I've recently been enjoying beginning to explore "Hammer Noir," films made in Great Britain in the '50s which were collaborations between the UK's Hammer Film Productions and U.S.-based Lippert Films.
The companies teamed up to take advantage of tax benefits intended to revitalize the British film industry in the postwar years, with Lippert supplying one or two U.S. movie stars who would make a film in England with a British cast.
The latest Hammer film I've watched is TERROR STREET (1953), which was titled 36 HOURS in Britain. As sometimes seems to be the case, I think the British title makes more sense!
Dan Duryea stars as Bill Rogers, an American airman who has a wife and a home in London. Bill has been training in the U.S. for an extended period of time, but when his wife stops answering his letters he has buddies smuggle him back into England without authorization. He must be back at the airfield in 36 hours for his flight home, and no one will be the wiser that he's hopped back and forth over the Atlantic.
Bill discovers his wife Katie (Elsy Albiin) has moved to a West End apartment which is way too expensive, and her wardrobe is similarly unaffordable. Bill confronts her in the new apartment but before they can say more than a few words, he's hit in the head. When he comes to, Katie is lying on the floor beside him, dead.
Bill flees, and though the police chase him, they don't realize who he is. His one advantage is that the police believe Katie's husband is in the U.S. A kind-hearted charity worker, Jenny (Ann Gudrin), meets Bill when he's on the run; she doesn't believe Bill's a killer and tries to help him solve the crime. Bill has just 36 hours to find the real killer and make it to his flight on time.
I very much enjoyed this movie. It's one of those cozy, comfortable "middle of the road" movies, nothing especially great but well-made and entertaining. In the first place, how could a movie starring Dan Duryea not be entertaining?
The film also has a solid cast and nice atmosphere. Countless American-made movies have been set in Britain, but these low-budget noirs actually made there seem more authentically detailed -- it's the little things, like the box of Weetabix on a kitchen shelf, that make the difference.
To be sure, it's not a perfect film. For a happily married man, Bill seems way too anxious to spend an extended period of time away from his wife. Was it really that much of a career coup? He also doesn't seem especially broken up over Katie's death, but then he had been away from her for a year or so...and why did he take a gun with him to see Katie?
TERROR STREET runs 85 minutes. It was directed by Montgomery Tully and written by Steve Fisher.
The supporting cast includes Jane Carr, Michael Golden, Eric Pohlmann, John Chandos, Marianne Stone, Harold Lang, and Kenneth Griffith.
TERROR STREET is available on DVD as part of the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Vol. 4 set from VCI. The other film on the disc is WINGS OF DANGER (1952) with Zachary Scott. Extras include a trailer and a series of featurettes in which there is audio of the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode discussing the filmmakers, accompanied by some excellent stills. As always, Rode offers interesting information and insights.
The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.
There's a trailer on YouTube.
Previously reviewed Hammer Noir titles: SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) and MAN BAIT (1952).