Monday, 27 January 2014

Double Confession (1950)
Derek Farr
Once considered one of the top 75  ‘lost’ British films, Double Confession is a treat for fans of ‘British Film Noir’. Murder, infidelity, an illegitimate child, a conspiracy to frame an innocent man, and a mysterious connection between hero and villain – all seen through a haze of alcohol and smoke – sets up the viewer for an intriguing film.
In keeping with the Film Noir concept of a man trapped by circumstances and unable to escape the grasp of a woman, we have Jim Medway (Derek Farr) arriving in a seaside town to visit his unfaithful wife, who has run off with Charlie Durham (William Hartnell) ...
William Hartnell
... a rather dodgy businessman who is trying to go ‘legit’ but is hampered by the activities of his devoted (and near psychopath) sidekick Paynter (Peter Lorre) ... 
Peter Lorre
... who might just have a crush on his employer.
Peter Lorre & William Hartnell
In an added twist, the woman at the centre of it all, and who binds Farr and Hartnell together, goes unseen since she is already dead. The concept of the dead femme fatale, with sufficient power to influence events and drag men towards their doom despite being dead, was a welcome twist.

As with most crime dramas of the period, the characters’ clothing reveals plenty about them: Peter Lorre wears a black shirt whilst William Hartnell favours bow ties – both indications of criminality:

Peter Lorre & William Hartnell
Derek Farr’s smart modern jacket reveals him to be a fine upstanding man, contrasting to the wide lapels of Hartnell’s wide-boy:
Derek Farr & William Hartnell

This being a mystery story, I won’t include spoilers, but the story revolves around Medway’s attempts to frame Durham for the murder of Mrs Medway. Paynter tries to prevent this by attempting to kill him before he can influence events. What is most intriguing is that the past relationship between Medway and Durham is never revealed: the audience automatically views Medway as a good man, and Durham as a bad man, albeit one seeking redemption. However, it is clear that Medway’s wife (the centre of the love triangle) was not their only contact. The audience is left wondering whether Medway is a bad man, who has reformed, a good man who had been sucked into Durham’s corrupt world, maybe by the unseen dead woman.  

In the course of his attempts to frame Durham, Medway meets with Ann Corday (Joan Hopkins) ... 
Joan Hopkins
... a single mother who is spending the day at the seaside as she contemplates giving up her child, born out of wedlock to a man who has since abandoned her, in order a return to the world of middle class respectability.
Derek Farr & Joan Hopkins
In addition to the relationship between Farr and Hopkins, there are numerous odd asides in the film: a child in a stolen sideshow mask ...

... the budding relationship between two holidaymakers (Leslie Dwyer & Kathleen Harrison) ...
Leslie Dwyer & Kathleen Harrison
... and a wide-boy chatting up sunbathing girls which seems little more than an excuse to show off some female flesh.:

Whilst small in scale (making me think the asides there just to increase the running time to 82 minutes) it’s an intriguing little film, which reveals the blurred lines between the respectable and the criminal worlds.
Also look out for:
Edward Rigby

Esma Cannon

Vida Hope

George Woodbridge

Naunton Wayne

Peter Butterworth (left)

Ronald Howard
I spotted this small error: We see Farr & Hopkins on the pier, with buildings reflected in the windows behind them:
However, we then see the view from behind them ...
... and realise there are no buildings opposite them.


1 comment:

  1. She was beautiful. They are also together in the film Man on the Run, with Kenneth More. Double Confession is not terribly 'noir' but it's a lovely film.