Sunday, January 05, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Man Bait (1952)

After watching Cesar Romero in SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) earlier today, I checked out another Hammer-Lippert film, MAN BAIT (1952).

Like SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR, MAN BAIT features a U.S. movie star in the leading role, in this case George Brent.

Actress Marguerite Chapman also made the trek to Britain to appear in the film, which was shot at Bray Studios, directed by Terence Fisher.

The screenplay was by Frederick Knott, who wrote the play DIAL M FOR MURDER, which would be filmed by Alfred Hitchcock just a couple years later. Given that background, it's no surprise that MAN BAIT is a well-constructed crime melodrama.

Brent plays John Harman, an American who remained in England after the war, where he runs a bookstore assisted by his one-time nurse from his war days, Stella Tracy (Chapman). John also dotes on his invalid wife May (Isabel Dean).

One day John's employee, beautiful Ruby (Diana Dors), catches Jeff (Peter Reynolds), a sleazy type, attempting to steal a rare book. After forcing him to return it, she then agrees to meet him on a date!

Ruby is constantly in trouble with her boss over things such as being late to work, and egged on by Jeff, the resentful Ruby hatches a blackmail plot to get some easy money from John. However, Ruby gets much more than she bargained for when dealing with Jeff, and John finds himself in the middle of a waking nightmare involving murder. Only the loyal Stella can help clear his name.

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I've always liked George Brent, and the film had a well-paced story, nice atmosphere, and an interesting cast of characters. (I wondered how the bookstore was able to support so many employees!) Location filming in a bombed-out church was quite effective and helped bring the London atmosphere to life.

Diana Dors, recently seen by me in THE LONG HAUL (1957), is curiously billed as "Introducing Diana Dors," despite the fact she'd been in numerous films beginning five years earlier. She's an arresting screen presence and quite good as the petulant Ruby. The posters, by the way, are a rather ridiculous marketing tool, given that Ruby is never seen in a state of undress such as depicted on the posters!

Marguerite Chapman's role was initially somewhat bland, just hinting at hidden feelings, but she moves front and center nicely in the film's second half, as she tries to aid the man she's secretly loved for years.

The supporting cast also includes Raymond Huntley, Eleanor Summerfield, Meredith Edwards, and Harry Fowler.

In a nice post on the film at Tipping My Fedora, Sergio terms the film "a successful cross between a Hitchcockian innocent man on the run thriller and 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD with its lively and humorous depiction of life in a postwar British bookshop."

MAN BAIT'S U.S. run time was 78 minutes; the original film was 84 minutes. The film was released in Britain under the title THE LAST PAGE.

MAN BAIT is available from VCI in the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Vol. 1. The other film in this set is BAD BLONDE (1953) starring Barbara Payton (MURDER IS MY BEAT). Thanks is due once more to VCI for making this lesser-known but interesting and worthwhile film available.

A review of the DVD can be found at DVD Beaver.

8 Comments:

Blogger dfordoom said...

Diana Dors is shamefully underrated. She gave quite a few great film noir performances. She's especially good in Unholy Wife.

I think this movie and Stolen Face are the best of the Hammer noirs.

12:41 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,
and somewhat belatedly,,HAPPY NEW
YEAR!
I too love these Lippert-Hammer
"Noirs" and I really enjoyed your
reviews of MAN BAIT and SCOTLAND
YARD INSPECTOR.
Another one worth checking out is
HEAT WAVE (aka HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE)with Alex Nicol and Hillary
Brooke. This one is also on VCI
and has a very strong performance
from Sid James as a sweet-natured
millionaire married to a femme fatale.I love these British B films with American leads,one of
my faves is TIMESLIP (aka The Atomic Man) a spy thriller with a sci-fi element starring Faith Domergue and Gene Nelson. This was not a Hammer film BTW. SPIN A DARK
WEB,also with Domergue is also
first rate and out as a Sony MOD.
The one I am desperate to see is
VIOLENT STRANGER (aka Man In The
Shadow) With Domergue and Zachary Scott. Never been able to track
that one down.
Another excellent Brit Flick with
Zachary Scott and Peggie Castle is
THE COUNTERFEIT PLAN,I DO wish someone would release these films.
I was saddened,a few threads back to hear of the passing of Barbara
Lawrence who never had the career
that she really deserved in films.
In JESSE JAMES Vs THE DALTONS she
has a rare female lead but is saddled with the blandest of leading men (Brett King.) Still it's a fun movie and Barbara is very good in it. I also liked her in JOE DAKOTA an excellent
Jock Mahoney Western. She starred with Jeff Morrow in KRONOS a first-rate Regalscope Sci-Fi flick that looks far more expensive than it actually was to make.Barbara like so many of these great B movie actresses should have had a far better career. No matter how minor the film Barbara always delivered great performances.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

DforDoom, thank you very much for those recommendations, I've jotted down the titles. I see STOLEN FACE is also available from VCI. I hope to get more of the Hammer Noir films later this year.

John, Happy New Year to you too! You've got me filling my notebook with even more interesting titles -- I recently loved Gene Nelson in CRIME WAVE so your description of TIMESLIP has me quite intrigued. These all sound great, with very appealing leads; I love actors like Peggie Castle and Zachary Scott. I have a lot to learn about the Lippert-Hammer films and other UK films with American leads -- and a lot of fun viewing ahead!

I do have a recording of JOE DAKOTA from Encore Westerns which I hope to watch sooner rather than later. Another commenter, Brad, mentioned KRONOS today in the thread on Barbara Lawrence! As always, your suggestions are very welcome and a great help as I explore these lesser-known films.

Best wishes,
Laura

9:43 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Laura, Sorry about my very bad line
breaks;I will get it right one day!
I think you will enjoy TIMESLIP
great chemistry between Gene Nelson
and Faith Domergue. As a bonus we
also get Carry On's Charles Hawtrey
as a very cheeky "office Boy"
The US release of this film THE
ATOMIC MAN is the shorter version.
Another excellent Brit Flick with
Gene Nelson and Mona Freeman is
DIAL 999 (aka THE WAY OUT) Gene is
really nasty in this one.
I have sent several e-mails to
Network in the UK who could obtain
the rights to many of these films.
Also good is DANGEROUS VOYAGE
(aka TERROR SHIP) with William
Lundigan. Why do all these little
gems have alternate US titles?
The now totally forgotten Keefe
Braselle also made a couple of
Britflicks I really want to see
but no-one seems to have them:
FIGHTING WILDCATS (West Of Suez)
and DEATH OVER MY SHOULDER.
Thanks to the link back to the
Barbara Lawrence thread and it's
great to know there is another
Regalscope fan out there.

4:48 AM  
OpenID vienna said...

Laura, you know I like George Brent and it is a while since I have seen this film, but I seem to remember George looking a bit washed out and tired, and not aged very well,even though he was only early 50s.
Not a fan of Miss Dors.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

No worries on the line breaks, don't let that stop you, John! It's totally readable and that's all that matters.

You've provided another batch of interesting titles -- I first knew Mona Freeman as Modesty on the MAVERICK series. Very interested to hear she made a film with Gene Nelson. As you may recall I'm a William Lundigan fan so that title interests me as well!

Vienna, I actually thought Brent looked fine in this -- he was older but it suited his character -- nothing like how prematurely aged Alan Ladd looked in his final films. But maybe it's just me... :)

Best wishes,
Laura

2:42 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Many thanks,Laura, regarding the line-breaks.
I love going on about vintage Brit-Flicks with
American leads.
In TIMESLIP Gene Nelson is a rather charming
wisecracking journalist. He is a total heel in
DIAL 999-what a contrast.
I agree with the previous post that STOLEN FACE is
probable the best of the Hammer Noirs.
Other USA stars that came across the pond to make
British B Movies are Wayne Morris,Richard Arlen,
Kent Taylor,Richard Carlson,Alan Baxter,Tom Drake,
Pat O Brien,Macdonald Carey,Cameron Mitchell,
Lloyd Bridges,Mark Stevens,Scott Brady,Larry Parks,
Dale Robertson and Dane Clark among others.
Olive Films have promised us TRACK THE MAN DOWN with
Kent Taylor and the larger budget and excellent
THE WEAPON with Steve Cochran and Lizabeth Scott.
Another film on my must track down list is STRANGLEHOLD
(1962) with Macdonald Carey and one of the last Brit B Movies
with US leads;very good supporting cast too.
I do wish some of these films were more easy to source.
Already out on Renown in the UK are two of the very best:
TIGER BY THE TAIL with Larry Parks and THREE STEPS TO THE
GALLOWS with Scott Brady.
Like Vienna I am not a great fan of Diana Dors but must
admit that she developed into a fine character actress later
in her career.

3:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again, John! Got a little caught up in work and movie-going in L.A. the last couple days but didn't mean to drop this thread of conversation! :)

Thanks to you I've put the VCI edition of STOLEN FACE in my Amazon cart and I hope to get it in the next couple of weeks.

That is very good news about the pending Olive releases! It sounds like it will take some work tracking down some of the other titles. You named several actors I really enjoy who worked in the UK including Carlson, Carey, and Clark.

I've only seen two Diana Dors movies -- she's not someone I'd consider a favorite or anything, particularly due to the types of parts she played, but I thought she did a fine job in her roles. It's nice to see via IMDb that she had such a nice long career.

Best wishes,
Laura

9:18 PM  

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