30 June 2008 | Red-125
British Postwar Film Noir
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), co-written and directed by Robert Hamer, is a film noir movie set in London's working class East End. The film is dated in many ways--London, two years after the end of WW II, is not the London that we know in the 21st Century. We can still see evidence of bomb damage, rationing still applies, and there's a sense of community where everyone knows everyone else's business. Police and petty criminals engage in banter: Joe runs a lunch wagon where criminals tend to meet. A detective sergeant stops at the wagon for information. Joe: We don't cater to the criminal classes. Detective Sergeant Fothergill: Turned over a new leaf?
Several plot lines run through the film. An escaped convict--scarred after being flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails--turns up at the home of a woman he once loved, and who loved him. Rose Sandigate, played by the talented and beautiful Googie Withers, has since entered into a practical marriage with a man 15 years older than she is. We enter into her life, along with the lives of her two step-daughters, her son, three petty criminals trying to get rid of stolen roller skates, and some Jewish good guys, bad guys, and not-so-bad guys.
The production values aren't great, and the lower class accents sometimes call for subtitles. Nevertheless, the central plot element of an escaped convict, who returns to find that the woman he loves has married while he was in jail, is as compelling now as it was 60 years ago.
Finally, the powerful scene of detectives chasing a man through the train yards in the dark, was surely known to Carol Reed when he directed "The Third Man." Reed's scene, set in the sewers of Vienna, took place miles away from Hamer's London. Even so, in compelling action and suspense, they have a great deal in common.