Saturday, March 27, 2010


This little-seen British thriller may not be a top rank film noir, but the current noir craze on DVD has allowed its rediscovery and it's worth seeing. It's a bit slow going for a while, as it takes over half of its running time to set up a variety of characters, many of whom wind up being red herrings. Luigi (Cesar Romero) runs a popular saloon with arcade games in London; Danny is his crippled assistant who lets himself be called Limpy by those he chooses. Through a mildly convoluted set of circumstances, Luigi winds up involved with Barbara Gale, a woman married to Gerald, a miserable cheater and overall shady guy. She seems to be having an affair of her own with the handsome lug Nigel, but soon falls for the cultivated Luigi. Enter Angele, a trampy French girl who knew Luigi in the past; she pisses off a drunken sailor (whom Luigi punches out when he gets too fresh with her) and pisses off Limpy (by flirting with him then denying him entrance to her apartment). However, when she winds up dead in Luigi's place, he becomes the chief suspect and goes on the run. When a woman's glove is found nearby, Barbara becomes a suspect, too. There's also Starry (an old fortune-telling woman), Konki the Clown (an old fortune-telling machine in Luigi's arcade), and Poppa (a shady jeweler).

This isn't really a whodunit--though we don't see the murder, it's crystal clear who did it--as much as a psychological thriller with strong noir elements. The inky black shadows, present in practically every scene, are nicely atmospheric; it feels like the entire movie takes place at night, even though there are a few daytime scenes. Most of the British cast was unfamiliar to me, except for Kay Kendall (attractive but with little to do as Barbara) and Bill Travers (attractive but with even less to do as Nigel). The standout actors are Romero, Victor Maddern as Limpy, and Edward Underdown as the inspector who wraps the case up. The noir theme of fate crops up in several references to fortune tellers. To be honest, the slow but careful set-up of all the characters in the first 45 minutes is interesting, and it's a bit of a letdown when few of those people wind up being important to the murder plot. The print on the VCI disc (in Forgotten Noir Vol. 3) is crisp and clean. [DVD]

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