Sunday, 7 June 2015

Life In Danger (1959)

1959's Life In Danger is another commendable instalment in the B movie sub-culture of British movies from that era of late 50s and early 60s that is currently getting an airing on Talking Pictures TV. It is written by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice who would go on to write the really classy 1961 B movie The Man In The Back Seat which reunited them with their star here, Derren Nesbitt.

A dangerous child killer has escaped from Parkways criminal institution which lies on the outskirts a small, close knit country village. When the siren is sounded notifying the villagers of the prisoner/patient on the loose, panic and fear naturally ensues. The villagers are deeply mistrustful and critical of the institute which dominates their otherwise rural idyll and one character, the Major played by Howard Marion Crawford - familiar for the blustering bewhiskered comic relief roles and as Nayland Smith's Dr Watson like sidekick in several Fu Manchu movies from the late 60s - takes it upon himself to be their defender; talking of his experiences hunting game in Burma, and his belief that the escaped young lunatic should be dealt with in a similar manner.

Derren Nesbitt appears in the town, mysterious and tight lipped, looking for work yet anxious around, and keen to avoid, the authorities. Fleeing from the local bobby, he befriends a teenage girl and her young brother and the stage is inevitably set for confrontation, with the audience unsure who their sympathies should lie with.

A noted communist, Hulke's social rights campaigning nature is evident here as he keeps the tone ambiguous and explores the bloodthirsty, narrow minded mentality borne from a claustrophobic, contained fear the villagers feel about the threat on their doorstep which has clearly been allowed to fester ever since it has been built there. As they gang up,  critical of the local police and prepared to do whatever it takes, we see Nesbitt's suspicious newcomer idly befriend the children and laze away the day, hiding in their barn. A distinct social message is on display here and we're left to question the error of taking the law into our own hands. Production values are of course basic and the script is perhaps a bit too dense and talky but this hour long entertainment more or less keeps you watching til the credits roll.

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