Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Black Rider ( 1954 )

In the village of Swanhaven, a recent newspaper story about the mysterious Black Rider is sending a chill down the backs of the local townsfolk. After leaving the town pub one moonlit night, a drunk reported seeing the cloaked figure of the Black Rider while he was taking a shortcut through the old ruins of Brockham Castle. Legend has it that he is none other than the devil himself and anyone who looks upon his apparition is cast into the fires of hell. 

The drunk considers himself lucky to have escaped alive. Little does anyone realize that a gang of smugglers is using the old legend of The Black Rider to scare away people from Brockham Castle while they undertake to smuggle atomic sabotage equipment across the Channel. It takes some quick thinking from young reporter Jerry Marsh to capture the band of crooks. 

The Black Rider is a fun little British B-film from the newly formed Balbair Productions Co. Its Scooby-Doo-like plot is devoid of mystery ( there is only one suspect so it must be him ), but nevertheless, it is highly entertaining and runs just a little over an hour. Jerry Marsh, played by Jimmy Hanley, makes a jolly hero and it would have been nice to see him appear in several other films. Jerry's fiancee Mary ( Rona Anderson ) is the village librarian and her father Mr. Plack ( Leslie Dwyer ) is the editor of the newspaper Jerry writes for. 

Jerry just purchased a motorbike and this becomes a sub-plot in the film, with members of his motorcycling club helping him hunt for the smugglers in the final scenes. Motorcycling was becoming a popular hobby sport for many people in the 1950s and motorcycle clubs were sprouting up all across England at the time. Mr. Plack disapproves of Jerry's new mode of transportation but, by the end of the film, he comes to like the "machines". 

Fans of British B-films will easily recognize many of the actors in the film. Jimmy Handley was popular in the Huggetts film series. Leslie Dwyer played in a number of films of the 1940s and 1950s, usually as a grouchy middle-class shopowner. Rona Anderson made several good mystery films and looks particularly lovely in this picture with her hair dyed blonde...and last, but certainly not least, the great character actor Lionel Jeffries, who plays the debonair villain in The Black Rider

Director Wolf Rilla ( Village of the Damned ) did a fine job of keeping the film moving along at a brisk pace and the script, by A.R. Rawlinson, has a number of humorous touches. All in all, a great little mystery to enjoy!


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