27 August 2015 | joe-pearce-1
Best Fistfight to be Seen in a British Movie
As we all know, starting in the early 1950s American mid-level 'name' actors and actresses started to find films harder to come by here, and any number of them ventured to England to make starring vehicles that might have an international market based on their marquee names. George Raft did it, as did Dane Clark, George Brent, Hillary Brooke, Lloyd Bridges, and many others. Scott Brady did, too. Most of these were released through Lippert and enjoyed reasonable success, and almost all of them are eminently forgettable. Not this one, though.
This is actually a very fast-moving and action-packed thriller, with enough mysteries woven into it for two films. Brady plays a seaman who arrives in England to enjoy some time with his brother, only to learn that his brother is due to be hanged for murder a scant three days hence. Brady's rush investigation to clear him involves many characters (every one of whom is acted, as is the British wont, like it was Academy Awards time), and there are wheels within wheels within wheels. Indeed, by the time the film ends, you realize you've been subjected to more twists than most Agatha Christie novels provide, but you accept them because they are well-presented, well-written and well-acted. Unlike most such British films with an American actor 'hook', this one is slam-bang all the way, and one particular fistfight that Brady has (there are several) with a nightclub owner and three or four henchmen goes from that manager's office, through a hallway, out into the nightclub and then onto the dance floor itself. (It's kind of like a shorter fisticuffs version of the concluding SCARAMOUCHE duel.)What makes it so impressive is that Brady is doing all his own fighting and stunts and looks terrific doing so. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is the best starring performance I have ever seen out of Lawrence Tierney's younger brother, and he was always a decent (or better) actor, although never a major star. The female interest is provided by another American temporary ex-pat, Mary Castle, as a woman of some mystery and much beauty. (In fact, in every shot she appears in, she looks enough like a blonde Rita Hayworth to be her illegitimate sister.) The film seems to involve just about constant location shooting, in boxing arenas, gyms, restaurants, foggy-but-real streets, back alleys, and finally at some kind of big British exposition or fair, and the photography is grainy, noirish, and just plain terrific most of the time. If it is all wrapped up a little too tidily in the end, well, we never complain when Dame Agatha does the same.
I give it a high 8 rating because of the pure look of the film, the very realistic physicality of it all, the terrific character actors on display throughout, and mainly I guess, because it seems to me the very best of the dozens of such British semi-quota quickies that brought over American mid-level stars for a one-film-stand in London. Given what it was intended to be, and the somewhat brutish elan with which its intentions are accomplished, this is a very considerable achievement.