Sunday, 30 November 2014

Murder Without Crime (1950)

"Blood & Rouge: What an odd combination."
Directed by J. Lee Thompson (who later went on to direct Guns of Navarone, Ice Cold in Alex and Cape Fear) from his own stageplay, Murder Without Crime betrays its theatrical origins with a limited cast - effectively just four main characters - and a handful of locations. Despite these limitations,  it remains a highly effective slice of British film noir.
Derek Farr
It has a number of typical noir ingredients - the fall guy, the glamorous femme fatale who charms lure the fall guy into committing the crime, the manipulator and the wronged woman. Not only that, but it also has the more obvious ingredients - namely cast members smoking in the shadows:
Derek Farr
And just in case you didn't realise that its a wanna-be American crime thriller, the director gives us an American accented voice over at the start and end of the film. It doesn't need it, but it makes sure the audience realises they are on familiar territory.
"Here's success and failure; hope and despair. I know you've heard it all before ... but quite close to us, walking by now, or gazing at the lights, riding in one of those buses or cars, perhaps there's someone who is heading for a calamitous and climactic night."

The story follows Stephen (Derek Farr) ...
Derek Farr
... a once successful author whose ideas have dried up and is struggling produce anything anyone wants to read. His haughty wife Jan (Patricia Plunkett) - who only married him "as an ideal" - has had enough of his failure and his dalliances with other women and is ready to leave:
Patricia Plunkett
Their relationship is complicated by the presence downstairs of their landlord, Matthew (Dennis Price) ...
Dennis Price
... a rather dissolute and slimy individual who happily lets himself into their flat to sneak around when they are out. And he just happens to be in love with Jan. Regardless of whether or not he’s actually the bad guy, you want him to be.
Jan’s decision to leave sparks a downward spiral in which Stephen drinks himself senseless ...
Derek Farr

Derek Farr & Joan Dowling
... and ends up in the flat of a young Soho nightclub hostess, the curiously named Grena (Joan Dowling). The description of her as a girl of a with "a weakness for vulgar transatlantic jargon" combined with the sight of her sucking lollipops in a Soho nightclub, tells the audience all they need to know about her:
Joan Dowling
After checking out her underwear ...
Derek Farr
... he begins to feel guilty and returns home, Grena follows him and that’s when everything starts to go wrong. And when Matthew intervenes things get even more complicated.
The film’s restricted settings means that the film is rendered visually impressive, without the need for a large budget. The typically ‘noir’ use of darkness and shadows also helps it maintain a stylish appeal. And most importantly, the twist wasn't what I was expecting: that's always a bonus.
And you’ve got to love Derek Farr’s belted overcoat without buttons, that is held closed simply by its belt and has an unusual – and rather stylish – flapped breast pocket.
Derek Farr

Derek Farr
The film also includes a wonderful description of London's Golders Green Area: "all crematoriums and not a pub for miles."
Currently available from Network DVD:


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