Archive S

The Square Peg (1958)

WWII, and a road mender is parachuted behind enemy lines. Good job he's the double of a high ranking Nazi! 

Okay vehicle for Norman Wisdom. The plot is rubbish but Hattie Jacques is wonderful as a bit of Teutonic tottie.

Script: Jack Davies, Henry Blyth, Norman Wisdom, Eddie Leslie

Director: John Paddy Carstairs

Players: Edward Chapman, Honor Blackman, Campbell Singer, Brian Worth, Terence Alexander, John Warwick, Arnold Bell, Eddie Leslie, André Maranne, Frank Williams, Oliver Reed, Victor Beaumont, Martin Boddey, Harold Goodwin

Squibs (1935)

The developing romance between a cockney flower girl and the local bobby is disrupted by the criminal activities of her father.

Betty Balfour stars in a remake of her biggest silent hit. It's a great production and everyone pulls their weight so it's hard to see how it failed to be a hit, other than the fact that when your time is over, it's over.

Script.: Michale Hogan, H. Fowler Mear

Director: Henry Edwards

 Players: Betty Balfour, Stanley Holloway, Gordon Harker, Margaret Yarde, Morris Harvey, Michael Shepley, Drusilla Wills, O.B. Clarence, Ronald Shiner, Thomas Weguelin

Stage Fright (1950)

Glamorous Marlene Dietrich is the prime suspect as far as Jane Wyman is concerned when Dietrich's husband is found dead. So she goes undercover to prove it.

It was a disappointment when it first came out, but Hitchcock's thriller has a lot going for it - not least Dietrich doing The Laziest Girl in Town and La Vie En Rose.

Poster for Stage Fright

Script adapt.: Whitfield Cook, Alma Reville, James Bridie. (o.a. Selwyn Jepson)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: Richard Todd, Michael Wilding, Alastair Sim, Sybil Thorndike, Kay Walsh, Miles Malleson, Joyce Grenfell, Hector MacGregor, Andre Morell, Patricia Hitchcock, Cyril Chamberlain, Helen Goss, Everley Gregg, Irene Handl, Arthur Howard, Lionel Jeffries

A Star Fell From Heaven (1936)

When a musicals star of loses his voice and is unable to record the soundtrack to his latest film, a substitute is used.

Jolly timewaster starring Joseph Schmidt as the golden-voiced substitute.

Script: Marjorie Deans, Dudley Leslie, Jack Davies, Gerald Elliott, Valu Guest, Geoffrey Kerr

Director: Paul Morsbach

Players: Joseph Schmidt, Florine McKinney, Billy Milton, W.H. Berry, Steven Geray, Judy Kelly, George Graves, C. Denier Warren, Iris Hoey, Bruce Lister, Eliot Makeham, Hindle Edgar, Aubrey Mallalieu

The Stars Look Down (1939)

Michael Redgrave is the miner's son who loses touch with his roots when he goes to university. Margaret Lockwood is the flighty piece he marries.

Carol Reed's film is probably the best stab at social realism in 30s cinema. It now seems naïve but the star power sees it through.

Script adapt.: J.B. Williams, (o.a.) A.J. Cronin

Director: Carol Reed

Players: Edward Rigby, Emlyn Williams, Nancy Price, Allan Jeayes, Cecil Parker, Linden Travers, Milton Rosmer, George Carney, Ivor Bernard, Olga Lindo, Desmond Tester, David Markham, Aubrey Mallalieu, Kynaston Reeves, Bernard Miles

The Steel Key (1953)

The formula for a new steel process is stolen and of the two scientists working on it, one is dead and the other missing. Enter adventurer Johnny O'Flynne to solve the mystery.

Terence Morgan stars as the sort of half-crook hero British pulp loved to portray: a two-fisted tough guy irresistible to women. As a film, it's just standard B-movie nonsense. Only a couple of moments with Esma Cannon and Sam Kydd respectively provide anything to remember.     

Script: John Gilling, Roy Chanslor

Director: Robert S Baker

Players: Terence Morgan, Joan Rice, Esmond Knight, Dianne Foster, Raymond Lovell, Hector Ross, Arthur Lovegrove, Mark Baker, Colin Tapley, Mary Jones, Roger Maxwell, Sam Kydd, Esma Cannon

Stock Car (1955)

A crook has his eye on a garage. Can its current owner raise enough money to pay off the mortgage before the due date? Perhaps the prize money on offer to the winner of a stock car race could help.  

It was a given in the world of British B movies that 50s Britain was a crime-ridden place, too exhausted by the war to produce its own heroes capable of cleaning up the town. Luckily, transatlantic flight was a reality and there was a steady stream of heroes willing to cross the Atlantic to do our cleaning up for us. In Stock Car we have Canadian Paul Carpenter ready to lend a helping hand with his driving skills to foil the baddies.

Every hero must have his choice of beautiful women.  Carpenter has good girl Rona Anderson as the nurse/garage owner and bad girl Susan Shaw as the villain's occasional bit of fluff. Anderson's wasted in a nothing part but Shaw makes her role by far the most interesting character in the film. She's every inch the dream of 50s consumerism from her showy Cadillac right down to the fascinating little handbag she carries formed in the shape of a pair of bongo drums.   

Chief villain is Paul Whitsun-Jones as the lardy receiver of stolen goods and would-be garage owner. He's aided/hindered by Harry Fowler as the accident-prone thief and part-time stock car driver who gives his usual cheery cockney performance.

Lovers of 50s kitsch will also appreciate the appearance of Sabrina as a spectacularly dim beauty. She made her name as a hostess on TV variety show Before Your Very Eyes as a British Jayne Mansfield. Like Mansfield, her main assets were her breasts and it wouldn't be inaccurate to suggest that they give a more animated performance here than the rest of her. She's really cast for marquee value to entice the teenage lads who weren't already hooked at the mention of stock car racing.

It's difficult for me to judge the racing scenes. Cars bore me so I'm not the target audience. However, they do look suitable lethal. Mind you, so did Susan Shaw's Cadillac with its non-safety glass windscreen and lack of seat belts. The fans in the stands scream and gasp at all the right moments, but since they appear to be entirely composed of drama school students supplementing their grant with a day's extra work on a film set that's not surprising.

Stock Car was a good time-filler in its day and it still works as that. 

Script: A.R. Rawlinson, Victor Lyndon

Director: Wolf Rilla

Players: Robert Rietty, Alma Taylor, Patrick Jordan, Lorrae Desmond, Eve Raymond, Frank Thornton, Doreen Locke, Kim Parker, Fraser Hines, Reginald Barrett, Ann Croft

Stolen Face (1952)

When a philanthropic plastic surgeon loses the woman he loves, he decides to convert one of his patients into the image of his lost love. However, the patient soon realises she's just a toy. 

Given the director, the studio and the subject matter one could reasonably expect an enjoyably bad horror film. However as soon as the titles start, with its classical piano music and a portrait of a two-faced woman in the background looking remarkably like Ann Todd, it's immediately obvious that what the makers were striving for was a clone of The Seventh Veil.

With Stolen Face, Hammer stepped up its attempt to break into the US market by casting not one but two fading Hollywood stars. The lucky actors here were Paul Henreid and Lizabeth Scott. Henreid had already appeared in British movies on his way from Europe to Hollywood before the war, while for Scott it was her first appearance outside the US.

For once, the money spent on the old stars was probably worth while. Henreid is competent enough, though he's a tad too laid back for the full mad scientist bit. Scott was always a little cold in her Hollywood career so it comes as a surprise how well she copes with the original woman, coming across as a version of June Allyson. She manages the growing viciousness of slutty version two, too. However, it's Mary Mackenzie as the real version two who impresses the most despite her short screen time.

Stolen Face is competent, but it's not much fun. Maybe times had changed since The Seventh Veil and there was no room in 50s cinema for the strain of madness which could have lifted Stolen Face into kitsch heaven.

Script: Martin Berkeley, Richard Landau

Director: Terence Fisher

Players: André Morell, John Wood, Mary Mackenzie, Arnold Ridley, Susan Stephen, Cyril Smith, Diana Beaumont, Terence O'Regan, Russell Napier, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Everley Gregg, Alexis France, John Bull, Richard Wattis, Dorothy Bramhall, Janet Burnell, Grace Gavin, William Murray, John Warren, Anna Turner, Hal Osmond, Philip Vickers, James Valentine, Howard Douglas, Brookes Turner, Bartlett Mullins, Frank Hawkins

Storm in a Teacup (1937)

When a widow can't pay her dog licence, the local Provost orders the dog be destroyed. Enter fearless reporter Rex Harrison to create a big human interest story. 

Script adapt.: Ian Dalrymple, Donald Bull (o.a. James Bridie, Bruno Frank)

Director: Victor Saville

Players: Rex Harrison, Vivien Leigh, Cecil Parker, Sara Allgood, Ursula Jeans, Gus McNaughton, Arthur Wontner, Edgar K. Bruce, Robert Hale, Quinton McPherson, Eliot Makeham, Ivor Barnard, W.G. Fay, Arthur Seaton, Cyril Smith, George Pughe, Cecil Mannering, Scruffy the dog

Storm over the Nile (1955)

It's The Four Feathers again, not so much a remake as a re-mount: with the same director, same script and much of the same footage. Charisma-free Anthony Steel is the man given the white feather treatment for cowardice, Laurence Harvey gets the Ralph Richardson role, and Mary Ure is the fickle fiancée. Okay, but wait for the original to come around again.

Still from the set of Storm Over the Nile

Script adapt.: R. C. Sheriff, Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis. (o.a. A. E. W. Mason)

Director: Terence Young, Zoltan Korda

Players: Ronald Lewis, Ian Carmichael, James Robertson Justice, Geoffrey Keen, Michael Horden, Christopher Lee, Sam Kydd   

The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953)

Maurice Evans and Robert Morley take on the roles of the bickering musical partnership in this careful biopic from Launder and Gilliat. It's all a bit too careful to really hit the heights but it looks good and the music's grand.

Still from The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan

Script adapt.: Sidney Gilliat, (o.a.) Leslie Brady.

Director: Sidney Gilliat

Players: Peter Finch, Eileen Herlie, Martyn Green, Dinah Sheridan, Isabel Dean, Wilfrid Hyde White, Muriel Aked, Michael Ripper, Bernadette O'Farrell, Ann Hanslip, Eric Berry, Leonard Sachs, Charlotte Mitchell

The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952)

Chirpy-enough Disney re-telling of the Sherwood forest story with Richard Todd as Robin and Peter Finch as the Sheriff.

Script: Lawrence E. Watkin

Director: Ken Annakin, Alex Bryce

Players: Joan Rice, Hubert Gregg, James Hayter, James Robertson Justice, Martita Hunt, Elton Hayes, Bill Owen, Patrick Barr, Michael Horden, Reginald Tate