Tag: British Film

Film Review: The Body Vanished

The Body Vanished is a 1939 British film where a vacationing Scotland Yard detective inspector and his reporter chum stumble across a mystery at a country house where the butler discovers a body, which then disappears.

I was able to watch this film for free on Amazon Prime. It’s a fun comedy mystery and seems to be a Quota Quickie, which adds up to the equivalent of an American B movie. This works better than your average American “B” picture. While it is low budget and some of the characters are a bit broad, the actors all know their business.

I admire the economy of the story telling. This is 15-20 minutes shorter than an American “B” film and that makes it a better movie because the story moves at a faster pace and avoids the more annoying padding you’d see in many of the American “B” films of the era.

This is by no means a classic, or a must-see film. It is a competently done black and white mystery that doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you like B-movies or simple light comedy mysteries, this will be an entertaining enough use of 46 minutes, so it’s worth checking out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Audio Drama Review: Day of The Triffids

Day of the Triffids is a 1968 Radio Dramatization of John Wyndham’s classic British Sci-Fi novel by the same name.

The programs begins as believably as possible in explaining of how Earth came to have giant, walking, aggressive plants. It begins with the Soviets developing the Triffids to gain a competitive advantage in food production over the West. Due to a bit of espionage and misadventure, the Triffid seeds being spread across the globe.

The good news is the Triffids can be controlled and managed. Humanity has one advantage over them: Humans can see. Unfortunately, an astronomical event is seen across the Earth and the media urges every person to stare up at it. This stupidity leads to almost the entire human race going blind.

The hero of the story Bill Masen (Gary Watson)  worked in Triffid management and knows their dangers. Due to an accident, he’d ended up in the hospital with bandages over his eyes,making him one of the few people who still have eyesight. He’s left to navigate the perils of a post-apocalyptic world.

While the inciting event is a bit silly, the action that takes place after that makes for a compelling drama of what might happen if society in England collapsed due to a sudden cataclysm. Some interesting ideas are explored as plague and disease grips the country. Society crumbles and is unable to cope. Some loot existing stores and try to live off them while others try to figure out how to rediscover old ways of doing things that don’t require technology. Others sees the collapse as a reason to change social mores to suit various goals. Some folks band together to start a fascist state.

The soundscape is about average for the era, with enough sound effects used to aide the listener’s imagination. The cast turns in believable performances with the main cast being pretty likale.

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about Day of the Triffids is that the titular creatures are far from the greatest peril that Bill Masen and friends face. Though certainly the Triffids are menacing when they appear.

However, after disease, bandits, well-intentioned people who do things that make things worse, and the self-appointed military, the Triffids barely make the top five of the most perilous challenges that the survivors face.

Terry Nation did this story practically beat for beat in his 1970s TV series Survivors which was essentially Day of the Triffids without the Triffids. In Survivors, humanity was decimated by a plague and it worked as well if not better. So how much the Triffids contribute to the story is open to debate.

Overall, though, this is a sold 1960s adaptation of a Science Fiction classic that holds up fairly well for the most part.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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DVD Review: Assignment Redhead

Note: Twitter followers @radiodetectives voted this as the movie I’d review this week rather than Whodunit.

In 1951, the Australian radio company Grace Gibson released the first audio drama series featuring Major Gregory Keen, of MI-5. Series creator Lindsay Hardy turned this into a book, “Requiem for a Redhead,” which became a basis for the British movie, “Assignment: Redhead.” (aka Million Dollar Manhunt.)

The basic plot is the same as in the radio drama. A criminal mastermind known as Dumetrius kills a Colonel and takes his place on a flight from Germany to London. On the flight is a U.S. serviceman who takes a picture of Dumetrius. With the help of Hedy Bergner (Carole Matthews), a singer who is a secretly a spy for him, Dumetrius has the serviceman killed and a British Airman named Peter Ridgeway is framed for the crime. Keen (Richard Denning) steps in to locate Dumetrius and hunts for Ridgeway when he escapes.

The movie has some solid points. The original 104-part serial had a lot of repetition and the movie cut a lot of the fat. One thing I like is that we don’t get to see Keen acting like a fool in his being in love with Heddy Bergner and blind to the fact she’ s working for Dumetrius for more than 16 hours as in the radio drama. The plot remains interesting and engaging with some great elements still included. Richard Denning (star of Michael Shayne and Mr. and Mrs. North) turns in a good performance.

Yet, the movie is nowhere near as good as the radio drama overall. The film is low budget and it shows. With a Film Noir, a low budget feel can work, but a spy film needs a bit more room in the budget. The seventy-six minute run time cuts some of the more annoying elements of the radio serial, but it also eliminates a lot of the good stuff, including many complicated relationship dynamics. We don’t get to see Heddy’s growth as a character or her conflict as we do in the radio serial. Instead, her change towards the end of the story is abrupt. In addition, because Keen is an American in this version and his aide Sergeant Coutts is a Brit, there’s not some of the shared backstory and Coutts’ tireless loyalty which was such a great highlight of the radio drama. Key sequences from late in the story are cut or compressed. Even if I hadn’t heard the radio serial, I’d know something was missing. Weirdly, the initial set up is kept mostly intact. The acting is as spotty as you’d expect from a low-budget film.

Overall, this isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s tough to offer a general recommendation. If you’ve heard the radio series, then it’s worth checking out for the curiosity’s sake. If you’ve thought about listening to the radio serial, and want to check out the movie first, I’d recommend listening to the radio drama first. It’s far better than what was put out on the screen.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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