Monday, 15 January 2018

Web of Evidence - 1959 film review

Web of Evidence is the American title of a 1959 British film which in this country was called Beyond This Place. The screenplay was based on a novel by A.J. Cronin, also called Beyond This Place. Cronin isn't someone I associate with crime writing, and I guess the novel may be a bit more of a mainstream book than a thriller. But he was a good novelist - and the creator of Dr Finlay's Casebook - and I imagine it's worth reading.

The film is one of those which grafts American actors on to a British story solely for commercial reasons. Fortunately, in this case the actors are Van Johnson and Vera Miles, both of whom were very capable performers. Oddly enough, the setting is Liverpool, and I was fascinated to see shots of the city as it was in the late Fifties - a much grimmer place than it is today, for sure.

Johnson plays Paul Mathry, who docks at Liverpool for a few days in the hope of tracing his father, whom he lost touch with at the start of the war, when his mother took him away to the United States. He is shocked to find that his father (played by Bernard Lee, just before he became "M" in the James Bond films) was convicted of murder, and only escaped the gallows with the help of a campaigner (Emlyn Williams).

Johnson decides Dad was innocent, and sets out to prove it. But he faces obstruction from the authorities, who don't want the old case to be re-opened. Vera Miles, a local librarian, helps Johnson in his quest, and naturally they fall for each other. But she too has a secret in her past. I wasn't qutie convinced by some of the legal aspects of the plot, but that didn't matter too much. The quality of the acting (the likes of Leo McKern, Geoffrey Keen and Rosalie Crutchley also appear) coupled with a solid story make this a very watchable film.

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