Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Long Haul (1957)

1957 was quite a year for British trucking movies, with the release of both HELL DRIVERS (1957) and THE LONG HAUL (1957).

THE LONG HAUL is one of a few movies Victor Mature made in the UK in the late '50s. It was written and directed by Ken Hughes, based on a novel by Mervyn Mills.

Mature plays Harry Miller, an American G.I. whose British wife Connie (Gene Anderson) is reluctant to move to America along with their little boy (Michael Wade) once Harry is discharged from the Army.

Harry reluctantly agrees to stay in England, at least for a few months, and he takes a job driving a truck for Connie's uncle. It's a tough job, with long hours on the road and vicious truckers on the take; Harry works hard, but it's all for naught as he loses his job after a load is stolen while he's on a stopover on the road, and he's blacklisted by insurance companies.

Harry becomes entwined with crooked trucking company owner Joe Easy (Patrick Allen) and Easy's gorgeous girlfriend Lynn (Diana Dors), who takes a shine to Harry. Harry is torn between attraction to Lynn and his responsibility to his wife and son. And as it turns out, Harry's wife has been keeping a secret of her own...

This is an interesting, watchable movie, though it's rather grim. Like HELL DRIVERS, the setting is dark and gritty, a foggy hell of sorts in which dangerous driving is broken up only by hanging out with rough types in billiard halls or roadside cafes.

But whereas Tom (Stanley Baker) in HELL DRIVERS is rebuilding his life, encouraged by the lovely trucking company secretary (Peggy Cummins), in THE LONG HAUL Harry's life is spinning completely out of control, culminating in a nightmarish road trip with Joe and Lynn.

Mature was the perfect actor to play the role, looking more haggard than usual as the worn-down ex-G.I. who dreams of a good job and life in the U.S. He adores his little boy, but his relationship with his wife is rather distant and brittle, so he's all too willing to succumb to the temptation of a voluptuous blonde, though he's plagued with guilt.

The final trucking sequence, which begins with Harry contemplating running out on his family and ends with him battling the murderous Joe in a lake, felt a little unreal to me, but that's my only real criticism, other than simply the fact that it's a rather downer storyline. The ending is interesting, with a hopeful note, yet it leaves more questions than answers.

THE LONG HAUL is out on DVD-R in the Sony Choice line.

IMDb says the film is 100 minutes long, but the print I recently recorded from Turner Classic Movies was about 10 minutes shorter than that, and Leonard Maltin's reference book corroborates that, listing the running time as 88 minutes. I'm not sure if there are two different release versions out there or IMDb is in error.

The trailer is available at the TCM website.

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