Archive V

Valley of Eagles (1951)

A Swedish scientist realises his new invention has been stolen by his wife and her lover and goes in pursuit.

Valley of Eagles is virtually forgotten today and it didn't make much of an impact at the time of its release either. It's the sort of basic B-movie thriller that littered 1950s British cinema, with one exception - the extensive Swedish location work. The story begins in Stockholm, moves to a country manor and then takes off on an epic journey through the snowy wastes of Lapland.

It comes as quite a shock to see the likes of Jack Warner and John McCallum battling through snow or herding reindeer without the help of back projection and lashes of Styrofoam. It's a shock that doesn't quite pay off. Jack Warner looks out of place with his familiar Cockney Copper act transplanted to Stockholm. And it would take more than a pair of Clark Kent glasses and a couple of grey streaks to make a convincing scientist out of McCallum so his encounter with the realities of herding life doesn't have the dramatic impact it needs.

Director Terence Young does well with the locations, aided by Harry Waxman's photography but he can't lift his script sufficiently to sustain an audience's interest in the characters' dilemmas. The conflict between the scientist's Sweden and the herders' is clearly written by someone with no clear conception of either. For instance, the village at the centre of the Valley of Eagles has lived under the threat of an avalanche for so long they've developed a way of hunting with tame eagles rather than shotguns which might make enough noise to set off the avalanche. Naturally, at the climax a shot rings out and tons of snow head for the village. Mercifully, the snow misses and the villagers realise they don't need to live in fear because the shape of the terrain will always direct the flow of snow away from them. Are we really meant to believe it's taken them generations to twig that?

By the end of the film McCallum's character has lost interest in his wife and doesn't even seem that bothered about the new invention, and so the emotional journey peters out. This means that the ending, despite the avalanche, is anti-climactic. There's quite a European sensibility to that, but it sits uneasily in a film in which the great highlight is a flock of eagles attacking a wolf pack. By sitting between a character study and a Boys'-own adventure the film pleases neither type of audience. 

Script: Terence Young

Director: Terence Young

Players: Nadia Gray, Mary Laura Wood, Anthony Dawson, Norman MacOwan, Martin Boddey, Christopher Lee, Ewen Solon, Alfred Maurstad, Niama Wiwstrand, George Willoughby, Peter Blitz, Sarah Crawford, Molly Warner, Triliot Billqvist, Gosta Cederlund, Sten Lindgren, Kurt Sundstrom, Holger Kax 

Valley of Song (1952)

Two old friends fall out over which of them should sing contralto in an amateur production of The Messiah. Meanwhile their children are falling in love.

The film is dominated by the magnificent Rachael Thomas, who'd played the same role in the radio serial and a 40s TV production. The Romeo and Juliet sub-plot is a bit dull, but that's not the point. Though this mines deep the seam of Welsh stereotype, it's now a valuable reminder of a bygone life where Wales was the Land of Song. 

Script adapt.: Phil Park, (o.a.) Cliff Morgan

Director: Gilbert Gunn

Players: Clifford Evans, Mervyn Johns, John Fraser, Maureen Swanson, Betty Cooper, Rachael Roberts, Hugh Pryce, Edward Evans, Kenneth Evans, Kenneth Williams, Howell Davis, Emrys Leyshon, Prysor Williams, Desmond Llewellyn, Ronnie Harries, John Wynn, Dudley Jones, John Glyn Jones, Madoline Thomas, Olwen Brookes, Ben Williams, Ann Elsden, Sarah Davies, Valentine Dunn, Eric Francis, Alun Owen, Denys Graham, Lane Meddick

Value for Money (1955)

Northerner and millionaire John Gregson flees to London after splitting with his girl, and finds himself in the clutches of Diana Dors.

Pleasant enough timewaster.

Script adapt.: R.F. Delderfield, William Fairchild. (o.a. Derrick Boothroyd)

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Susan Stephen, Derek Farr, Frank Pettingell, Jill Adams, Charles Victor, Donald Pleasence, Joan Hickson, Hal Osmond, Ernest Thesiger, James Gregson, Sheila Rayner, Ronald Chesney, Leslie Phillips, Paddy Stone, Irving Davies, Oliver Reed, Julia Arnall

Variety Hour (1937)

Comedy duo Clapham and Dwyer try to break into show business which provides an excuse to showcase many of the acts of the period. If you've ever wanted to see such showbiz luminaries as Carson Robinson and His Pioneers, or Kay, Katya and Kay, then now's your chance.

Director: Redd Davis

Players: The Wiere Brothers, Jack Donohue, Helen Howard, Raymond Newell, Brian Lawrence and His Lansdowne Band, Norwich Trio, The Music Hall Boys

Variety Jubilee (1943)

An old stage doorman reminisces about his time in a top-of-the-bill double act. 

Thin story acts as an excuse for a procession of variety turns.

Script: Kathleen Butler

 Director: Maclean Rogers

Players: Reginald Purdell, Ellis Irving, Lesley Brook, Marie Lloyd Jr, Tom E Finglass, George Robey, Charles Coborn, John Rorke, Betty Warren, George Merritt, Arthur Hambling, Pat McGrath, Louis Bradfield, Ella Retford, Charles Shadwell, Joan Winters, Nat D Ayer, Slim Rhyder, Tessa Deane, Wilson Keppel and Betty, Ganjou Bros and Juanita, Band of HM Coldstream Guards, Six Can Can Dancers, Jubilee Girls, Plantation Girls

The Venetian Bird (1952)

Richard Todd is hired to look for a man, who turns out to be a hitman.

Standard spy thriller given a lift by a decent cast of old reliables.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Victor Canning

Director: Ralph Thomas

Players: John Gregson, Eva Bartok, George Coulouris, Margot Graham, Walter Rilla, John Bailey, Sidney James, Martin Boddey, Michael Balfour, Sydney Tafler, Miles Malleson, Eric Pohlmann, David Hurst, Raymond Young, Ferdy Maine, Jill Clifford, Eileen Way, Toni Lucarda, Janice Kane, Meier Tzelniker

Verdict of the Sea (1932)

The addition of a cache of diamonds to its cargo adds to the tensions below decks of a tramp steamer.

Dullish drama only of interest for its background. 

Script: Frank Miller

Director: Frank Miller

Players: John Stuart, Moira Lynd, Cyril McLaglen, David Miller, Hal Walters, H Saxon-Snell, Billy Shine, Fred Rains

The Vicar of Bray (1937)

Stanley Holloway takes the title role in this dated historical melodrama. If the cheapness of the production and the slowness of the script don't get to you, the endless repetition of the song will.

Script: H. Fowler Mear

Director: Henry Edwards

Players: Lawrence Grossmith, Eleanor Fayre, Davy Burnaby, C. Denier Warren, Arthur Chesney, Aubrey Fitzgerald, Hal Walters, Charles Hayes, Ian Wilson, Hay Plumb, Bruce Gordon, Kitty Kirwan

Vice Versa (1947)

Oh dear! A magic stone makes a father and son swap bodies for a while.

The idea behind F Anstey's classic children's book has fuelled many a screenplay, but this is probably the best version.

Script adapt.: Peter Ustinov. (o.a. F Anstey)

Director: Peter Ustinov

Players: Roger Livesey, Anthony Newley, Kay Walsh, Petula Clark, David Hutcheson, Joan Young, James Robertson Justice, Patricia Raine, Kynaston Reeves, Vida Hope, James Kenney, Harcourt Williams, Robert Eddison, James Hayter, Alfie Bass, Hugh Dempster, Peter Jones, Vi Kaley, Ernest Jay, Bill Shine, Andrew Blackett, John Willoughby, Stanley Van Beers, Michael McKeag, Timothy Bateson, Malcolm Summers, John Glyn-Jones, Frank Tickle

The Vicious Circle (1957)

Francis Durbridge was king of the TV thriller writers. This adaptation of his serial The Brass Candlestick suffers from having to be compressed into a feature film length and from the lack of cliff-hanger endings with which to keep us dangling for a week. Still, it has a good cast (John Mills, Derek Farr, Wilfrid Hyde White etc.) and probably now looks a lot more convincing than the original.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Francis Durbridge

Director: Gerald Thomas

Players: Lionel Jeffries, Mervyn Johns, René Ray, Lisa Daniely, Noelle Middleton, Roland Culver

Victoria the Great (1937)

This is the film that established Anna Neagle's career as the foremost representative of the British heroine. A well made look at the personal life of the Queen, it gave Anton Walbrook (Prince Albert) his first British role. There is a Technicolor sequence for the Jubilee.

Still from Victoria the GreatPoster for Victoria the Great

Script adapt.: Miles Malleson, Robert Vansittart. (o.a. Laurence Houseman)

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Walter Rilla, Mary Morris, H.B. Warner, Grete Wegener, C.V. France, Charles Carson, Felix Aylmer, Derrick de Marney, Lewis Casson, Moore Marriott, Paul von Henried (Paul Henreid)

Vintage Wine (1935)

A vineyard owner pretends to be twenty years younger than he is, and tries to keep the news from his new young wife - and the new young wife from the rest of the family.

Straight-to-the-studio adaptation of popular play preserves the performance of its star for all time. 

Script adapt.: Seymour Hicks, Ashley Dukes, H. Fowler Mear. (o.a. Alexander Engel)

Director: Henry Edwards

Players: Seymour Hicks, Claire Luce, Judy Gunn, Eva Moore, Miles Malleson, P. Kynaston Reeves, Michael Shipley, A. Bromley Davenport, Amy Brandon Thomas, Meriel Forbes, Brian Buchel, Kathleen Weston, Andrea Malandrinos, Mary Hayley Bell, Stella Mantovani, Sonia Somers, Tony de Lungo, Enrico Muzio

Vote for Huggett (1948)

Father Huggett gets involved in local politics in order to build a pool for local children, but gets accused of corruption.

Script: Mabel and Denis Constanduros, Allan Mackinnon

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Susan Shaw, Petula Clark, Peter Hammond, Diana Dors, Amy Veness, Hubert Gregg, John Blythe, Anthony Newley, Charles Victor, Adrienne Allen, Frederick Piper, Eliot Makeham, Clive Morton, Norman Shelley, Lyn Evans, Hal Osmond, Elizabeth Hunt, Empsie Bowman, Nellie Bowman, Ferdy Maine