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.
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.