Essential purchase for Hammer fans
David Blake | Basingstoke, Hampshire, United Kingdom | 03/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This series of films noir feature B movies made at Bray Studio in the years before Hammer shifted into the horror genre.
These films are, frankly, British attempts to ape America - using an American star and a British cast. As such, they are now very interesting windows on the English post-War scene - shell-scarred London, suburban side streets, working people just about making a living.
You only get this sort of truth in B movies, because the film-makers couldn't afford to build sets - so they took their cameras onto the streets.
I've bought - and recommend - all these volumes. On this particular set, "The Glass Tomb" has a poorer picture quality than the other films in the series."
Predictable stuff; perhaps worth getting if the price is low
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Glass Tomb:
"I want more chocolate!" says the sticky-faced tyke. "A clout is what you'll get!" says his frazzled mum. "Now turn around and watch the man starve like a good boy." The man is the great Sapolio, who is locked in a glass crypt determined to go 70 days without food. Pel Pelham (John Ireland) is selling tickets to this carny sideshow. He figures the pickings will be rich for 70 days as people pay to see whether Sapolio can hold out, give it up or die trying. However, there is one person who is going to opt for the last option. This man killed a young woman and he believes Sapolio may have glimpsed his face. Sapolio tells Pel and the police he cannot remember, but Pel knows Sapolio is a man who will never let things drop. Sooner or later Sapolio, locked in the glass cage with dozens of people staring at him, will finger the murderer. Sapolio may have considerably fewer than 70 days ahead of him. Except for John Ireland, a handful of interesting British actors, and an amusing but unlikely setup, this is all there is. There's no mystery; we know the killer. And because the writing and directing are so matter-of-fact, there's little energy and even less suspense.
Ireland made this British movie in 1955. It takes only 59 minutes to tell the tale but it often seems longer, especially when we're dealing with Ireland's precocious little boy and his loving but tremulous wife, played by Honor Blackman. Bits of the movie are just fine. Pel Pelham is an outsider, an unsuccessful promoter with something of a chip on his shoulder. He goes to wealthy bookmaker and old friend, Tony Lewis (Sid James) for some money to finance the Sapolio show. Tony writes him a check right then, but asks Pel to drop the "freaks" and come back and join him in the business. Pel takes the check and says, "I like being my own boss, Tony, and I like freaks." Ireland says that line with style. There's a party in Sapolio's apartment to celebrate the stunt he and Pel are setting up. There's a midget playing piano, a gorgeous woman who's effete husband has painted wings on her back, a very large man who sometimes sounds Russian and several more. They're all Pel's friends, all his "freaks," and they come across as happy, nice people. There's a scene in a subway where the killer is considering whether or not to push a blackmailer under the wheels of an oncoming train. He almost does it, and the play of emotions on the actor's face is wonderful. But when those 59 minutes are up, there's not much to look back on one way or the other.
Paid to Kill
If Paid to kill had had a more complex leading man, a sharper and less careless script, better actors, a director who knew how to sustain tension and a show-down that was considerably less over-wrought, there might have been a competent and tension-filled noir. Faint praise, I know. Yet there are the bones for a nasty little thriller here; it's just that the flesh on those bones is weak.
James Nevill (Dane Clark) is president of a British company that does something we're never sure of. The name is Amalgamated Industries. He's a hard-charging gambler, successful, and confident to a fault. When a major deal falls through, his company teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. So does he. No one knows this except himself and his loyal and attractive secretary, Joan. So he does what so many chief executives facing public failure would do...he arranges to have himself murdered so that his insurance will go to his wife. Then when the deal turns out to be a success, Jim can't locate the killer and tell him to forget it. Soon, Jim is being beaten on the head, chased down by a car on a lonely street and nearly blown up in his office. Joan, in whom he has confided, is determined to help the man she secretly loves. Jim's wife, on the other hand, may not be trying to help Jim. It all comes together late at night in the garden house of Jim's mansion. Let's just say that there are no surprises as all the key cast members show up.
Dane Clark was a short actor who came across as intense, confident and tough. To my way of thinking, however, he was never entirely convincing winning a fist-fight with a bigger guy. In Paid to Kill, I also wonder what sort of direction, if any, he was given. His hard-charging, hard headed American CEO of a British company is almost a caricature. It's a one note performance. The other actors fare little better, with acting that's awfully close to soap opera standards. The premise of Paid to Kill is intriguing but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
The Glass Tomb and Paid to Kill are from volume five of the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature series. The DVD transfers of both are acceptable. Both look like fairly clean but old VHS tapes. If the price is right, which means low, you might be interested."