Nowhere to Go

The late Canadian coin collector leaves a relict who is swindled out of them in England, and that most amusingly, by a fellow Canadian who goes to prison as part of his plan, blasts out with a confederate’s help, comes to grief and dies in a stolen lorry on a farm in Wales.

Holt’s idea of a joke, for Balcon and Ealing and as funny as they come, but played as straight drama from first to last.

A slightly longer version exists and is much to be preferred at ninety-nine minutes, less cramped.

Peppard’s Five Days from Home takes the note from Holt’s captives, one of many anticipations, Peckinpah for example.

A beautifully-gauged masterpiece on crime does not pay (cf. Losey’s The Criminal), indeed, the poor grifter’s end is so abominable one might feel a sort of pity for him, in the classical sense (the girl walks off toward light and work).

Perry (Forever Ealing) gives the game away, “it does point the way cinema will go long after Ealing is dead and buried,” he understands the ending as “pessimistic”.

Halliwell concurs, “glum... fails to sustain interest”.

Philip French of The Observer, “not exactly a masterpiece.”

Alexander Mackendrick’s The Ladykillers, of course, is at the back of all this.


The Key
Danger Man

“A dirty job” for the U.S. Ambassador in Vienna, from The Big Lift (dir. George Seaton) and, because it’s Harry and his Maria, The Third Man (dir. Carol Reed).

The material lays a basis for Danger Route.



Taste of Fear

Cannes, the disused summer house and pool, the master’s body.

“There’s nothing more for you here,” a thoroughgoing Freudian examination goes absolutely nowhere.

Madam and the doctor and the chauffeur and the stepdaughter on a grand estate, not what it was, Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse, Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques by reflection.

The originality and beauty of the filming are a constant resource applied to the actors (Todd, Lee, Lewis, Strasberg), the doctor’s French inflections are amazingly accurate, for example.


Station Six Sahara

The isolation of the surroundings.

The artistry and diligence of the work, sustained over a hundred miles of oil pipeline.

Letters from home, a single one worth a month’s pay.

Poker, “house rules”, bluffs and pots.

Into these stakes unconsciously floats the kind of woman only money can buy.

Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “his virtues are things of bits and pieces.”

Medina Oil Co., a five-year stint (cf. Lumet’s The Hill, with Bannen again).

The need for a survey. Reasons for existence, possibilities of escape. Losey’s Accident follows in due course.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times, “not especially good.” Variety, “a sex melodrama”. Karl Williams (Rovi), “potboiler”. Time Out, “the underrated Holt directs with a tight grip.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “the courage of its lack of convictions.”


The Nanny

The British madonna and child, achieved after some considerable effort in Regent’s Park with a doctor upstairs and his teenaged daughter, a maiden aunt not too far away (she has a heart condition), a Joseph on a mission to Beirut (the Queen’s Messenger) and a Mary kept from it by the old nanny.

Jesus is thought to have drowned his little sister in the bathtub, he’s institutionalized. The nanny sees her long-lost daughter die at twenty-five of a slum abortion.

The performances (James Villiers and Wendy Craig, Jill Bennett, the children, Bette Davis) are absolutely comme il faut as a matter of course, Holt goes farther to record every nuance, the slightest inflection.

He plays it so faultlessly that critics came away thinking only that they had missed something.


Danger Route

The modern-day Jonah, a cog in the organization.

Huston (The Mackintosh Man) and Peckinpah (The Killer Elite) follow the affair.

Howard Thompson (New York Times), “packs considerable punch.”

Variety, “overly confused in unfoldment... too vague... plot and counterplot...”

Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “confused and fragmented,” he shares Sarris’ “promising” view (“Holt has at least one great picture in him, but where is it and what would it be about?”).

Halliwell’s Film Guide, “little to commend it.”

One doesn’t want to be a sheep, one wants the money, does as one is told, has frayed nerves.

A bold enemy plot to have the British assassinate an important defector en route to America, this is a job for the CIA. Our man is an eliminator, goes where he’s sent, has a bint and a girl and a broad and a dame to contend with, bosses, colleagues, a weak link, moon phases, the Cold War.


Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb

Stoker’s Septentrion makes a bloody good Mummy film, a good Freudian dream and a good critique of the bella donna as a business item in one of those gross cartels that see all, know all, and take all.

Tera of the deathless sleep is Queen of the Darkness, right hand missing with its ruby ring, lopped off by priests, her wrist bleeds down the centuries. The three stages of her soul have talismans, a hooded asp, a jackal’s skull, a cat idol.

Margaret has a dream of all this, her father’s an Egyptologist.

One might, says a colleague of his, read the Scroll of Life over Tera, reincarnated as Margaret, avenge her upon the priests of Ancient Egypt, and rule all the world with the mysteries of life and death.

When all is said and done, one is a young Englishwoman bandaged from head to foot after the house of cards has collapsed.