9 February 2007 | Bunuel1976
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON Sunday (Robert Hamer, 1947) ***1/2
Ealing Studios are chiefly remembered nowadays for their string of classic comedies made between 1946-55 but they also put out several notable pictures in other genres - including the justly celebrated horror portmanteau DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) - and this noir-ish melodrama is definitely one of their hidden gems. Although the plot per se is no great shakes - an escaped convict hides out in his by-now-married ex-flame's household - the idea was still fresh at the time and the film's marrying of the realistic and evocative recreation of daily life and surroundings (here being the seamier side of London's East End) with the exciting chase thriller format was much admired in its day and, in hindsight, very influential.
The good cast is headed by the formidable Googie Withers as the embittered housewife whose life of drab domesticity comes crashing down around her with the sudden reappearance of her lover (John McCallum, and Withers' own real-life husband-to-be) who demands food and shelter until he can skip the country; her much older, unassuming husband is played by frequent Norman Wisdom sidekick Edward Chapman and the pursuing police detective by the ubiquitous Jack Warner who cornered such roles in British films of the era, most notably in Basil Dearden's THE BLUE LAMP (1950); Chapman's three children are each having problems of their own and their frequent comings-and-goings in the house during this particular Sunday (the film is set all in one day) brings long-suppressed tensions to the fore.
Even without the eye-catching use of the medium of somebody like Carol Reed, the film is beautifully handled by the talented but ill-fated Robert Hamer - who, among other things, would later direct that which is undoubtedly Ealing's most famous comedy, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949) - and the climactic sequence (expertly lit, as always, by Douglas Slocombe) in which all the various strands of plot and secondary characters are seamlessly woven together is simply exquisite.
Optimum Releasing also included a featurette with film historian George Perry - who, incidentally, introduced THE BIG SLEEP (1946) at the recent National Film Theatre screening in London I attended; unfortunately, I encountered some playback problems on my Pioneer DVD player even before the start of the main feature but the R2 disc played without a hitch on my cheap HB model.