Friday 30 October 2015

The Night of the Generals (1967)

Movies that try to mix genres and do several things at once often succeed on one level and fail on another. The Night of the Generals is an ambitious film that tries to do lots of things, and it fails on every level.

The story begins in Warsaw in December 1942. A polish prostitute is murdered. Apart from being a prostitute she also happened to be an agent for German Military Intelligence. A man was seen leaving the apartment house in which the murder took place. The witness however did not see the man’s face. All he saw was the uniform, and it was the uniform of a German general.

Intelligence officer Major Grau (Omar Sharif) undertakes the investigation of the murder. There were a lot of German generals in Warsaw at the time but only three who had no alibi - General von Seidlitz-Gabler (Charles Gray), General Kahlenberge (Donald Pleasence) and General Tanz (Peter O’Toole). With a war going on in which millions of people were dying the murder of a prostitute might seem to be a trivial matter but that’s not how Major Grau sees it. Murder is still murder. And to Major Grau it makes no difference if the murder was committed by a general. As he remarks to his aide, “If it is a German general…we shall have to hang him.”

Not surprisingly Grau’s investigation makes little progress. Generals are in a position to frustrate attempts by junior officers to investigate them. In this case getting Grau out of the way is extremely simple. He finds himself promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and transferred to Paris.

A year and a half later another murder is committed, in Paris. The victim is a prostitute and the killing bears a remarkable similarity to that Warsaw murder. As it happens all three generals who were the suspects in the Warsaw slaying just happened to be in Paris at the time. And of course Major Grau is still in Paris. Grau is the sort of detective who just never gives up and he re-opens the investigation, and this time he has the assistance of Inspector Morand (Philippe Noiret) of the Paris police. 

The second murder takes place on July 19th 1944, the day before the most famous of the many attempts by the German Army to assassinate Hitler. Both General von Seidlitz-Gabler and General Kahlenberge are involved in the plot.

General von Seidlitz-Gabler’s daughter Ulrike (Joanna Pettet) has been having an affair with Corporal Hartmann (Tom Courtenay), a member of the general’s staff. Corporal Hartmann is assigned as General Tanz’s driver. Tanz is not involved in the plot to kill Hitler and von Seidlitz-Gabler and Kahlenberge are anxious to have him out of the way on the day of the assassination attempt so Tanz is ordered to take a couple of day’s leave, which he spends seeing the sights of Paris.

Major Grau believes he may be getting close to solving his case but July 20th 1944 turns out to be a bad day on which to try to arrest a general, with everything in a state of confusion after the abortive assassination attempt.

These wartime events are intercut (in a rather ham-fisted fashion) with events that occur twenty years later in Hamburg, when yet another prostitute is murdered.

The sad thing about this movie is that the central idea is a very good one and could have made an excellent story. Unfortunately the various sub-plots are only connected together in a tenuous and clumsy manner and the sub-plots slow things down very badly. At 148 minutes this is a very long film. Much too long, especially when it’s padded out to that length by completely irrelevant sub-plots. 

The movie was based on a novel by Hans Hellmut Kirst and a story by James Hadley Chase. The screenplay, by Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn, is poorly structured and unfocused. The main plot is a mystery plot and it had the potential to be a very interesting one but it’s ruined by its incredibly clumsy obviousness. The identity of the killer is revealed too soon but this hardly matters because I doubt that there would be a single viewer of this movie who would not have correctly guessed the identity of the killer within the first 20 minutes. 

Major Grau might be an admirably determined fellow but we don’t see him doing any actual investigating. He simply keeps turning up trying to interview the generals without succeeding in doing so. There is absolutely no attempt made to develop the mystery plot. 

The plot against Hitler sub-plot isn’t terribly exciting since everyone already knows that it failed. The romance sub-plot between Corporal Hartmann and Ulrike is uninteresting and irrelevant.

The film’s biggest flaw however is that we learn virtually nothing about the three generals. We know that von Seidlitz-Gabler is an ambitious political general and that he likes women. We know that General Kahlenberge is a pretty decent fellow. We know that General Tanz is a fanatic and a psychotic and is utterly ruthless in carrying out orders regardless of civilian casualties. The trouble is that we know nothing about their private lives or their motivations. We are told nothing that might suggest why one of these men might be a murderer.

The performances are all over the place. Omar Sharif is surprisingly good as Major Grau. Casting an Egyptian actor as a German officer was an odd choice but Sharif just about gets away with it. Unfortunately he does not get enough screen time. Charles Gray is extremely good. It’s strange seeing Donald Pleasence playing a kindly sort of chap but he does a reasonable job and he’s very effective in portraying a man slowly becoming more and more disillusioned and yet still trying to conform to his moral principles. 

Major Grau, General von Seidlitz-Gabler and General Kahlenberge are all potentially fascinating characters but their personalities are not explored in any depth and the actors are not given the opportunity to make them fully rounded characters.

The supporting characters, of whom there are far too many, are mere ciphers. Tom Courtenay and Joanna Pettet make no impact at all. Philippe Noiret plays Inspector Morand as a tedious stereotypical French Resistance hero. It’s a clumsy attempt to show us the contrast between the brave noble French and the dastardly Germans.

Peter O’Toole’s bizarre and absurd performance would have been enough on its own to sink this movie, if it hadn’t already been sunk by the incoherent script. This may be O’Toole’s worst ever performance, which is saying quite a lot. 

This movie is obviously trying to tell us something profound about the nature of evil and about the evil of the Nazis, although exactly what it’s trying to tell us I’m not sure. It also tries to show us that Germans weren’t all evil but it does so by presenting us with stereotyped Good Germans (who all hate the war and hate Hitler) and stereotyped Bad Germans (who all love the war and love Hitler).

This is a train wreck of a movie but while train wrecks can often be morbidly fascinating this one does not even have that going for it. 

Columbia’s Region 2 DVD offers a very good anamorphic transfer with no extras.

A potentially excellent idea, entirely wasted. A chaotic mess of a film. Connoisseurs of spectacularly bad acting might want to see it for O’Toole’s outlandishly awful performance. A movie to avoid.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Murders in the Zoo (1933)

Murders in the Zoo is a 1933 Paramount horror film that is neither supernatural horror nor an Old Dark House movie. In fact you could argue that it’s closer in feel to some of the delightfully lurid tropical melodramas of that era like Kongo and White Woman.

The opening sequence is one of the most startling in horror movie history and still packs quite a punch. The scene is Indo-China and Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill) is an animal collector who has a rather extreme but undeniably effective means of dealing with men who think they can steal his beautiful young wife away from him.

We know right away that Gorman is mad and dangerous and this is further reinforced on the sea voyage back to the United States. His problem is that his wife Evelyn (Kathleen Burke) really is very young and very beautiful and she attracts feckless young men the way a flame attracts moths. Eric Gorman is clearly pathologically jealous, and with good reason. Evelyn is not the sort of woman who pays much attention to trifles like her marriage vows, especially when hunky young men cross her path. And they just keep on crossing her path. Her latest interest is Roger Hewitt (John Lodge) - young, handsome, rich and with morals every bit as flexible as Evelyn’s.

So far so good. This seems like a story with tremendous potential and when it becomes clear that most of the movie is going to take place in a zoo our expectations are raised even higher. 

Unfortunately at this point the comic relief starts to kick in, in the person of Charles Ruggles. Ruggles was actually not too bad in actual comedies but he’s out of place here and he gets way too much screen time. He plays Peter Yates, an alcoholic journalist who wangles his way into a job as the zoo’s press agent.

Yates comes up with a splendid idea to gain desperately needed publicity for the zoo - a fund-raising dinner to which the cream of the city’s high society and moneyed classes will be invited. They will enjoy their expensive meal in the zoo’s Carnivore House, surrounded by lions, tigers and leopards.

Evelyn and Hewitt have been getting very friendly indeed and Hewitt has persuaded her to run away with him. Before that happens they will both be guests at the dinner at the Carnivore House and Eric Gorman decides this would be a fine opportunity to demonstrate  another of his methods for dealing with wife-stealers.

The unhappy outcome of the publicity dinner leads Evelyn to the conclusion that she’s going to need some help. She turns to Dr Jack Woodford (Randolph Scott), a brilliant young biologist working at the zoo, and Woodford’s girlfriend Jerry (Gail Patrick). She sets off for the zoo after closing time and this sets up one of the movie’s major horror set-pieces.

By this time the terror isn’t limited to Evelyn’s paramours. A deadly green mamba is on the loose - a snake whose venom kills in five minutes and for which there is no antivenom. The stage is set for a climax of mayhem and horror.

This movie’s biggest problem is that there is much too much focus on the irritating Peter Yates and not enough on Eric Gorman, a character with the potential to be oner of the great human monsters of horror cinema.

This movie has a few flaws but don’t despair - it has plenty of strengths as well. The key horror scenes are effective and shocking and they’re also very original (and surprisingly this movie has a couple of very cool horror ideas that I can’t recall seeing in any subsequent horror flicks). Zoos make great settings for horror movies and it’s odd that relatively few horror film-makers have taken advantage of this.

Murders in the Zoo also has plenty of the lurid melodrama I made reference to earlier, and it’s spiced with some very pre-code moments. There are a couple of scenes between Eric Gorman and his wife that would certainly have been cut in the post-code days and might raise a few eyebrows even today. Evelyn is clearly repulsed by and terrified of her husband and it’s plain that this excites him very much. Very much indeed.

Lionel Atwill gets to play a variation on the mad scientist roles he did so well. It would have been nice if the movie had found time to develop his character a bit more - a bit of exploration of the roots of the consuming jealousy that has driven him insane would not have gone amiss. It would have given Atwill the chance to make his villain a bit more complex. Having said this Atwill’s performance is still splendid and he gets the chance to do some very enjoyable overacting - made more enjoyable by the fact that Atwill doesn’t push things too far so that he remains a plausible villain. 

Kathleen Burke does well as his straying wife. Randolph Scott does the stalwart hero thing  with a bit of subtlety.

Murders in the Zoo was banned in many countries and when later screened on American television was severely cut.

This is one of the five horror B-movies included in TCM’s Universal Cult Horror Collection (a set which is slightly misleadingly named since it includes movies from other studios besides Universal). The DVD transfer is superb and there are a few extras. This very worthwhile boxed set also includes the Lionel Atwill mad scientist film The Mad Doctor of Market Street.

Murders in the Zoo has a few unusual features, it has some genuine chills, a couple of fine horror set-pieces, some perverse sexuality and some deliciously overheated melodrama. Plus it has Lionel Atwill, deadly venomous snakes and rampaging lions and tigers. These virtues are more than enough to offset its flaws. Highly recommended.

Sunday 18 October 2015

The Conqueror (1956)

RKO’s 1956 epic The Conqueror has the reputation of being one of the worst movies ever made. That judgment is perhaps a little unfair. While it certainly has its problems and cannot in all honesty be described as a good film, it does have a certain fascination.

Part of this movie’s terrible reputation is undoubtedly due to the assumption that any film that Howard Hughes was involved in must be a bad film. There’s also the undeniably incongruous casting of John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The movie’s tendency to play fast and loose with historical accuracy (which it does to an even greater extent than most epics) hasn’t helped its reputation. And lastly there’s the legend (which may or may not be true) that the movie was shot on an old atomic testing site and that as a result almost half of those involved in the production subsequently died of cancer. 

In fact The Conqueror’s failure as an epic has little to do with any of these factors.

The movie opens with Temujin, later to be known as Genghis Khan, still a rather minor Mongol chieftain. He captures Bortai (Susan Hayward) during a raid. Given that her father murdered Temujin’s father it’s perhaps not surprising that initially they don’t hit it off too well. Temujin however is convinced that Bortai really is the woman for him.

Temujin is determined to avenge his father’s murder. He has also been convinced by his blood brother Jamuga (Pedro Armendáriz) that he is a man of destiny who will one day rule a vast empire. That day seems a long way off as most of Temujin’s schemes seem to end in disaster.

Both Temujin and Jamuga have a remarkable capacity for getting themselves captured by their enemies. Temujin’s plans to gain the ageing but powerful Wang Khan (Thomas Gomez) as an ally also face formidable obstacles and dangers, the principal danger coming from Wang Khan’s wily and unscrupulous shaman (played by John Hoyt). Meanwhile Bortai is still far from reconciled to the idea of being Temujin’s wife and is likely to cause trouble.

While the movie is called The Conqueror it has to be said that Temujin doesn’t do much conquering. The decision to focus on the early part of the career of the man who would become Genghis Khan is reasonable enough but it does involve one major problem - it reduces the opportunities for spectacular battle scenes. In fact the movie is a bit light on action in general and most of what there is is small-scale stuff. It’s more like a swashbuckling adventure movie than a genuine epic but there’s still not enough action. Concentrating on Temujin’s relationships with Bortai and Jamuga (which is what this film does) could have provided the chance to explore Genghis Khan the man rather than the legend but if you’re going to make an epic about a great conqueror you do need to provide at least some focus on the military and political prowess that allowed him to build up one of the greatest empires in history.

Dick Powell was by no means a poor director. The Enemy Below, which he made in the following year, is an absolutely riveting wartime adventure. He does not seem quite at home with the epic genre however. In actual fact there were very few directors with a real flair for the epic. It’s not enough to spend a lot of money (and the Conqueror was an expensive film) and it’s not enough to have lavish sets and costumes. A few years later Anthony Mann would demonstrate in El Cid how an epic should be made. Mann captured the true epic feel in a way that Powell fails to do. 

While the scenery in Utah is impressive enough it presents another problem - it just looks too American, too much like the setting for a western. The necessary exotic feel is just not there.

An epic also needs the right kind of star. John Wayne was a much better actor than Victor Mature but Mature would have been a better choice for the lead - he understood the style of acting that epics require. Howard Hughes however wanted John Wayne. Hughes was probably half right. Wayne had the ability to play larger-than-life characters and he certainly had the ability to portray complex heroes (and Hughes clearly wanted Genghis Khan to be a hero). The trouble is that Wayne tries too hard and his performance ends up seeming tentative and confused. Wayne appears to be thinking too much about his performance.

Susan Hayward on the other hand was the perfect female lead for an epic and if you can get past the fact that she looks even less like a Tartar princess than Wayne looks like a Mongol her performance works quite satisfactorily.

The supporting players are quite good. They bring the right kind of hamminess to their roles.

This is, even by 1950s standards, an astoundingly politically incorrect film. If you’re the kind of person who demands that the movies of the past should conform to modern sensibilities than you’ll have huge problems watching this movie. The fact that Temujin believes that the right way to handle women is to handle them roughly, and the fact that this makes him just the sort of man Bortai wants, may well induce fits of apoplexy among some modern viewers. It’s probably worth pointing out however that the real Genghis Khan was probably not a guy who worried too much about political correctness.

The Conqueror doesn’t really work as an epic and John Wayne is definitely not quite right for the title role but this movie is not as bad as its reputation suggests. In its own way it’s quite a bit of fun to watch. Despite its faults its very notoriety makes it worthy seeing and the ways in which it misses the target make it rather entertaining. Recommended.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Knives of the Avenger (1966)

Mario Bava is most famous for his superb gothic horror films but he also made some great action adventure films including a couple of excellent Viking movies. Knives of the Avenger (I coltelli del vendicatore) was the second of these Viking movies, a follow-up to his wonderful Erik the Conqueror (Gli invasori, 1961). Both movies starred American actor Cameron Mitchell (who made a total of three films with Bava).

Karin (Elissa Pichelli) and her son Moki live in a rude hut not far from the sea. One day a stranger rides into town, a man named Helmut (Cameron Mitchell). Helmut saves Karin from a couple of thugs and he stays on for a while. Helmut teaches Miki to shoot a bow and starts to teach him the art of killing with a throwing knife (something at which Helmut is an expert). Karin is not at all happy about this idea - she does not want Helmut teaching her son to be a killer. Apart from this minor problem it’s clear that there is an emotional bond developing between Helmut and Karin although Helmut seems curiously unwilling to push things to their logical conclusion and their relationship remains strictly platonic. We will later learn that both Karin and Helmut have good reasons for exercising such restraint.

Karin is in fact a queen in exile, and in hiding. Her husband King Arald is believed to have been lost at sea. His disappearance followed a series of tragic events. Their wedding was supposed to unite two petty kingdoms but these hopes were dashed by the violent and destructive behaviour of Hagen (Fausto Tozzi). Hagen killed the wife and child of a neighbouring king, Rurik. Rurik reacted (or overreacted) with a campaign of terror. 

These subplots will come together in a surprisingly effective way, as none of these characters succeed in escaping their pasts, or their destinies. 

You might think that the plot sounds vaguely like a western. When you watch the movie that impression will be reinforced considerably. This is in fact a classic revenge western. It also bears a very strong similarity to the classic western Shane. Given the fondness of the Italians for the western this is undoubtedly very deliberate indeed. The screenplay (by Mario Bava, Alberto Liberati and Giorgio Simonelli) actually adds a good deal of extra complexity. Shane is a man who has grown tired of violence but while we have no doubt that in his younger days he went looking for trouble and took some pleasure in his skill as a killer we also have no doubt that he only ever killed men in fair fights and that the men he killed almost certainly deserved killing. The protagonist of Knives of the Avenger is rather different - he is not an evil man but he has certainly done very evil things indeed. He also still derives a disturbing amount of enjoyment from killing for its own sake.

We feel that Shane’s path to redemption will not be easy but his moral standards encourage us to believe that he will achieve it. We cannot be so sanguine about the chances of the protagonist of Knives of the Avenger.

Mario Bava never made a spaghetti western but this movie suggests he might have done something quite interesting had he ever attempted that genre. Visually this movie has nothing in common with the spaghetti western but in tone it’s very close indeed. The fact that the protagonist is a knife-fighter makes the affinity even stronger. When the hero confronts the villain the scene plays out exactly like a western gunfight.

The hero in fact relies mostly on his skill with throwing knives. I very much doubt if Vikings actually bothered with throwing knives but in film terms it has two very great advantages. Firstly it makes the action scenes more interesting, but secondly and more importantly it adds greatly to the western flavour - Helmut uses his knives the way a western hero uses his six-guns.

Knives of the Avenger is not quite as visually stunning as other Bava films but it does have some classic Bava-esque moments, especially the scenes in the grotto.

Cameron Mitchell does a fine job, as he always did for Bava. I wasn’t so impressed by the rest of the cast. Fausto Tozzi as Hagen is a nasty villain but he needed to be a little bit more larger-than-life. Elissa Pichelli as Karin is just a tad on the bland side.

There’s a romantic triangle although it doesn’t exactly set the screen alight. Which is perhaps not such a problem since the revenge and redemption angles are what really matter.

Anchor Bay’s DVD, from their Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 boxed set, offers a fine anamorphic transfer (the movie was shot in the ’scope ratio). The lack of extras is a slight disappointment.

Knives of the Avenger isn’t quite top-rank Bava but it’s an excellent and rather thoughtful action adventure flick. Bava didn’t have the budget for large-scale land and sea battle scenes but he has no difficulty in keeping things interesting. Not as good as Erik the Conqueror but still highly recommended. 

Thursday 8 October 2015

The Ghost Ship (1943)

The Ghost Ship, directed by Mark Robson in 1943, is considered to be one of the lesser pictures produced by Val Lewton at RKO in the mid-1940s. It’s certainly not in the same class as Cat People or The Seventh Victim but very few movies are. It’s still an interesting little movie.  

The story concerns a young man, Tom Merriam, on his first posting at sea as third officer of a freighter called the Altair. The captain seems to want to take Merriam under his wing, but Merriam soon notices some rather worrying things about his captain. Like the captain’s obsession with authority. He talks about it constantly. Much of what he says on the subject, and on command and responsibility, is more or less true. It’s just that he seems to take it a little too far. A captain must appear to his crew to be infallible but when he starts to believe that he really is infallible, that even an unreasonable order becomes reasonable because as captain he has the right to give such an order, the situation can become dangerous.

Things start to go wrong on this voyage right from the start. A member of the crew dies soon after the ship leaves port. There is a potentially disastrous incident involving a cargo hook, an incident that casts doubt on the captain’s judgment.

There are obvious parallels to The Caine Mutiny. Both films deal with a junior officer who begins to suspect that the captain of the ship is dangerously incompetent. In both cases the captain’s behaviour is ambiguous - there are incidents that could be interpreted as errors of judgment but could just as easily be ascribed to chance or misfortune. Once a subordinate begins to suspect a superior of incompetence there is the danger that he will misinterpret the superior’s actions.

Of course there are differences. In The Ghost Ship the captain really does turn out to be dangerous - incompetent perhaps, but mad certainly.

There are further incidents as the voyage progresses and these incidents could be ascribed not merely to incompetence but possibly even malice. 

Tom Merriam persuades himself that he must do something about the situation but his difficulty is that he has no real evidence - certainly nothing that would be likely to convince a court of enquiry. 

Richard Dix as the captain gives us a fine portrait of a lonely, insecure, fearful personality clinging to his rigid notions of authority because those notions are all he has. The major weakness of the movie is Russell Wade as Merriam – he’s too bland and too earnest.

The film’s biggest weakness is the stilted dialogue that Donald Henderson Clarke’s screenplay offers the actors, and the problem is compounded by the fact that none of the actors can be said to have the acting chops to overcome the weakness of the script. 

The story itself is a good one - it just needed someone to do a bit more work on the dialogue.

Like most of the Lewton pictures this is a psychological study rather than a monster movie – a psychological study not just of an authoritarian personality, but of the way other people allow such personalities to exercise their despotic powers. It’s a story of paranoia made more intriguing by the fact that there’s paranoia on the part of both the hero and his adversary.

The story could perhaps be interpreted as a commentary on the nature of totalitarianism - and a captain’s power over his crew is as absolute as that of a  totalitarian political leader. The theme of unwillingness to confront authority and unwillingness to defy the pressure to conform is however more of a universal theme of individualism versus the herd instinct.

The ending is just a little rushed, but the movie includes some wonderful scenes – the scene with the swinging hook, and the one with the anchor chain, are highly original, visually arresting and very scary. Since it’s done once again by Nick Musuraca (who was director of photography on several of the most notable Val Lewton pictures) it is hardly necessary to add that the cinematography is superb and that it has a definite film noir atmosphere. The feel of the movie in fact combines film noir and gothic imagery.

The Warner Home Video DVD release (which pairs The Ghost Ship with The Leopard Man on a single disc) offers a very satisfactory transfer.

This might not be in the top rank of Lewton’s RKO productions  but Lewton’s lesser films are still better than most people’s best films. The Ghost Ship is a moody low-key psychological suspense thriller with just a hint of horror. It’s an interesting enough story and the exceptionally original visual imagery are sufficient to make it as must-see. Highly recommended.

Friday 2 October 2015

Timeslip (1955)

Timeslip (released in the US as The Atomic Man) is an obscure but very enjoyable little British science fiction B-movie rescued from oblivion and made available to us on DVD by Network in the UK.

It’s really more of a thriller with some science fictional elements thrown in but those science fictional elements are at least original and quite clever.

A man is pulled out of the river in London. He’s close to death, and in fact he does die after being taken to hospital. Just as the doctors have give up trying to resuscitate him he comes back to life. Unfortunately he seems to be suffering from amnesia and no-one knows who he is. A keen American journalist working for an English news magazine doers however recognise him - the man saved from death is none other than eminent nuclear physicist Stephen Rayner. The only problem is that when the police contact the laboratory at which Dr Rayner works they are informed that Dr Rayner is perfectly well and currently engaged on a major research project. So who on earth is the man pulled from the river?

The American journalist, Mike Delaney (Gene Nelson), is convinced the man in hospital is Stephen Rayner and that something strange is going on, something that could lead him to a very big story. With the help of his news photographer girlfriend Jill Rabowski (Faith Domergue) he starts digging into the case. There are a number of puzzling aspects to it. The photographs of the man in the hospital are all fogged. This is very odd - Jill is a very experienced photographer who doesn’t make mistakes and she can offer no explanation for this. Even more odd is that the hospital cannot take X-rays of their patient - the x-ray films come out entirely blank.

Mike figures this might have something to do with the fact that Stephen Rayner is a nuclear physicist - maybe he’s been exposed to so much radiation that he is now immune to it! Mike is on the right track but the truth turns out to be even more bizarre - this man has come unstuck in time! Because radioactivity does that sort of thing.

This is all very well, but why do there appear to be two Stephen Rayners, what is the explanation of the hat from Buenos Aires, and why is someone trying to kill Mike Delaney? And if Dr Rayner is a nuclear physicist exactly what is the research program he was working on?

The plot is a mixture of standard thriller tropes with a few genuinely original twists that are just about enough to make it a legitimate science fiction film, and they certainly make it interesting. It builds to a fairly exciting climax with a race against time to head off disaster at the nuclear research facility.

It was common practice for British B-movies of this era to feature second-rank American stars whose careers were starting to fade. They were cheap and they were grateful for the work. More surprisingly they often turned in very decent performances in these British B-pictures. In this case the two American imports, Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue, do ma very creditable job.

Gene Nelson never did become a star (although he later had a successful career as a television director). He makes a fine pushy but likeable reporter.

Faith Domergue went very close to stardom after being discovered by Howard Hughes. You won’t be surprised to learn that Hughes was interested in more than just her acting talents. After things cooled off between the starlet and the mogul her career failed to take off. She did however make a number of very notable 1950s science fiction films, most famously This Island Earth, and as a result she has quite a following among sci-fi movie fans. She’s actually very good indeed in Timeslip and she and Nelson have excellent chemistry. The relationship between Jill and Mike adds some gentle humour as well as romance but without derailing the main plot.

Peter Arne is both creepy and sympathetic as the two Stephen Rayners. Look out for Charles Hawtrey (of Carry On fame) in an amusing bit part.

This movie was made at Merton Park Studios so you know it’s going to be a very low-budget effort. Despite this it’s a well-made little movie, very competently directed by Ken Hughes and nicely paced.

The DVD is what we’ve come to expect from Network - it offers a very decent anamorphic transfer, there are virtually no extras, and it’s ridiculously cheap. 

Timeslip is a well-crafted forgotten gem of a B-movie, very much worth seeking out. Don’t expect spectacular special effects (there aren’t any), but it has suspense and a few thrills, a bit of science fiction weirdness, some creepy atmosphere, just enough humour and romance, fine acting and in general plenty of entertainment value. Highly recommended.