Sunday 16 September 2018

Eyewitness - 1956 film

I didn't have particularly high hopes when I settled down to watch Eyewitness, a 1956 British B movie, on Talking Pictures. But I liked the music that accompanied the titles, and soon discovered that it was written by Bruce Montgomery (better known as Edmund Crispin).  A plus. And then I saw the script was written by Janet Green, who was also responsible for those excellent screenplays, Sapphire (which won an Edgar) and Victim. A definite plus. What's more, the cast was excellent, packed with good actors of the period.

The film proved to be excellent, taut and highly entertaining. It must rank as one of the finest achievements of the director, the under-estimated Muriel Box. The suspense is maintained throughout, but there are also plenty of nice touches, including quite a bit of social comment and comedy, that make the watching experience very enjoyable. I'm surprised it isn't better known.

At the start, Jay Church (Michael Craig) buys a television on hire purchase, infuriating his wife Lucy (Muriel Pavlow, actually a former girlfriend of Edmund Crispin). The couple argue, and she storms out of the house, and goes to watch a film to simmer down. Becoming bored, she leaves her seat in the cinema, and chances upon an armed robbery. Two crooks (Donald Sinden and Nigel Stock) are robbing the manager's safe, but the manager turns up unexpectedly. While Barney (Stock, a future TV Dr Watson) chases Lucy, Wade (Sinden) shoots the manager dead. Lucy runs out into the street, and is knocked down by a bus.

Wade realises that he needs to silence Lucy, and discovers the hospital she's been taken to. Together with the hapless Barney, he follows her there. But things get complicated, as the ward is busy, with an eagle-eyed sister, an extremely attractive nurse (Belinda Lee, who five years later was tragically killed in a car crash at the age of 26), a chatty old patient, and an inquisitive young girl. Tension builds as Wade's murderous designs are thwarted more than once.

The wonderful cast, which also includes Richard Wattis, Nicholas Parsons (as a charming young doctor!), Leslie Dwyer, and Allan Cuthbertson, does an excellent job. But the strength of the film lies in its script, economical yet full of telling lines and scenes. Janet Green was a class act, and Eyewitness is definitely an under-rated film, absolutely worth watching.

1 comment:

RJS said...

A couple of general comments relating to your wonderful blog:

1/ Dudley Sutton, the actor from The Boys (1962) and Lovejoy passed away. The Boys is an overlooked crime film with quite a cast!

2/ Luke Brown (Times Literary Supplement Sept 7th) reviewing Belinda Bauer's Snap, long listed for the Man Booker prize, wrote:"The pressure of the form forces plot contortions to take priority over realism in the crime novel. Its conventions almost always involve a greater artistic compromise between contrivance and verisimilitude than in the literary novel."
I put this full quotation to crime writer (and Man Booker) judge Val McDermid at the recent Noirwich festival.
She immediately responded with the word "BOLLOCKS!"
I can understand why she would say this, but as a fan of crime fiction (classic & noir), I would have to concede Luke has made a serious point.