Newest Review: ... children is real or whether he's just an innocent tramp in mortal peril himself. (Although the DVD blurb gives it away, rather blowing th... more
'Your nudity means nothing to me!'
Life In Danger / Cover Girl Killer (DVD)
Member Name: hogsflesh
Life In Danger / Cover Girl Killer (DVD)
Advantages: Entertaining enough films
Disadvantages: Neither is terribly exciting
There were huge numbers of films made in the olden days, and the majority are completely forgotten. Stolid British B-movies were churned out in great numbers to fulfil a government quota and act as cheap support to glossy Hollywood films. As old people will wistfully tell you, back in 'the day' you really got your money's worth at the movies, with a B-movie, newsreels, cartoons and all sorts before the main picture began.
The films featured here are hour-long British B-movies, both from the same director and both made in 1959. I bought it for Cover Girl Killer, which is an obscure British horror I'd not seen before.
**Life in Danger**
A small village lives in the shadow of a hospital for the criminally insane. A murderer named Miller escapes, plunging the village into a panic. A stranger appears in the village at the same time - incoherent, unfriendly and inexplicably tired. As the manhunt intensifies, with a local squire leading a small vigilante group, the stranger befriends two children - a young boy and a sexually precocious teenage girl. Unaware of the danger this man may pose, they hide with him in a local barn...
This is a pretty decent thriller, which makes a few rather obvious points about trust and prejudice. The villagers are fearful of the hospital, sceptical that the inmates can be cured, and convinced that execution would be the better option. But among the macho prejudice, there's also a great deal of genuine fear for the safety of the women and children when the murderer escapes. The film is clever enough not to reveal whether the stranger is the escaped killer until quite late on, so we're never sure if the threat to the children is real or whether he's just an innocent tramp in mortal peril himself. (Although the DVD blurb gives it away, rather blowing the film's main trick.)
It tells its story with remarkable economy, and if made a few years later, would have been well suited to television. The writers, Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice, both did loads of TV scripts later (Hulke became one of Dr Who's most important writers, and his scripts for that series tended to show the same kind of liberal social conscience as this film. He was the master of presenting opposing points of view sympathetically). It's also very cheap, but makes decent use of its few small sets. The director also went on to work in TV quite a bit, and it almost feels more like a TV show than a movie.
The stranger is played by Derren Nesbitt, who was a villain in plenty of minor British movies and most relevant TV shows. I rather like Nesbitt generally, because his performance in Where Eagles Dare is highly entertaining. He's excellent in this, alternately sympathetic and creepy, and we never know for sure whether we can trust him. The girl he is with is also well acted by Julie Hopkins, a put upon teen desperate to escape her stifling family, who convinces herself she loves the stranger and they'll run off together (as soon as she can get rid of her pesky little brother).
The townsfolk are led by the blustery Major Peters, again well acted by Howard Marion-Crawford. He's another well-rounded character who we can understand even if he isn't very likeable. The acting is all fine for this kind of movie, with a few half-recognisable faces among them, but apart from Nesbitt no one gives a particularly exceptional performance. It's not that kind of film.
This is an effective enough thriller, although not very weighty. The ending is pretty good, and it's all made very competently. There's no particular reason to want to see it, and if it hadn't been on this disk I doubt I'd even have heard of it. But it's entertaining enough for its short running time.
**Cover Girl Killer**
This film features a serial killer murdering the cover girls from a very tame girlie mag called Wow! He manages to kill them at the site of their last cover shoot, which you'd think would make it very easy to catch him, but I guess there wouldn't be much of a film in that case.
This is thoroughly entertaining stuff. Only an hour long, the pacing is pretty much spot on, and unlike Life In Danger it has no moral message to impart, except perhaps a vague idea that killing models is a bad thing. The loopy killer is a kind of proto-Mary Whitehouse, ranting about immorality and filth as he goes about his despicable business. His best line is 'sex and horror are the new gods in this polluted world of so-called entertainment,' which neatly captures the mix of prurience and Biblical-sounding disapproval that marks the language of campaigners like Whitehouse.
The murderer has a distinct look, with his pebble glasses, wonky toupee and dirty mac - he looks like everyone's image of a 60s Soho smut patron. He's played by Harry H Corbett, now best known as Steptoe junior, but at least in the early part of his career he was a method actor of some acclaim. He's fun as the killer, although when he disguises himself as a normal person he overdoes it a bit on the method-y ticks.
Victor Brooks is very good as the seen-it-all-before detective on Corbett's trail, and the girls are sprightly and often stripped down to their scanties, doubtless a real thrill at the time. The weak point in the cast is the juvenile hero, the young proprietor of Wow! Played by someone called Spencer Teakle, his bizarre accent, halting line delivery and unbelievable campness undermine the film.
Which is a pity, because it has a lot of nice little touches. There's a strange running gag between the policemen about coffee, which the policemen about coffee, which helps give them the illusion of a life outside the film. The film also has a couple of rather moving scenes in which the families of two of the victims are presented with the full horror of what has happened to them. You could almost see this film as a creaky, archaic proto-slasher movie, with its pretty female victims and distinctive-looking killer, but family grief is something most horror movies stay well away from.
It's still a very cheap film, but is more impressive than Life In Danger, maybe because they could film bits of it on location. I don't know if it was really filmed in Soho, but it captures a bit of that seedy world of nudie revues. It's not going to set anyone's world on fire, and the horror content is negligible (the one corpse we see in the flesh is visibly breathing). But it's a sprightly little movie, and isn't long enough to drag.
The DVDs have fairly poor picture quality, but are perfectly watchable. I don't think we could expect them to look much better than they do here given their age and obscurity.
Summary: A double bill of old British B-movies