corny old gags and sketches strung together by the mere wisp of a plot. Who could ask for anything more?

The plot is pretty basic. Our heroes are hired as extras by the failing Goldberger Studios, but get mistaken for a group of financiers who might rescue the studio. They are given carte blanche to do what they want and run amok. When the mistake is discovered they are accused of fraud but the mad film they were working on becomes a huge hit and all is forgiven.

But the plot isn't the point. It's just an excuse to present a collection of the gang's finest sketches honed to perfection in front of many sell-out audiences. Okay for Sound was first produced at the London Palladium and brought together three comedy duos: Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox. They'd all appeared in films before but this was the first time they were together in a feature.

Script: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest

Director: Marcel Varnel

Players: Enid Stamp-Taylor, Fred Duprez, Graham Moffat, Meinhart Maur, H.F. Maltby