“ Genre: Drama / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Jack Lee / Actors: Joan Collins, Yvonne Mitchell, Kathleen Harrison, Terence Morgan ... / DVD released 2012-03-26 at Spirit Entertainment Limited / Features of the DVD: Dolby, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 1953, Cert. PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 81 mins
DIRECTOR: Jack Lee
PRODUCER: Maurice Cowan
SCREENPLAY: Maurice Cowan & Jack Lee
MUSIC: Mischa Spoliansky
Yvonne Mitchell as Monica
Joan Collins as Stella
Kathleen Harrison as Granny Quilliam
Terence Morgan as David
Glyn Houston as Bob
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on John Brophy's novel of the same name. Turn The Key Softly focuses on three women who are all released from Holloway Prison at the same time, depicting what happens to them during their first twenty-four hours of freedom.
Monica wants to begin a new life, intending to alienate herself from her boyfriend David (who was responsible for her imprisonment) and to find a respectable office job. Life on the outside though, even on her first day of release, isn't as easy as she expects.
It isn't entirely clear why Stella was imprisoned, but there is a veiled hint that her crime could have been prostitution. On the outside, Stella decides she wants to marry Bob, her bus conductor boyfriend, but are her intentions towards him as honourable as she'd like him to believe or even believe herself?
Granny Quilliam is an elderly lady who had been imprisoned for shoplifting, and can't wait to return to her old life with her little dog, Johnny.
The film is told in three separate, yet occasionally intermingling stories which are seamless, following what the three women get up to during the day of their release from Holloway when their paths cross a couple of times.
Turn The Key Softly, shot in black and white, is one of those delightful old early 1950s British films which grabbed my attention immediately. It begins with the three women being released from Holloway, each of them as regards their personalities, being very different to one another. Monica is the classy, sophisticated, intelligent one....Stella is a little ditsy, occasionally childlike and capable of being churlish when she doesn't get her own way, and Granny Quilliam is a lovely-natured, easy-going cockney type elderly lady who is very warm-hearted and can't wait to get back to her humble lodgings to be with Johnny the dog.
Although I knew that this film was about the immediate events in the lives of three women who have just been released from prison, I wasn't sure what path their stories would travel....whether their experiences would be combined or separate. I also had no idea of whether it would be one of these tense, film-noir productions, something gushily dramatic or an exercise in attempting to convey a message to society. I was pleasantly surprised (although I'd not have objected in the slightest to film-noir as it's one of my favourite genres) to find myself being thoroughly absorbed into an interesting, yet very down to earth set of three sometimes intertwining tales about three ex-con women from different walks of life.
Although very much in early 1950s style, the acting is remarkably good, especially from the three female lead characters. I also have to hand an accolade to the uncredited Johnny, Granny Quilliam's endearingly delightful little dog. At first, I wasn't too pleased with Joan Collins's input, but as the film wore on, I began to warm to her performance and feel that she conveyed the part of Stella perfectly. Yvonne Mitchell is quite convincing as the well-mannered Monica, but my overall favourite is that of Kathleen Harrison who beautifully mastered the role of warm-hearted, easy-going, yet a little ungrounded Granny Quilliam. Both the lead males were very good too, although their roles - despite being of major importance to the overall storyline - are minor in comparison.
I loved every minute of Turn The Key Softly, watching how three women spent their first twenty-four hours of freedom. Another treat for me was to relish in the film being shot on location in London.....a very different London to that of today.....which although released the year before I was born, took me straight back to the streets of the capital of my very early childhood. I loved reminiscing about the old features, such as rows of houses before they were demolished and replaced with the monolithic monstrosities of residential tower blocks, the early 1950s design of traffic lights, policemen on the beat clad in overcoats and helmets, 999 vehicles which rung bells instead of wailing sirens when attending an emergency situation, the glamour of dress style people adopted when visiting theatres, the rickety old underground trains, being able to walk safely and in a non-threatening environment at any time of the day or night.....and, so very much more.
Turn The Key Softly for me is a combination of nostalgia and an interesting, fascinating set of circumstances whereby the storyline travels to and culminates in different events from what the viewer might expect whilst watching.
The film is well-constructed, and it stands out that a lot of care was taken in the direction. There is also a huge warmth present, particularly from the character of Granny Quilliam - a warmth which either in real life or via the medium of film, is so much harder to find in more modern times.
The transferring of Turn The Key Softly over to DVD is reasonable, although the first couple of minutes are a little crackly, but the picture is sharp and the diction of the actors is unspoiled. As far as the music is concerned, there isn't much of it other than some serious-sounding orchestral piece to open the film, re-appearing intermittently at various points, and a few blasts of rather loud music from scenes which were filmed in the corridors of a theatre whilst a show was in progress.
If you love well-made, heartwarming and fascinating films from the 1950s which also have a definite thread of seriousness and some tension running through them, I feel certain Turn The Key Softly is something you'd really enjoy, as I have done. One of the most interesting aspects for me is the polarity between the three female characters and how what they choose for their leisure time entertainment contrasts so very sharply, according to each woman's lifestyle and disposition. Stella is fascinated by expensive clothes and jewellery that she can't afford, Monica loves to dine at expensive restaurants prior to an up-market theatre trip, and Granny Quilliam loves nothing more than to take herself off (with Johnny the dog of course) to a little spit and sawdust type pub to quaff a glass of ginger beer.
Would I recommend Turn The Key Softly? Absolutely, as it is one of the most delightful films I've ever seen from all time, not just from the 1950s. Of course anybody who would be interested in giving it a chance would have to accept black and white filming together with understanding that cinematic styles and fashions were totally different in 1953 to what they have been at any point in time since, as was society. The film could also appeal to people who have an interest in what day to day life was like in London back in the early 1950s....as far as that is concerned, I feel Turn The Key Softly probably conveys this better than in anything else I've seen from the same era.
I urge you to watch it in the belief and hope that most people wouldn't be disappointed.
At the time of writing, Turn The Key Softly can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £5.70 to £14.16
Used: from £5.74 to £8.29
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
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