Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, 1960. 10/10

Albert Finney in one of the definitive British ‘kitchen-sink’ dramas. Finney is Arthur, a young disgruntled guy (like a British James Dean with a few weeks more schooling). Arthur, of course, makes things more difficult for himself by carrying on with a married woman, Brenda (Rachel Roberts), who’s married to his friend Jack (Bryan Pringle). If that’s not enough drama, Doreen (Shirley Anne Field) comes along.

We’ve also got supporting characters Aunt Ada (Hylda Blake), Bert (Norman Rossington), Robboe (Robert Cawdron), Mrs. Bull (Edna Morris), and Arthur’s mom and dad (Elsie Wagstaff and Frank Pettitt).

We start, naturally, in the factory where Arthur works. Looks like lathe work. We get this advice from him: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” And “All I’m out for is a good time. All the rest is propaganda.” These are the narrative book-ends of his life. It seems that Jack, more conservative looking than the others, plans to “get on.”

After work, Arthur settles in at home. His dad is zoned out on the TV; anyway, having eaten, Arthur dresses up, and goes out. In a pub, he’s drinking with Brenda, watching a sailor drink it up. Arthur’s plenty drunk as well. He deliberately spills his beer on a lady, then collapses on the staircase at Brenda’s.

That doesn’t stop them from making out. He wakes up in bed with her. Where’s Jack? “Tell him your in a dance team, he’ll believe you!” He does return just then, with their young son, Tommy. At a pub with Bert, he sees a nice-looking woman. It’s Doreen.

They chat. She’s kind of cheeky, but wary. They make a movie date. Anyway, he goes fishing with Bert; they talk of Doreen “first kiss and she’ll expect an engagement ring” thinks Bert. Then they take on the system “They rob rob you right, left, and center!” Bert cautions him to be careful about Brenda.

Him and his dad despise the busybody landlady–she’s the prototype for the landlady stereotype. Anyway, at work, he rescues a rat from a cat’s clutches–for the exact purpose of horrifying a woman co-worker with the thing. He sits down with Jack to have lunch, near enough to hear her squeal. His boss knows it was his work, but can’t prove it.

At home, Brenda makes an excuse to go out to see Arthur. They speculate if Jack knows what they’re up to. “As long as we’ve got each other, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?” Well, Brenda, not so much, considering you’re married on the side, you know. When they sneak over to the bar Jack’s motorcycle’s there. She goes home, Arthur goes in to chat up Jack.

He discovers that Jack’s soldier brother and friend will be visiting. Anyway, time for that Wednesday date with Doreen; they’re obviously attracted to each other, but she’s reticent. At work, more arguing with Robboe, the boss. At the sweet shop where he treats his nephew, he literally bumps into the landlady.

Well, a bit of a happening at Doreen’s; unfortunately for Bert, his date isn’t to his liking. Meanwhile, Doreen and Arthur are doing fine; until her mom comes in. “Well anyway, I like him” The girl says of Arthur. Oh, man, but Brenda has a bombshell for the old boy.

She’s pregnant, “how d’ya know it’s mine?” Is his expected response. She upbraids him on the responsibility of having a child, and bringing it up. Nonetheless, they decide on an (then illegal) abortion. He goes to Bert’s mom to indirectly ask her about finding a doctor to do it. “You are in a bloody fix, aren’t you?” But, she agrees to help. He brings Brenda to the aunt’s place for a ‘consultation.’

He doesn’t want Bert in on the situation. They go out. Some street entertainment: an old guy hurls a beer mug through a shop window; Arthur and Bert try to rescue him, but a witness (the landlady) fingers the guy when a cop comes up. As soon as possible, Arthur takes out his discontent by shooting her with an air rifle. He and Bert play cards, but Mrs. Bull comes back with her husband; undeterred, Arthur doesn’t mind taunting her with the gun.

Wow, Doreen comes calling. Of course the police follow-up, but his dad alibis for him. Meanwhile, Brenda’s trudging around; the abortion was a scam. So, there’s still her pregnancy to consider; plus, she knows he’s been seeing someone else. She observes, accurately, that he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. “And I don’t want anyone teaching me either!” He replies.

She talks about going to a real doctor, for a price. Walking with Doreen, she mentions an acquaintaince who got married; an obvious hint. He’s dismissive and disdainful ” I like you a lot, then.” She wants him to be just a wee bit decent. Ok, so he promises to take her to the fair. All’s well at first, but guess who else is there? Jack, Brenda, and Jack’s soldier brother.

He sneaks into a hidden spot with Brenda “I’m with some pals from work” (!). Brenda tells him she’s having the baby after all. “What can I do?” He offers, sincerely. They try and hide from her brother-in-law and his friend. (there’s no more secrets in the family; either that, or merely being seen with her is problematic).

Brenda gets her comeuppance from Jack; but Arthur’s treatment is even more abusive–at the hands of the two soldiers. Left in a bad state in an alley, he can barely walk. Well, he makes it back home. Doreen comes to have a look. He tells her the whole story, of Brenda, etc., And then “you ought to stay with me for good” Not exactly a proposal.

“I’ll buy you a ring next week, if you’re nice.” Ok, then. Even Bert admits that she’s great. Later, at her place, things are a bit stiff. Until moms turns in, anyway. On the couch, the floor, fun stuff. Back to the unclear light of day–facing Jack at work. How’s Brenda? “She’s all right, with me” says Jack, protectively.

Well, back to the fishing hole. Looks like Arthur is marrying Doreen after all. After asking him about Brenda, Bert cautions him about life “there’s easier ways to get things than lashing out all the time.” He’s not about to change; at least he still wants to appear the tough guy. He actually catches a fish from the canal. Then, he and Doreen out in the fields, talking.

He can’t pass up an opportunity to throw rocks at houses; she thinks that’s pretty stupid. She right, but, before we end with him smiling, and them walking happily down the hill, he says “that won’t be the last one I’ll throw.” That’s it.

He has cracked his Angry Young Man shell just a bit; we could infer that it’s because of Brenda’s influence. She, is more or less, a cleaned-up, more respectable version of Arthur. Her response to the dull life–of their parent’s generation particularly–is essentially the same as his. She’s just more mature, and a bit more hopeful.

In fact, both Doreen and Arthur get what they want: their marriage is sort of a staging area for finding their dream. That’s symbolized by the row of neat new houses; just the sort of ‘getting ahead’ icon that Arthur would’ve scorned before.

Its always difficult in these Kitchen Sink dramas of Finney’s to find something positive about his character. He’s not overtly abusive like the husband he plays in 1959’s Look Back In Anger, but, as he lets on early, he’s more or less a selfish hedonist. Nonetheless, as in Look Back In Anger, there’s hints of goodness popping out here and there.

He’s kind to his younger cousin, he sticks up for the hapless shop vandal, and, though he despises his parent’s limitations, he respects them. And, in a more substantial sense than his character in the earlier film, he does move on. Realizing that he loves Doreen, he’s smart enough not to alienate her. They both show courage and vulnerability by seeing things through.

It is a bit surprising that Doreen isn’t fazed much when he tells her about Brenda. We can infer that, given their social milieu, a cool guy like Arthur would ‘get around.’ Still, he gets off easy with Doreen; not so much with Brenda, though. She and Jack are the couple that Doreen and Arthur don’t want to become.

Thats not likely in any case, as Jack’s passivity is seen as weak; in that respect, Arthur’s outgoing, aggressive nature is preferable. It could be said that Arthur himself settles for conventionality; but, with Doreen, he seeks contentment instead as a restless, nebulous rebellion. Their relationship and its love, after all, was their creation, and owes nothing to any social tradition or circumstance.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent (Morris does so much with the landlady role, for example). Can’t beat the pacing, tone, or plot. This moves along so smoothly that the viewer might easily be on the next bar stool, or at the canal, fishing, and listening to Finney tell his tale.

Worth seeing and pondering over; drama at its best. 10/10

Murder Is My Beat, 1955. 6.5/10

Barbara Peyton and Paul Langton star in this late noir. She’s singer Eden Lane, accused of killing her boyfriend, Frank Dean (Roy Gordon). Langton is Detective Ray Patrick, who, after Eden’s conviction, escorts her on the train that’s headed to the welcome wagon at the women’s prison. With a device that’s seen action in other crime mysteries, she claims to have seen the supposed dead man. The corpse itself had been burned beyond recognition–could the deadman be someone else?

Well, we’re going to find out. Ray buys Eden’s story, and the two of them go in search of the supposed victim. That incurs the wrath of police Capt. Pete Rawley (Robert Shayne). Also in the wings are Patsy (Tracey Roberts), Abbott (also Roy Gordon) and his wife Beatrice (Selena Royle), and Miss Sparrow (Kate McKenna).

Rawley drives into a motor court and sneaks up on one of the cottages. It’s Ray that he jumps; obviously this is foreshadowing, after the fact of Ray’s going rogue with Eden. “We’re going back [to L.A. police headquarters] together, or I’m not going back either!” Exclaims Rawley.

So to pick up the story from the beginning, we pick up the action right after the Dean ‘killing.’ We see a figurine that was used as a weapon; the victim, when struck, fell into the fireplace, and was burnt beyond recognition.

Mrs. Sparrow fills them in about Eden. So Ray heads to the club where she works, The Spotlight. “I’ll bat the questions, you just field ’em” he tells the bartender. That conversation sends Ray to Patsy, who’s a bit evasive. He wants to take her ‘for a ride.’ Not to headquarters, but to her place. He looks through everything…the trash can yields a note for a bus ticket. Only now she comes up with Frank Dean’s name.

In fact, Eden must’ve know that she’d be tailed, and got off the bus about halfway to S.F. At Merced, Ray finds a gas station guy who tells him that Eden had come by to hire a car. She’s headed East for a mountain cabin. When he gets in, he takes in the cozy scene, telling her that there’s “no rush.”

Eden certainly beguiles Ray, who’s literally slogged through a blizzard to find her at her mountain retreat. Well, he’s supposed to. Once he settles in with her, they discuss the case. He doesn’t want her to incrimate herself, but keeps the chit-chat business-like at first.

They can’t sleep, neither could I, if, like Ray I slept with my tie on. Oddly, although she admits hitting the guy, but she didn’t know that he was dead. He struggles with the supposedly closed case: “there was a loose end to this Dean case that nagged at me.” Back in L.A., we’re spared the details of the trial. Rawley tells him what he thinks; he could care less about her.

Anyway, Ray’s detailed to accompany her on the train–ultimately to the prison. They discuss the case again. At a stop she sees Frank on the platform. He doesn’t believe her, of course. But “I remember that train ride as long as I live…because I began to doubt [her guilt].” He realizes that, if she’s right, she’s obviously innocent of killing Frank.

Determined to see if they can really find Frank, Ray very quickly decides that they jump off the train when it has to slow for a bridge. He says “for his own sake” he’s going to give their ‘investigation’ a week; after which he’ll treat her as an escaped prisoner if nothing turns up. Driving around in the wayside town, he sees Patsy.

She goes into a hotel; with the naivety common in that era, the clerk gives him Patsy’s room number. She goes up there and rummages through her stuff: whoa! What’s this? A secret compartment in her suitcase loaded with cash. Later, at the motel with Eden, he tells her about the money.

Coincidentally, this joint is Patsy’s home town. I can’t understand why he takes the money. Meanwhile, showing another bit of folksy trust never to be seen again, the motel owner let’s Ray use his car. He stops in at Abbott’s porcelain factory to buy a figurine (the same as the one in the motel lobby, and, not coincidentally, also the same as the murder weapon).

He hides in a closet there, coming out at night to do… what? He’s seen by an employee; they fight briefly, and he scoots away. He expects to find a picture of Frank on the business calendar he swipes, but Eden says no dice. He can’t figure out how Patsy figures into it; Eden has already figured into Ray’s love life, though.

Meaning, that there’s no more ‘limit’ on his suspension of disbelief–he ain’t going to turn her in. He admits to himself that now they could both wind up in prison. But, what’s this? She’s skipped out. Uh–oh, he finds Rawley there instead.

Now what? Well, we’ve segued back to the opening scene, and go from that point. Ray tries to negotiate with Rawley. Incredibly, his boss/captor gives him 24 hours to continue the hunt for Frank. Not only that, he agrees to help Ray! So they go looking for Patsy. If they’re both policemen, why don’t they just march into her hotel and find her? Well, instead, they hide outside and wait for her to leave.

She goes into a church. When the service is over, they go back to her room, only to find her dead. Then they go to the Abbott’s; they’re the folks who run the ceramic plant. Rawley says that Patsy had been blackmailing the Abbott’s, and accuses him of killing Patsy. When Abbott’s wife comes in, the cops leave; yet they overhear the couple arguing about Patsy.

Eden gave herself up. Why? They summon Mrs. Sparrow, as she’s the only one available to identify Frank. Their theory is that Abbot is Dean. He’d framed Eden by staging his own death. The actual corpse was a blackmailer (Patsy’s boyfriend Mike); she was killed for blackmailing Abbott/Dean about Mike.

Abbott deduces that his wife instigated the whole thing. She slips out and kills herself by jumping off the speeding train. That, supposedly ties it all up. Except for the next and last scene at city hall where Eden and Ray, now both in the clear, fix to tie up their own knot. With Rawley as best man. The end.

This is watchable, but as a story, it’s just not very plausible. If Ray is simply a guy who’s attracted to Eden, ok, we can buy his overlooking her legal issues. But he’s not only a cop, he’s charged with conveying her to prison, and turns rebel anyway. To compound this near-impossibility, his boss plays along, pretty much going rogue himself.

If this had all occur at the remote mountain cabin, this all might’ve been at least logistically possible. But, no, the rogue-cop pose plays out in broad daylight, in everyday life; as if it’s the Old West. In the initial scene, Pete does realize that he’s sticking his neck out by basically throwing-in with Ray, but once we’re past that point, he and Ray act like Holmes and Watson.

On the other hand, the foreshadowing device does grab us right off the bat. The viewer is completely in the dark until near the end that Abbott and Dean are the same guy. That’s pretty clever, but it does make the long build-up with the Abbotts into more of a distraction; the payoff comes a bit late.

Up to the time that Ray and Eden ‘escape’ from the train, this is a pretty good mystery. Then the believability suffers just as the pacing slows; the church scene is entirely superfluous, and it’s absurd that Eden turns herself in. The whole blackmail thing is way too complex to unravel; and Ray helps himself to some of it for no apparent reason.

The business with the figurine is worked to death, somewhat like the tiresome postcard prop from the same year’s British crime mystery, Postmarked For Danger. That movie also features an initially unidentifiable, burnt body.

Langton and Payton have pretty good chemistry–we can see that they would fall for each other. The supporting cast, Shayne excepted, is fairly bland. A little better than Postmarked For Danger, but monster truck racing beats both by quite a bit. 6.5/10

Postmarked For Danger, 1955. 6/10

A murder mystery involving a diamond smuggling ring. Lewis Forrester and Alison Ford (Robert Beatty and Terry Moore) have an apparently fatal car crash, but Alison survives. After she skulks around in Lewis’s brother Tim’s art studio, he and his remaining brother, Dave (William Sylvester, find a dead model, Jill Stewart (Josephine Griffin). There’s plenty of twists and turns before we’re done with this lot.

The car wreck starts us off (with the usual substitution of a much older car for the burning hulk). And, as in 1944’s Laura, a portrait of a beautiful woman in the family’s (Tim’s) house. Tim is busy painting Jill; she tells him about her date with Henry Carmichael (Allan Cuthbertson). He sort of pre-proposes.

Dave goes up to see Tim, and tells him about the accident. Dave says he’s taking a reporter, Fenby (Terence Alexander), to the inquest; Dave’s a pilot, so they take a DC-3 to Milan (near the site of the accident). Back in London, police are discussing Dave’s whereabouts; they think that he and Lewis have been involved in a diamond-smuggling ring. They theorize, that along with another guy found dead in Milan, Lewis was targeted.

Inspector Colby (Geoffrey Keen) takes a call from Italian police regarding Lewis’s death; apparently Lewis had sent a postcard with a drawing of a bottle to someone in London, but no one knows to whom. Clue or red herring? Inspector Colby figures to talk to Tim. Meanwhile, Jill tells Tim that she’s marrying the priggish, but wealthy Henry. They embrace warmly as she takes her leave.

“She works for me” he says to the Inspector, of Jill. “Nice work” he notes. Anyway, Colby asks him about the card with the drawing; Tim just got a conventional touristy card from Lewis, no mysterious bottle picture. Tim looks in on a guy named Smith (Henry Oscar). That guy had mentioned doing a portrait of his daughter from a photograph. Turns out the woman is Lewis’s companion from the accident, Alison, still presumed dead.

Tim agrees to do the portrait (the one we see at the very beginning). While he’s at work, who looks in on him but Jill. Anyway, Dave returns to London. He says he didn’t really find out anything at the inquest. Before the brothers get back from the airport, we see Alison appear miraculously at Tim’s studio. She seems agitated.

What she does is deface the portrait; the brothers discuss the police interest in the accident–they themselves seem oblivious about anything that Lewis might’ve been mixed up in. When they get back, not only do they discover the messed-up painting, but Jill’s body–wearing Alison’s pink dress. We see Alison walking the dark streets.

The cops are going over ‘just one more thing.’ Tim tells them about the dress, Alison’s dad, etc. In a parcel, the Inspector discovers a Chianti bottle, that is, the same type in the one in the sketch. They bring Henry in to grill him about the Chianti bottle, he more or less fingers Tim as a suspect, due, no doubt, to his status as a “bohemian.”

Now that he’s done with the police for a bit, Tim takes a call from an auto dismantler, Dorking (William Lucas). The guy claims to have Lewis’s car; in fact he doesn’t, but he has access to that funky Chianti sketch, for a certain price. Fenby looks in on Tim, who asks him about (oh, yeah) that stupid sketch. Fenby and Dorking are up to something.

Apparently, the police are onto Dorking, and use Tim to attempt an incriminating blackmail payoff. Dorking stalls; which makes Tim out to be even more hapless in the eyes of the police. Plus the Inspector tells him that Alison’s alleged pink dress (that was found on Jill’s corpse) was in fact Jill’s anyway. His whole problem is that Alison has been very elusive.

That’s cleared up, at least, as she comes back to Tim’s. She doesn’t want him to get Colby. “Why are you afraid? Why are you here?” She describes what’s happened. She was with her dad in Italy, where she met Lewis. She wouldn’t believe it when Lewis clued her in about the smuggling ring her dad was involved in.

The gangsters wanted to bump Lewis off, thus the ‘accident.’ The woman found in the car was a hitchhiker. Alison lets on that she’d been in Tim’s studio (thanks to a tell-tale earring)…she admits that she saw Jill’s body there. The good news is, now that Alison’s available to model, Tim can complete the painting. So touching.

Dave comes back from Paris to find out that Alison is a houseguest. But, of course, now that Tim’s told both Dave and Colby about her, she skips out. That dork Fenby doesn’t have the dumb Chianti card… it’s in the mail or some such. Meanwhile, Alison reunites with her dad. She accuses him of being involved with the smugglers.

The Inspector isn’t happy to not find Alison at Tim’s, but he believes that she was there–her passport is lying around. Switching back to Alison, her dad refuses to turn himself in; she meets up with Tim. Stuff happens quickly, as both Fenby and then Alison’s dad get it (Fenby’s murdrered, dad simply falls out a window).

Strangely, Dave starts getting jumpy, and says he’s splitting for South America. Because he’s in the ring too. We find this out because Tim gets the Chianti card–Dave insists that Tim hand it over, as it fingers him. “I’m just a stooge in the game!” But a pretty deadly game. They fight, very unrealistically. Tim wins.

Finally, thanks to Tim, Colby gets the card. He figures that the card had some invisible ink that named all the smugglers; that is, a handy blackmailer’s tool. The police lab decodes the card. Alison comes back to Tim’s to find that old boy Henry looking for something. She recognizes him from Italy; another one of those pesky smugglers.

He’s in fact Nightingale; he’d killed Jill because she ‘knew too much’. He now tries to kill Alison. Naturally, Tim arrives just in time to have a jolly good very dumb fight with him. Good thing the studio has a loft for Nightingale to fall through. That does it for the bad guys. The happy couple’s happy, the Inspector’s happy, and so am I.

Because this is over. It started out with some cunning, but about the time Alison surfaced, it more or less degenerated into sessions of Colby taunting Tim with ludicrous innuendos about Jill’s murder, and Tim’s huffy denials. The smuggling device really didn’t animate the plot as there was no smuggling to be seen, let alone any diamonds to smuggle.

On top of those less than interesting bits, the Tim/Alison romance happened predictably, lacked believability, and was, well, unbelievably unromantic. Jill seemed to be a more interesting character, but she was the first one to go. We never really get a feel for any of the other characters, especially Tim and Dave, so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them.

This might’ve worked better as a simple love triangle; with Jill engaged to Henry, as written, but Tim’s the sensitive, artistic guy she really wants or something. In place of a character-driven plot, we get psuedo fights and a whole deck’s worth of that obnoxious card. Invisible writing isn’t going to make it into the Maltese Falcon.

Kind of a disappointing murder mystery; literally too much plot ties up our attention while the characters, instead of engaging our interest as people, flail about until they become targeted as bad guys. Ok, but not worth staying up for.