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Thursday, October 17, 2019

British Pathé - Plastic Skeletons ( 1965 )

Ever wondered how your body is structured? If you were curious enough, you've probably examined a model of the human skeletal system. Medical students need to look at skeleton models in detail to understand how the body moves the way it does.....and that is where plastic skeletons come in handy. 

This 2-minute British Pathé newsreel from 1965 shows how these boney figures are made. At 36 pounds per skeleton, they were quite costly but you can see that they were assembled one bone at a time....quite a laborious task! 

Prior to the development of plastic, real human skeletons were used....which, of course, were even more costly to obtain. Surprisingly, the narrator mentions that most of the human skeletons that students use to view came from the Middle East but ever since countries made restrictions about shipping out human bones, the sales of these plastic skeletons have increased. 

Today, most skeletons are made in China from PVC plastic but they are receiving competition from India, where they can be obtained for $250-$500 and are much more accurate. Want to pick a bone about that? This interesting article claims that many medical students are not even satisfied with these models and are once again obtaining real human bones from gravediggers. 

https://www.thenational.ae/world/booming-business-in-bones-demand-for-real-human-skeletons-surges-in-india-1.111275


Click here to view Plastic Skeletons ( 1965 ) 

Similarly-themed British Pathé newsreels: 


Skeletons ( 1953 ) - 1:04 minutes

Skeleton Staff ( 1963 ) - 2:34 minutes

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

From the Archives: The Haunting ( 1963 )


Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris and Richard Johnson pose for this great publicity shot for The Haunting ( 1963 ). Director Robert Wise launched a new era of horror films with this thrilling ghost story and proved that fear can be invoked without displaying gore. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rome Express ( 1932 )

"Romance and Adventure Roaring Through the Night!"

A valuable Van Dyck painting has been stolen from an art museum in Paris and the thief ( Conrad Veidt ) is onboard the Rome Express heading to Italy. This sinister criminal is in search of a Mr. Poole ( Donald Calthrop, Blackmail ) who snatched the painting from him in an attempt to double-cross him. 

There is also a motley band of characters onboard the train whose lives will all intertwine with this criminal during the course of their journey to Rome. There is Asta Marvelle ( Esther Ralston ) a beautiful American movie star; Alistair McBain ( Cedric Hardwicke ) a millionaire philanthropist who is traveling with his secretary Mills ( Eliot Makeham ); a pair of adulterous lovers ( Harold Huth and Joan Barry ); a golfing bore ( Gordon Harker ); and a beetle-hunting police chief ( Frank Vosper ). 

Rome Express was one of the very first thrillers set on a train and it inspired a number of similarly themed films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes ( 1935 ). Walter Forde beautifully directed this taut little picture and utilized a number of innovative filming tricks including long panning shots and fast cuts between scenes, but what makes it truly stand out is its snappy dialogue by Frank Vosper and Sidney Gilliat who, not surprisingly, also penned the scripts to The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich ( 1940 ).
Rome Express speeds along at a fast pace and is never tiresome. The ending could have been tied up a little more snugly but on the whole, it is good entertainment. The interactions between the various characters, most of whom are strangers to one another, drive the story forward and in this respect, Rome Express is similar to The Ghost Train ( 1931 ), which, not surprisingly, was also directed by Walter Forde. 

Cedric Hardwicke is especially entertaining to watch as the penny-pinching philanthropist who delights in being demeaning to his secretary Mills. And Conrad Veidt, who was making his English-speaking debut, is devilishly charming as the villain. Also in the cast is Hugh Williams and Finlay Currie.
Rome Express is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Network Distributing. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

A man, a gate, and a fountain.....put your thinking caps on for this one because we think this is a really challenging round of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game. Stay tuned later this month, for on Halloween we are going to have a special edition of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game with some spooky-ooky prizes.

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to Vienna for correctly identifying this screenshot from "The Seventh Cross" ( 1944 ) starring Spencer Tracy and Hume Cronyn. In this scene, Konstantin Shayne is following Spencer Tracy into a walled garden to discuss their plans for escape from the Gestapo. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Spoils of Poynton ( 1970 )

Adele Gereth ( Pauline Jameson ) has amassed antique treasures that she and her late husband collected from around the world. She stores all of these in her Jacobian estate "Poynton". She hopes to pass Poynton and its furnishings to her son Owen ( Ian Ogilvy ) and the woman he chooses as a bride, but when she meets his choice, Mona ( Diane Fletcher ), she is sorely disappointed and refuses to part with the possessions. Mona, who had not the slightest interest in the antiquities, now feels rebuffed and is angry towards Owen for not taking her side and waging a legal war against his mother.
Witnessing this family squabble - and unwittingly taking part in it -  is Fleda Vetch ( Gemma Jones ), a minister's daughter whom Adele has taken under her wing. Adele wants to see Fleda become mistress of Poynton in place of Mona, and things begin to go her way until Fleda complicates matters when she lets pride rule over love. 

Henry James' novel "The Spoils of Poynton" first appeared in print in 1896 when it was published in serial format in The Atlantic Monthly under the title "The Old Things". Henry James' most famous works are three novels that have been frequently adapted to film and television: "The Turn of the Screw" ( filmed as The Innocents in 1963 ), "Washington Square" ( better known as The Heiress to film fans ), and "The Aspern Papers". He wrote many many fine stories in addition to these that were also adapted into films, including The Wings of the Dove, The Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl, and The Bostonians. 
The Spoils of Poynton is an excellent adaptation featuring some top-notch performances from Ian Ogilvy ( The Saint ) and Gemma Jones ( The Duchess of Duke Street ). The BBC made a number of really rich television productions in the 1970s and this one is truly a gem. It was like capturing a fine performance of a great play on film that can be enjoyed over and over again. 
Pauline Jameson is excellent as Adele Gareth. Her character is haughty, terribly houseproud and materialistic and yet Pauline makes her endearing to watch. Young Fleda takes a liking to her instantly and they share a bond in their love of beautiful objects. Fleda would make an ideal match to Adele's son Gareth and Adele well knows this. She hopes that love will blossom between the two and, to her good fortune, it does. 

Fleda Vetch is such a darling character but one cannot help feel that she muddles up matters too much out of her sense of righteousness and decency. She loves Owen dearly and he loves her, too, yet she insists that he return to Mona to patch things up properly and therefore smashes to pieces her future, Owen's future, Adele's happiness and Poynton's legacy. 
The Spoils of Poynton can be difficult to watch because it is hard to see people wrestle over material objects with such passion. Foolish Mona has no interest in the household treasures whatsoever and yet she allows her relationship with Owen to be ruined in an argument over who will get possession of them. It's quite a fascinating story. And interwoven through it is this growing romance between Owen and Fleda that spurs the story onward. The materials themselves act only as a catalyst to all the events that happen to the four main characters. 

BBC made a number of film adaptations of Henry James novels and if this one interests you, then be sure to check out the equally engrossing mini-series The Golden Bowl ( 1972 ) starring Daniel Massey and Jill Townsend.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Character Jugs ( 1955 )

If you love arts and crafts, then today's British Pathe newsreel is truly fascinating.....we are given a quick tour of the Royal Doulton factory to watch how Toby character jugs are being made. The earliest of these Toby jugs date back to the mid-1700s and the process of how they are made has changed little since then. 

At first, the artist creates the clay mold and then it is fired in a kiln. Artists paint the colors on the busts and they are then coated in a white glaze. This part is interesting because, even though they look like they have been coated in white paint, once they go through the second trip in the kiln they come out in brilliant color. In the short, you can see the busts of Dick Turpin and General Bernard Montgomery coming out of the oven along with Long John Silver, who was a new addition to the Doulton collection.

Today, you can buy these jugs for $5-50 on eBay, Etsy, or at antique shops across the country. One American collector loved these little jugs so much that he collected 8,000 of them and created the American Toby Jug Museum to showcase the tiny treasures. They also can be seen in the background in numerous films, usually sitting on fireplace mantles, desks, or on a shelf in a pub.

Ready to watch Character Jugs ( 1955 )? Just click here! 

Similarly themed British Pathe shorts:

Toy Fair ( 1958 ) - 3:01 sec

The Making of Wedgewood ( 1958 ) - 19:19 sec

Miniature Ceramics ( 1961 ) - 2:38 sec

Monday, September 23, 2019

Catacombs ( 1965 )

"Their plan was murder.....their reward was terror!"

Ellen Garth ( Georgiana Cookson ) is a wealthy and astute British businesswoman whose money and power have been used to buy herself a husband to help care for her. Raymond ( Gary Merrill ) is charming and devoted to helping her but has no love for the domineering woman. When her teenage niece Alice ( Jane Merrow ) arrives in London, Raymond falls in love with her and begins to plot to murder his wife. 

Catacombs is a good little thriller with a clever twist at the end. It was released in the United States as The Woman Who Wouldn't Die which is probably a better title for the picture because that's exactly what seems to be happening to Raymond's wife....she keeps popping up in his life even after he thinks she is dead and buried. 

Gordon Hessler, who was the story editor and later associate producer of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, made his feature film directorial debut with Catacombs and, not surprisingly, it plays out like an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Most of the action is confined to two main areas, Ellen's London apartment and the honeymoon cottage that she shared with Raymond. Since it was a budget film, there are only 5-6 actors in the entire picture, but this does not hinder its entertainment value in any way. On the contrary, some of the best films had casts of less than eight people.
Gary Merrill gives a strong performance as the middle-aged Raymond. He obviously married Ellen for her money but you have to give him credit for being such a devoted husband in spite of that solitary reason. Georgina Cookson also gives a good - and frightening - performance as Ellen. Her character suffers from muscular pain and, when it especially hurts, she uses hypnosis to put herself into a trance to be free of the pain. Later, this becomes a key point in the plot because Raymond has doubts about whether he actually did kill Ellen or whether she was in one of her trances and he simply thought he killed her. Also in the cast is Neil McCallum ( Vendetta ) who plays Ellen's business secretary. 
Catacombs is available on DVD through Network Distributing who did an excellent transfer from "original film elements". If you like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, William Castle movies, and budget horror films, then you will certainly want to check out this entertaining thriller. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Keep a sharp lookout, mate! Do you think something may fall from the sky or are you examining the clouds? 

This screenshot comes from a movie that you may have seen. If you can name the film it is from, you've won this round of the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game....but you'll never know unless you guess, so give us your best shot down below in the comment box. 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From the Archives: The House of Seven Hawks ( 1959 )

"Just what does this paper mean?" Robert Taylor seems to be asking. It is obviously written in Dutch and he thinks the Frenchwoman Nicole Mauray would know Dutch....and he is correct, in "The House of Seven Hawks" ( 1959 ) she does! This film was one of Robert Taylor's lesser-known pictures, but it is a good mystery with some nice on-location filming in Holland. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Prince and the Pauper ( 1962 )

Mark Twain had a knack for writing stories that appealed to the common people, especially to children. Most everyone has at one time imagined what it would be like to switch places with someone else. The grass is always greener on the other side. And, in this case, the grass just happens to be in the court of the King's palace, so why wouldn't it be greener? 

Even in 1532, little pauper boys pondered this question. Tom Canty wants to catch a glimpse of the king in London. He doesn't see the king but instead, he finds himself invited into the palace by none other than the young Prince Edward! Since the boys share an uncanny resemblance, they decide to switch places for a few hours...only those few hours turn into several days and they both find it difficult to convince anyone that they are not whom they seem to be. 

Walt Disney made a number of great made-for-television movies in the 1960s for his series "The Wonderful World of Disney" and, like most of his feature film productions, the movies had generous budgets. The Prince and the Pauper has a top-notch cast, great costumes, and some really impressive sets. Artist Peter Ellenshaw created some beautiful matte shots to expand the sets and evoke the 16th-century setting.
Sean Scully is marvelous as our leading lad and gives a convincing portrayal of both the prince and the pauper. Scully, the son of Australian actress Margaret Christensen, caught the eye of Walt Disney Studios after he appeared in the CCF ( Children's Film Foundation ) production Hunted in Holland ( 1961 ). Following his appearance in The Prince and the Pauper, he was cast in two more Disney productions: Almost Angels ( 1962 ) and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh ( 1963 ). 
Guy Williams ( Zorro ) also stars as Miles Henson, a nobleman who befriends the prince while he is in disguise as a beggar. Even though he does not believe the boy's story to be true, he plays along addressing the prince as "your majesty" and helps rescue him on more than one occasion. Donald Houston has a meaty part as Tom's abusive alcoholic father who, after he murders the local priest ( Niall MacGinnis ), joins up with "The Ruffler" ( Nigel Green ), a man who commands a band of thieves. Also in the cast is Laurence Naismith, Paul Rogers, Geoffrey Keen, and a young Jane Asher. 
The Prince and the Pauper was not one of the Disney classics that I grew up with and it does not seem like it would be your typical childhood favorite even though it packs in its share of excitement. There's swordplay, a good Twain story, and fine acting, yet there may be just a tad too much "talk" to capture a child's interest. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Private Life of Henry VIII ( 1933 )

The name of Charles Laughton has become synonymous with that of King Henry VIII, a role that he portrayed both onscreen and on stage. Laughton was 34-years old when he played the part of this beer-gulping, head-chopping monarch, and his delightfully raucous portrayal remains a highlight in a career of top-notch performances. 

British film-maker Alexander Korda had his first international success with this peek into the "private life" of the oft-married monarch King Henry VIII. The picture should have been titled The Private Loves of Henry VIII for the focus of much of the film is on Henry's wives. 


As the introductory written statement proclaims, "Henry VIII had six wives. Catherine of Aragon was the first; but her story is of no particular interest--she was a respectable woman. So Henry divorced her."

We do not get to see Catherine of Aragon, instead, the film opens with Anne Boleyn ( Merle Oberon ), who is making preparations for her execution.
"Will the net hold my hair together when my head falls?" 

Queens must think of the appearance they make to their subjects, even after death. Anne Boleyn knows her fate well enough. She recognizes the glances of affection that King Henry VIII ( Charles Laughton ) gives to Jane Seymour ( Wendy Barrie ) and realizes that his only course of action will be to have her put to death....which he promptly does. 

Poor Jane Seymour has a short tenure as the king's wife as well, but she at least dies a natural death. And then Henry spies the beautiful Katherine Howard ( Binnie Barnes ), a lady of the court. She is the object of affection for Squire Thomas ( Robert Donat ) but when she realizes that the king is smitten with her, she gladly sets her eyes upon the crown instead. Love is freely sacrificed to the god of ambition.

"Love eternal...since yesterday afternoon, until tomorrow morning?" - Katherine Howard
"When I say love, I mean love." - King Henry VIII
It is Katherine whom we are led to believe that the king loved the most among his many wives, but when he discovers her relationship with Squire Thomas, he nevertheless sets her head rolling. Anne of Cleves ( Elsa Lancaster ) and Katherine Parr ( Everley Gregg ) take turns wearing the band before Henry disgustedly exclaims in his old age, "Six wives - and the best of them was the worst of them."

The Private Life of Henry VIII is filled to the brim with delicious dialogue by Lajos Biro. The picture leans more toward satire than drama and it is this winning combination of humor amidst such serious British history that makes The Private Life of Henry VIII so novel and so very entertaining. It was one of the first films from England to become successful in America and throughout Europe. With his earnings from the production, Alexander Korda went on to launch London Films, one of England's most prestigious film studios. 
In spite of the plot's focus on the wives of the enormous monarch, it is King Henry himself who takes center-stage throughout the film due to the magnificent presence of Charles Laughton. The actor bears a striking resemblance to the real Henry and his mannerisms most certainly must have matched that of the king. Nearly twenty years later, he would play King Henry VIII again in Young Bess ( 1953 ).

In fact, the entire casting for The Private Life of Henry VIII was excellent. Binnie Barnes gives an alluring performance as Katherine Howard and Merle Oberon, too, makes an impression with such brief screentime. Elsa Lancaster has a wonderful part as one of the few wives that Henry did not bed. Her sequence - and her clever method of remaining a virgin - is one of the most amusing in the film. And lastly, dear Robert Donat gives a rare supporting role and offers a hint to the audience on what a great leading man he will soon become. 

Also in the cast is John Loder, Miles Mander, William Austin and Lady Tree. 
The Private Life of Henry VIII has been beautifully restored through the Criterion Collection and is currently available on DVD and through online streaming via their channel. 

This post is our contribution to The Costume Drama Blogathon being hosted by Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini.  It will be running till the 8th of September so be sure to check out all the other great reviews of favorite costume drama films.

Friday, August 30, 2019

At the Earth's Core ( 1976 )

Kevin Connor is best known for directing a series of rather cheesy popcorn sci-fi/adventure film adaptations of Edgar Rice Burrough novels, a series which began with The Land That Time Forgot ( 1975 ).  Most of the films had great casts, adequate special effects and plenty of Jules Verne-ion atmosphere which helped off-set some of the - unfortunately frequent - boring scenes. 

Alas, At the Earth's Core's 89-minute runtime was made up primarily of yawn-inducing moments.  It had a great story premise but, like many of Kevin Connor's movies, was bogged down by too much emphasis on our heroes escape from the primitive tribe that was enslaving them. In this case, the tribe being the Mahars. 

Peter Cushing gives a wonderful performance as the doddering Dr. Perry. This bespeckled British scientist has invented a machine called the Iron Mole which can bore through the Earth. Along with his partner, American financier David Innes ( Doug McClure ), they embark on a journey to the center of the Earth and discover a labyrinth where giant flying reptiles known as the Mahars rule a band of cavemen-like slaves. These slaves help to create tunnels where the Earth's molten lava is channeled away from their underground lair. Every once in awhile the Mahars get hungry and select a sacrificial victim to feast on. Princess Dia ( Caroline Munro ) is chosen to be their next dinner but David intervenes and rescues his newfound sweetheart, destroying the whole tunnel system in the process. 
A simple plot and a good one ( not unlike H.G Wells' First Men in the Moon ) but those darn Mahars were given too much of the film's attention. I am sure the male audience would have preferred the camera to linger on Caroline Munro rather than the giant reptiles. Not that there weren't other creatures to distract.....there were pig-snouted slave-drivers, giant rhino-like dinosaurs, and the mandatory pterodactyl. Yet, combined, they still weren't enough to wake-up the audience. 
It was refreshing to see Peter Cushing play a role so unlike the self-assured professor roles that he usually played in the Hammer films. Dr. Perry is eccentric but endearing and it would have been nice to see this character reappear in another film. Doug McClure gives his usual good performance and Caroline Munro is pleasant on the eyes ( she doesn't have much dialogue ). The remaining cast is obscured behind make-up, with the exception of Godfrey James and Cy Grant. 
At the Earth's Core was riding on the heels of the success of Kevin Connor's last film, The Land That Time Forgot ( 1975 ), and, in spite of its dull script, was very popular at the box-office. Connor would stick with his formula and make two more similiarly-themed films: The People That Time Forgot ( 1977 ) and Warlords of Atlantis ( 1979 ). 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Professor Piccard "10 Miles Above the Earth" ( 1931 )

Today's newsreel from British Pathé is quite fascinating - Professor Augustes Piccard has just landed in Switzerland ( May 27, 1931 ) after becoming the first human being to enter the stratosphere. He reached an altitude of 51,775 ft ( nearly 10 miles ) in his unusual spherical gondola and witnessed the curvature of the Earth for the first time in history. 
Professor Piccard's thirst for exploration extended to the deep deep ocean and, beginning in the late 1930s, he worked to design a similarly built steel gondola which would take a man under the sea. He called it a bathyscaphe and, in 1954, it did indeed take a man down to over 13,000 ft underwater. 

Piccard was not only an inventor and explorer but a physicist as well. However, his most important claim to fame is that he was the inspiration for the character Professor Calculus in Herge's famous Tin-Tin cartoons! 

Want to see the Professor in action? Check out "10 Miles Above the Earth" ( 1931 ) by clicking here

Similarly themed news clips from British Pathé:

10 1/2 Miles Above the Earth ( 1932 ) - 1:53 minutes

Professor Piccard and the Diving Bell ( 1940-1949 )  - 0:37 minutes

Professor Piccard Test the Bathysphere ( 1953 ) - 0:56 minutes

Friday, August 23, 2019

From the Archives: Dorothy Provine and Jody McCrea


Dorothy Provine and Jody McCrea ( son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee ) are seen out on the town in this 1960s candid photo. Dorothy Provine dated a number of men in the late 1950s-early 1960s including Frank Sinatra, Alan Ladd Jr., Richard Chamberlain, Glenn Ford, and Roger Moore, but this "date" with McCrea may have just been for publicity purposes. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Assignment in Brittany ( 1943 )

"Every second throbs with suspense and danger!" 

For once, those exclamatory theatrical heralds were right: Assignment in Brittany is packed to the brim with non-stop adventure. There is so much fast-paced excitement that if you do not have your ears peeled, you may lose some of the plot line. 

French heart-throb Jean-Pierre Aumont plays Pierre Matard, a captain in the Free French forces, who is sent to a small village in France disguised as Bertrand Corlay ( also Aumont ), a suspected Nazi collaborator. Since Pierre bears such a striking resemblance to this man, his task is to weasel out information about the location of a U-Boat base that the British believe is in the vicinity. For the audiences benefit, he accomplishes this mission in one and one-half hours filled with exciting moments of danger. 

Of course, all good resistance fighters end up falling in love on their missions and, in this case, Captain Pierre falls for the fiancee of his look-a-like Bertrand: Anne Pinot ( portrayed by the lovely Susan Peters ). 

Director Jack Conway was a veteran of silent films and numerous MGM "A" pictures ( A Tale of Two Cities, Libeled Lady, Boom Town, The Hucksters ). He was an excellent director and was capable of handling comedies, dramas, and action films with equal ease. Unfortunately, this was the only war/espionage film that he directed. The final scene of the destruction of the U-boat base is especially well-filmed and really caps off the picture with a bang. 

Like many films that were made in the midst of the war, the brutality of war is not softened to appeal to audience tastes. In one scene, many of the friends that Aumont's character comes to know are executed in front of his eyes. The Nazis are portrayed as the fiendish brutes that they were.

Assignment in Brittany ( 1943 ) marked the debut of Jean-Pierre Aumont, who had arrived in Hollywood just a year earlier and could barely speak English. It was stage actress Katharine Cornell who discovered the handsome Jean Gabin-esque actor and cast him in her play "Rose Burke". Shortly after he was signed to an MGM contract and made this film and another war drama, The Cross of Lorraine, that same year. Aumont himself had earned the Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre medals for his service in North Africa with the Free French Forces from 1939-1940. While in Hollywood, he helped raise funds for the Resistance and returned to fight in 1944.  

Also making her American debut was Swedish actress Signe Hasso. She made a number of excellent war films, usually playing a heroine but, in this film, she is quite the vixen.

Like most MGM pictures, the production values on Assignment in Brittany are top-notch with great sets by Cedric Gibbons and Edwin Willis, costumes by Gile Steele, music by Lennie Hayton, and excellent cinematography by Charles Rosher ( Annie Get Your Gun ). The script to the film was based on a Helen MacInnes novel that was serialized in 1942 in "The Saturday Evening Post". MacInnes was a prolific author of espionage novels and, in 1943, MGM had turned another one of her books into a box-office hit - Above Suspicion
Assignment in Brittany has the usual elements that you would hope to find in an espionage film: suspicious double-face characters, secret codes, danger behind every corner, plenty of Gestapo agents, and the classic escape-in-disguise ( this time taking place within a church in France ).

The movie also boasts a strong supporting cast of MGM stock actors such as Margaret Wycherly, Richard Whorf, Reginald Owen, Alan Napier, Miles Mander, and John Emery. A young Darryl Hickman is given a meaty role as a little French freedom fighter. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Get a load of these two salty seamen with their mustaches and pipes. What could they be staring at? A giant sea monster? A ghost ship? Or perhaps a lifeboat drifting towards their boat? Don't let us throw you off course. If you've seen the film this screenshot is from, then you'll know what they are looking at. If you have no idea which movie this is from then take a guess anyway - all guesses are free!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this screenshot as coming from "A Dispatch from Reuters" ( 1940 ) starring the wonderful Edward G. Robinson and Edna Best. In this scene, which takes place near the last 20 minutes of the movie, these two seamen from the mailboat spot the signal from Reuters telling them to drop the latest news off in a water-tight carrier. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Nor the Moon by Night ( 1958 )

"The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night." - Psalm 121:6 

After years of caring for her mother, gentle nurse Alice Lang ( Belinda Lee ) decides to fly out to Kenya to marry gamekeeper Andrew Miller ( Patrick McGoohan ). Alice has never met Andrew but they have been corresponding with each other by mail for years and she feels she knows him inside and out. She picks an inopportune time to come to Kenya, for a vicious game poacher ( Eric Pohlmann ) is stirring up trouble on the reserve and Andrew is out on the job trying to catch the culprit. Since he will not return for several weeks, his younger brother ( Michael Craig ) decides to be host to Andrew's mail-order bride and falls in love with her himself.

After Andrew is attacked by a lion, Alice nurses him back to health and then must decide whether to marry him out of loyalty or choose his brother, whom she now loves.....

Nor the Moon by Night was based upon Joy Parker's novel of the same name which was originally serialized in a woman's magazine in the 1950s. As a pulp fiction romance adventure, it is a witchdoctor's brew of all of the elements one would expect to find in such a story: elephant stampedes, cobra attacks, a romantic quadrangle, jealousy, dangerous villains, jungle fever, bush fires, and, of course, native superstitions. 
Director Ken Annakin, who had a success with the similarly themed The Planter's Wife ( 1952 ), never lets the 90-minute film get dull and follows each exciting event with something new and different. It was sumptuously filmed on location ( by cinematographer Harry Waxman ) in the beautiful Valley of the Thousand Hills in Natal, South Africa and also within Kruger National Park. Unlike many jungle films of the era, Nor the Moon By Night has no stock footage of crocodiles scurrying into the lake or blurry hippopotamuses fording a river. All of the animal scenes was clearly shot with the cast and crew on location.

Behind the camera, events were just as exciting as on-screen with Belinda Lee attempting suicide, Patrick McGoohan incurring a concussion, Michael Craig nearly drowning, Anna Gaylor falling ill with dysentery and the crew being constantly bitten by snakes and spiders. 
"Most people think Africa's a zoo, where you chuck a monkey under the chin and then go off for a martini."

The principal players of Nor the Moon By Night all give very good performances, especially Michael Craig and Belinda Lee, two extremely popular actors of the 1950s who are underrated today. Also in the cast is Anna Gaylor, a lovely French actress, Joan Brickhill, and Lionel Ngakane.

This post is our contribution to the 6th Annual Rule Brittania Blogathon being hosted by Terence Canote on his blog, A Shroud of Thoughts. Click here to read more reviews of classic British films!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

20 Great Little-Known British Films of the 1940s-1960s

The great film studios of England ( Rank Pictures, London Films, Gainsborough Pictures, Ealing Studios, Janus Films ) made so many wonderful pictures that have fallen into obscurity over the years - not so much in England, but certainly here in the States. So to help remedy that situation and expose classic film lovers to some of these hidden gems, here is our selection of twenty great little-known British films of the 1940s-1960s. Most of these films are available on DVD or through streaming services such as Amazon Prime. 

Plot descriptions courtesy of imdb.com, Network DVD, and Renown Pictures. Our comments about the film then follow. 


An Ideal Husband ( 1947 )

A prominent politician is preparing to expose a financial scandal. But then a woman who has invested heavily in the shady venture threatens to uncover a damaging secret in the politician's past if he exposes the speculation as a fraud. His problem is compounded by his wife's intolerance of the slightest character flaws.

"If we men married the women we deserved....we should have a very bad time of it."

Oscar Wilde's sparkling comedy comes alive in this delightful film adaption from Alexander Korda. Paulette Goddard is especially charming as the high-society snake-in-the-grass and the color photography is beautiful. 

While I Live ( 1947 ) 

A young composer and pianist Olwen Trevelyan, troubled and sleepless over her inability to finish the final notes of her composition, falls to her death from the cliffs of Cornwall. As the years pass, Olwen’s sister Julia obsessively keeps her memory alive. The young composer gains posthumous fame because of her tragic death and her haunting, unfinished composition, “The Dream of Olwen.” 25 years later, still mourning the death of her composer sister Julia believes she has returned, reincarnated, in an amnesiac woman who chances upon her house seeking help… Contains the haunting music “The Dream of Olwen” composed by Charles Williams.

This one is indeed haunting, primarily because of its beautiful theme song and its spiritual plot. Sonja Dresdel, who stars as Julia, was a very talented actress who had a great career in films, television, and in theatre in England. 

The Glass Mountain ( 1949 ) 

Featuring the peerless voice of legendary baritone Tito Gobbi, The Glass Mountain is a classic British film romance enriched with the sublime music of Italian opera.

Shot down and badly injured over the Italian alps during the second world war, RAF pilot Richard Wilder (Michael Dennison) is rescued and nursed back to health by Alida (Valentina Cortese), a beautiful young Italian girl. As she shares with him the local fables of the Glass Mountain, they begin to fall in love.


This is another film that benefits greatly from its musical score. This one is written by Nino Rota who is most famous today for his love theme for Romeo and Juliet ( 1968 ). Michael Dennison ( The Importance of Being Earnest ) plays an earnest lover here and the setting of the picture is ideal. 

The Passionate Friends ( 1949 ) 

The Passionate Friends were in love when young but then separated. Mary Justin ( Ann Todd ) later married an older man. Then Mary meets Steven Stratton ( Trevor Howard ) again and they have one last fling together in the Alps.

This is your classic British melodrama weepie. It plays out a lot like Brief Encounter ( 1946 ) only with the added presence of Claude Rains as a jealous/suspicious husband. In this case, he has every right to be suspicious as Mary really is carrying on an affair with her old lover. 

Beautiful cinematography and location filming are an additional plus to this lesser-known classic. 


The Small Back Room ( 1949 ) 

The best bomb disposal officer during World War II was badly injured and is in frequent pain. He finds solace and relief from his pain in the whiskey bottle & the pills that are never far away. A new type of booby-trapped Nazi bomb pushes his nerves & resolution to the limit.

The directing/screenwriting team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are famous on both sides of the pond but this little gem seems to elude most critics. David Farrar and Kathleen Byron both give excellent performances. You can read our full review of this classic here

Ha'Penny Breeze ( 1950 ) 

At the end of the Second World War, David and his Australian friend Johnny return to David's Suffolk village to find the community spent and demoralized. Gradually, however, they gather support for David's scheme to enter a yachting race with a converted fishing smack. Winning it could prove to be a lifeline for the village...

Associated British Pathe made some excellent minor "B" films in the late 1940s-1950s and Ha'Penny Breeze is one of them. This was only the second film that Edwin Richfield had starred in at the time, but he would go on to become a popular character actor in British television appearing in numerous episodes of The Avengers, The Champions, and Doctor Who. 
Philip Green composed a lovely theme for this film which you can hear by clicking on this link.


Last Holiday ( 1950 )

George Bird's rather lonely, anonymous existence as an underappreciated seller of farm machinery is jarred when his physician informs him that he is suffering from the rare malady Lampington's Disease, and only has a few weeks to live. Believing he has nothing to lose, Bird resigns his position and withdraws his modest life savings in order to spend his remaining time in a "posh" seaside resort. There he keeps his own counsel about his condition and meets people who live in a world he could never have imagined existed. Incredibly, he finds personal and professional opportunities now open to him that that he never dreamed would be his, but unfortunately, he is no position to take advantage of them, until fate lends a hand.

Last Holiday features one of Alec Guinness' best performances. It is such a touching story sprinkled with lessons about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. 


Trio ( 1950 ) 

Three short stories are introduced by author W. Somerset Maugham in the second of his anthology film trilogy. In "The Verger," a church verger of seventeen years is fired by his new straight-laced vicar when it's discovered that he cannot read or write. Forced to make life-altering decisions, the life-long bachelor proposes to his landlady and becomes an entrepreneur. In "Mr. Know-All" an obnoxiously pushy and irrepressibly boorish dealer in jewelry alienates all his fellow passengers on an ocean cruise despite his cheerful nature and generosity, but later is sensitive enough to realize that sacrificing his ego at a key moment is important to a woman's happiness. "The Sanatorium" revolves around the lives of tuberculosis patients at an exclusive Scottish sanatorium including a pair of doomed lovers who choose quality over quantity of life.

William Somerset Maugham's short stories were spotlighted in three entertaining films - Quartet ( 1948 ), this film, and Encore ( 1951 ). Each has their highlights, but we enjoy Trio the best because it features one of our favorite stories, "The Sanatorium", which you can read more about here. 

Street Corner ( 1953 ) 

A pseudo-documentary in style with an emphasis on the daily work and routine of women police built around three different storylines. The first involves 18-year-old Bridget Foster (Peggy Cummins) who is picked up for shoplifting but let off lightly. She has a small child, an often-absent husband and mother-in-law trouble. To compound that she takes up with a petty hoodlum who commits a jewel robbery. The second story tells of a young girl who deserts the Army to marry a boy who needs her and commits bigamy in the process, but it all works out. The third story is about a baby who is mistreated by its father and step-mother, but is reunited, through police work, with its real mother.

Police dramas are always interesting but this one is rare because it focuses on policewomen. Back in the 1950s, they were more popular in England than they were in the United States. Anne Crawford gives a very good performance....as usual. She was an excellent actress. 

Turn the Key Softly ( 1953 ) 

Three women are released from Holloway prison on the same morning into the bustle of post-war London with its trolleybuses and rationing. They meet for a meal in the West End in the evening after a day trying to pick up their lives, and with at least two of them needing to decide whether it is time to start afresh.

From the good ones ( the policewomen of Street Corner ) we turn to the "baddies" - three women who have just been let out of prison. None of them are really bad and all of them have intriguing stories. British cinema featured a number of films with the "tableau" style story plot. You can read our full review of this gem by clicking here. 


The Divided Heart ( 1954 ) 

The Divided Heart engages in a different and movingly direct way with the aftermath of the war, tracing the struggle between two mothers for custody of a boy. Smuggled out of Yugoslavia for safety, and adopted by a German couple, he is reclaimed years later by his birth mother, a survivor of Auschwitz. The play of emotion is delicately handled so that it’s hard not to sympathize equally with the ‘good German’ adoptive parents and with the Yugoslav mother – and indeed with the trio of judges who have to decide. Both Michael Balcon and his wife had a special commitment to this project, and regretted its relative failure at the time, despite good reviews. Sixty years on, it is one of the Ealing films that comes up very fresh and prompts a reassessment of its director Charles Crichton, best known for comedy ( The Lavender Hill Mob, The Titfield Thunderbolt ) but here doing admirable work of a different kind. 

Lease of Life ( 1954 ) 

The parson of a small rural community knows he is dying and this makes him reconsider his life so far and what he can still do to help the community. 
Lease of Life is among the least dramatic of film titles, and the film itself is one of the most modest of Ealing productions; in his index to ‘British Sound Films’ David Quinlan calls it a ‘sincere, quiet, close-to-dull drama.’ But it is far from dull, if you give it a chance. 

Lease of Life is indeed a very engaging film to watch and Robert Donat gives an excellent performance as the rural parson. It also features a wonderful supporting cast with Kay Walsh and Adrienne Corri. 


The Admirable Crichton ( 1957 )

Lord Loam has modern ideas about his household; he believes in treating his servants as his equals - at least sometimes. His butler, Crichton, still believes that members of the serving class should know their place and be happy there. But when the Loam family are shipwrecked on a desert island with the self-reliant Crichton and between maid Tweeny, the class system is put to the test.

The story premise of a group of individuals stranded on a desert island is not a new one, but The Admirable Crichton is a fresh take on this old idea. It was based on a popular play by J.M Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan", and this film adaptation boasts a wonderful cast which includes Kenneth More as Crichton, Sally Anne Howes, Cecil Parker and Diane Cilento. You can read more about the film here. 

Ice Cold in Alex ( 1958 ) 

A group of Army personnel and nurses attempt a dangerous and arduous trek across the desert of North Africa during World War II. The leader of the team dreams of his ice-cold beer when he reaches Alexandria, but the problems just won't go away.

Ice Cold in Alex is the 1950s version of Humphrey Bogart's Sahara. Sylvia Syms and John Mills were probably two of the biggest box-office stars of the 1950s in England and it was great to see them teamed up in this adventure classic. Also in the cast is Anthony Quayle who not only made six films with Syms but starred with her in a number of television episodes as well ( including one from his own show The Strange Report ). 

Passionate Summer ( 1958 ) 

Set in Jamaica, an island paradise…where human emotions are laid bare under the tropical sun! Douglas Lockwood, (Bill Travers) is a gifted teacher at Leonard Pawley’s experimental school situated in Jamaica. During one summer, a private plane crashes into the mountains a short distance from the school. Lockwood helps rescue passenger Judy Waring (Virginia McKenna) and quickly develops a romantic interest in her while she convalesces at the school. Meanwhile, Leonard Pawley’s wife (Yvonne Mitchell) has her own romantic interest in Lockwood and a love triangle quickly develops. The love interest of the adults and the behavior of the school children see temperatures rise under the burning summer sun.

Passionate Summer certainly brims with passion! The hot locales make all of our leading characters drip in sweat and naturally, this oppressive heat causes their emotions to heat up as well. It is a soap opera alright, but a highly entertaining one. 


Conspiracy of Hearts ( 1960 ) 

In wartime Italy nuns in a convent regularly smuggle Jewish children out of a nearby internment camp. The Italian army officer in charge suspects what may be going on but deliberately turns a blind eye. When the Germans take over the camp security the nuns' activities become far more dangerous.

Betty Box is not a familiar name to American audiences but she - and her husband - were prolific producers and some of the best British films of the 1960s were Box productions. Conspiracy of Hearts is a difficult film to watch because it does not mask the prickly situation these nuns were in and show quite plainly what they had to contend with in getting the youngsters to safety. As you have probably guessed, Yvonne Mitchell is one of our favorite actresses, and she is in this film as well, but it is Lilli Palmer and Slyvia Syms who are the main attractions. Incidentally, this film reunited Mitchell and Syms who starred together in the box-office hit Woman in a Dressing Gown ( 1958 ). 


The Barber of Stamford Hill ( 1962 ) 

Mr. Figg, the barber, is fond of telling customers about his family, but he hasn't really got one - he's a bachelor quite alone in the world. He wants this status to change and soon makes up his mind that he will be a bachelor no longer. 

The Barber of Stamford Hill was originally a half-hour television play that became so popular that its screenwriter stretched it into this marvelous one-hour long film. There are only three principal players in the cast ( John Bennett, Megs Jenkins, Maxwell Shaw ) and each gives a tender performance in this very entertaining film all about character. 


The Fast Lady ( 1962 ) 

Murdoch Troon (Stanley Baxter), a naive Scotsman, puts away his bicycle and attempts to woe the daughter (Julie Christie) of wealthy businessman Charles Chingford (James Robertson Justice) by way of impressing her with a vintage Bentley - The Fast Lady of the title.

The Fast Lady is a fun comedy with a great cast. Stanley Baxter made a number of films but none so entertaining as this one ( although the follow-up, And Father Came Too is quite enjoyable ).

Want to read more? We reviewed this film several years ago and you can read about it here.




Young and Willing ( 1962 ) 

Harry Brown ( Ian McShane ) is a somewhat rough student (the wild) at Kilminster University, who has the ability to win friends, especially the underdogs like Phil ( Sir John Hurt in his introductory movie role ) who doesn't play "rugger", and can't sink a whole pint of beer, and African student Reggie ( Johnny Sekka ). He also has a way with the girls ( the willing ), one of whom is his professor's wife ( Virginia Maskell ), who likes the students, but also her comfortable life with her boring husband more. After Harry is rebuffed, he takes up the challenge to hang a banner from the dangerously crumbling University tower. The rather weak Phil insists on being part of this escapade.

Ian McShane makes an impressive film debut as the young Harry Brown. Young and Willing ( also released under the title The Wild and the Willing ) is not a cheerful picture of university life ( if you want to see a more light-hearted film take a peek at Bachelor of Hearts with Hardy Kruger ) but it is very engrossing. Virginia Maskell was a fine actress of the 1960s who died much too young. She gives an impressive understated performance here as the prof's wife. Also in the cast is a young Samantha Eggar. 

Nobody Runs Forever ( 1968 )

Scobie Malone ( Rod Taylor ), an Australian outback police detective is sent on a special assignment to the UK, to return an Australian citizen ( Christopher Plummer ) accused of murder. Only this is not an ordinary man, he is a UN high commissioner for peace talks taking place in London.

Nobody Runs Forever ( also released as The High Commissioner ) is one of many espionage/thrillers that were released in the wake of James Bond's popularity. Rod Taylor's tough-talking Australian character is quite endearing and this could have been a great start to a series of Scobie Malone pictures. Also in the cast is Franchot Tone in his last screen appearance. The wonderful opening theme was written by Georges Delerue. This is another great Betty Box production. 

To read more about the film, check out our review here

This post is our contribution to the 6th Annual Rule Britannia blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. Click on this link to read more posts about British actors and films from the 1920s-2000s. Be sure to search "Rule Britannia" to also read prior entries from this great blogathon.