Sunday, 14 September 2008


When it comes to thinking about the best British directors, the name Ralph Thomas does not really spring to mind. He was firmly entrenched at the Rank Organisation directing routine movies such as the DOCTOR series and later such no hopers as the Penis transplant comedies, PERCY and PERCY'S PROGRESS. So it was without a lot of enthusiasm that I tuned into the Sunday afternoon television showing of THE CLOUDED YELLOW. I was very pleasantly surprised by this quite captivating thriller. Trevor Howard plays an ex-secret agent who takes a job cataloging butterflies at a country house. While there a murder is committed and the niece of the owners, whom he as befriended, is accused. Howard goes on the run with the girl and they criss cross England to evade the police and, hopefully, flush out the real killer. Howard uses his expertise as a secret agent to stay one step ahead of the law. The film offers a fascinating snapshot of post-war England from London to Newcastle to the Lake District and Liverpool - from country houses, the West End of London, roadside cafes, boarding houses, dockland to a fascinating sequence in Liverpool's Chinese community. The plot, screenplay by Janet Hill from her own story, is a distillation of ideas from Agatha Christie, Patrick Hamilton, Geoffrey Household and John Buchan. The film it most resembles is the 1959 remake of THE 39 STEPS starring Kenneth More (and directed - surprise, surprise - by Ralph Thomas). Like many enjoyable British films of this period one of its strengths is in its cast. Trevor Howard, of course, was at his peak and Jean Simmons is appealing as the disturbed girl that he befriends and later falls in love with. Excellent support is given by Barry Jones, Sonia Dresdel, Kenneth More (here playing Howard's sympathetic pursuer and later to play Hannay in Thomas' THE 39 STEPS), Geoffrey Keen and Andre Morell. Further down the cast list is a lovely turn by Eric Pohlman as a supplier of fake passorts - Pohlman being one of England's unsung masters of sweaty sleaze. Rating ***


Cerpts said...

Never heard of it! But it certainly sounds worth watching. And it's funny, I was thinking John Buchan while reading the very beginning of your post before I got down further and saw you mention John Buchan's 39 Steps. It does sounds like a great cast and great locations as well as that nice mystery/on the run type of movie experience. Definitely sounds well worth seeking out.

Weaverman said...

Good News! I checked to see if THE CLOUDED YELLOW is on DVD and found that it is to be released on October 5th. Can't say I'll rush out and buy it at full price but will certainly pick it up when a used copy becomes available.