Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Landslide - 1937 film review

Landslide is one of those "quota quickie" films from the Thirties that provide a glimpse into a vanished world. It's a murder mystery with a theatrical background which provides a classic "closed circle" of suspects scenario when the theatre - located in a small Welsh town- is engulfed in a landslide, making it impossible for anyone to get in or out, while a series of crimes is committed.

So Donovan Pedelty, writer and director, offers quite a rich mix of ingredients. The result is, I think, a curate's egg of a movie, as variable as the grasp that one or two members of the cast have on their Welsh accents. It's very dated, for sure, though I suspect that even in 1937, Pedelty was offering a picture of a vanishing way of life - the focus is on a small troupe of actors led by a dodgy manager struggling to make ends meet as tastes in entertainment changed.

The leads are a young couple, played by Jimmy Hanley and Dinah Sheridan. They have fallen in love, though matters are complicated by the fact that Hanley's ex is also a member of the cast, and is threatening to sue for breach of promise. Hanley, a former child star, was a big name in his day, and five years after the film was released, he and Dinah Sheridan married. They are among the actors who are complaining that their boss owes them money, when a woman who works at the theatre is found to have been murdered. Money has gone missing - who is the culprit? A local policeman arrives, but then the theatre is engulfed, and the question is who if anyone will survive until the time when help comes.

The structure of the story is unusual, since quite some time elapses before the first death occurs, and I found myself wondering whether I was watching a crime film at all. There's quite a bit of comedy along the way, but inevitably much of this now seems very old-fashioned indeed. Overall, I'd say that this one is definitely worth watching, but partly because it's got curiosity value.

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