Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Terror Street (1953)

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!

The great 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?

That said, I felt the film's overall entertainment value outweighed any story defects...there's even a cat-loving villain who seems to presage Goldfinger!

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).


Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,

Never seen this one,yet another film to add to my ever
growing "must track down" list. Your fine review has
made me think this must be sooner rather than later.
Duryea makes anything worth watching.
Caught up with a couple of great B Movies that have been
out for a while on Warner Archive.
I enjoyed both very much, they are fast moving,tough
little gems.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John! Would love to know what you think of this one. I have you to thank for helping to fill me in on the Hammer films and other movies U.S. stars made in Britain in the '50s. Looking forward to seeing more of them!

Have heard of HIGHWAY 301 but not ROAD GANG, will look it up. Thanks as always for the tips on your latest viewing! :)

Best wishes,

8:37 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I know John K also likes these British thrillers with U.S. stars made in the 50's. They are not great movies but they are great fun!

For me, the very best of the lot is "Rough Shoot" (1952)(US title is Shoot First") starring Joel McCrea with a British cast. A fine little thriller and Mccrea's only non-western appearance after 1946.

10:34 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura and Jerry,

I have just posted something over at Toby's for you
both on the ever expanding Bill Elliott thread.
ROUGH SHOOT is a very fine movie and at 88 minutes
and with a top notch supporting cast it's more than
a B Movie especially as it was produced by Raymond
Stross one of the UK's top independent producers with
many fine films on his portfolio.
Over in the UK it played at the top half of a double
bill with THE MAGNETIC MONSTER......my kinda double bill.

All fans of ultra-rare Britflicks should check out the
exciting new additions to UK based Network.
These cats are really passionate about what they are doing
and normally their films are re-masters from original
film elements.
Anyway there are some real goodies/rarities just announced.

Comedy with Richard Todd in scope and color
The excellent Richard Basehart in a comedy in color
with a British film studio background.Ultra rare film.
Thought lost this spy caper comedy was directed by
Cy Endfield (Zulu)
A Terry Thomas comedy thought lost,great supporting cast
and on Blu-Ray too!
The old one about a rock n roller in the army starring
Frankie Vaughan who was a huge star in England in
the Fifties. Complete versions of this film have been
impossible to source.

Network could source a lot of B thrillers with US stars
but sadly these films are not on their radar at present.
I do hope that they re-consider titles like DANGEROUS
COUNTERFEIT PLAN. At least these guys do reply to e-mails sent requesting rare titles. MAN IN THE SHADOW
(aka VIOLENT STRANGER) with Faith Domergue and
Zachary Scott is ultra-rare-never been able to source
that one!

5:21 AM  

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