Hue & Cry (1947)

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Harry Fowler is the kid who reads the adventures of Selwyn Pike in the pages of the Trump comic to his gang of Blood and Thunder Kids and becomes convinced that the strip is used as code by black marketeers. The police won’t believe him and he takes on the criminals himself, first visiting the sinister writer Alastair Sim and then working for grocer Nightingale (Jack Warner) who turns out to be central to the smuggling ring. After some false attempts to capture the criminals and stave off a department store robbery, and tying up Rhona (Valerie White) from the magazine, the scene is set for a standoff using Sim to engineer it in his story … Tremendous entertainment from writer TEB Clarke, with vivid performances from the kids running amok in the rubble-strewn bombed-out East End right after WW2. Ealing Comedy was really up and running in a film whose Expressionist leanings (courtesy of DoP Douglas Slocombe) remind one of Emil and the Detectives. Directed by Charles Crichton.

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The Company Men (2010)

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To those voters who have forgotten the impact of the financial crash and the ongoing fallout from number-crunching instead of manufacturing in the Noughties, this isn’t a bad place to start. TV auteur John Wells’ story of one shipbuilding company which loses sight of its employees and serves the shareholders, downsizing the workforce to pay for a nice shiny new office HQ, serves as a portrait of contemporary masculinity and decency. Ben Affleck is a blue collar guy done good as the best salesman in the east, who can’t make the mortgage payments and keeps his head in the sand because he’s just another asshole with a resume, as his wife informs him. Tommy Lee Jones’ mistress Maria Bello is the company officer charged with naming the names, Craig T. Nelson is Jones’ college roommate who founded the company with him and winds up firing him and old soak and union guy Chris Cooper, who commits suicide because he has to choose between paying his daughter’s college tuition or keeping the house. Affleck’s brother in law, Kevin Costner, has a nice supporting role as the sceptical brother in law whose job offer he eventually takes to build drywall and Affleck observes the sacrifices Costner makes to keep his few employees in work. This is a middle class story of degradation which happens to be set in the US but is a universal story of the destruction of society by greedy entrepreneurs with government assistance. It’s a convincing howl of rage.

Bond of Fear (1956)

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Smart little British B movie starring Irish-born stalwart Dermot Walsh as the man taking Land Rover and caravan on holiday from Birmingham to the South of France but he never gets there because he and his wife and kids are hijacked by Dewar (Canadian John Colicos) who’s just murdered a policeman. The unlikely scenario of this middle class family hitting the road for Dover port and a crazed killer in the caravan holding them hostage is well measured with police checkpoints proving a test for Walsh as he has to lie while his son has a gun held to his head in the caravan. An indignant hitch hiker provides a particularly good scene and there’s plenty of tension when the little boy Michael (Anthony Pavey) tries to defend his dad. It all comes to a head at Dover – so they never make it to France after all. Shot mostly at Nettlefold Studios at Walton-on-Thames (another to add to my list of British outfits) and around the burbs of Southern England, this looks pretty smart (courtesy of Monty Berman and operator Desmond Davis, a future director) and has an interesting soundtrack (an uncredited Stanley Black.)  Walsh had made his mark on the Dublin stage following a few years studying law at University College Dublin. He was discovered by Rank and had good roles in films like Hungry Hill. After a brief return to the stage he spent most of the 50s doing movies like this and is best remembered for TV’s Richard the Lionheart. He wrote a play and produced several works in the theatre. He is the father of the actress Elisabeth Dermot Walsh. He died in 2002. Digby Wolfe’s story was adapted by horror director and writer John Gilling with additional scenes provided by Norman Hudis; and directed by Henry Cass, who made one of my favourite British movies, The Glass Mountain. Not chopped liver.

Stakeout (1987)

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On a day on which the death of another Eighties icon has been announced, this time the gifted George Michael, it seemed appropriate to roll out a movie rather typical of the era. It starts with a violent prison incident when crazed murderer Richard ‘Stick’ Montgomery (Aidan Quinn) makes good his escape. Meanwhile, horndog cop buddies Chris (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill (Emilio Estevez) get put on a stakeout of his ex Maria’s house for bad behaviour. Jim Kouf’s screenplay identifies the men pretty well as a bereft lovelorn middle ager and a besotted younger man, a relationship that offsets the violence that opens the story.and – inevitably – closes it. In between are office politics, slapstick, and a growing romance between Chris and the object of Stick’s affections, the beyond-beautiful Madeleine Stowe. A good mix of comedy, suspense, action and romance, well managed by director John Badham.

A Taste of Honey (1961)

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Or, how a plain teenaged Northern lass gets knocked up by a black sailor and she only has her gay friend for company. Young Shelagh Delaney adapted her own play for the screen with a co-writing credit going to director Tony Richardson, who had put it on the stage. This was part of the vanguard of the kitchen sink realism movement and you can feel the damp buildings and the misery seep off the screen. Richardson elicits brilliant performances: Rita Tushingham is extraordinary and charming as the sympathetic girl and Murray Melvin is startling as her gay BFF, while Dora Bryan is great as her trampy mother and Robert Stephens impresses as Mum’s younger fancy man. Everyone has to learn how to remake the idea of family. Dreary never looked so good (courtesy of Walter Lassally) and the sounds are from John Addison’s typically inventive score. A Woodfall film.