Wednesday 7 February 2018

Crosstrap - 1962 film

One thing about forgotten books.No matter how obscure they are, you can almost always track down a copy sooner or later (being able to afford to buy it is a different matter!) The deposit library system isn't totally infallible, but overall it works extremely well. The position is different with old films and old TV shows. Some of them are lost forever, because the tapes have been wiped or otherwise destroyed. One can only dream, for instance, that a complete run of the wonderful BBC TV series Detective will turn up sooner or later. And there are plenty of other examples of good shows that are still missing.

But sometimes fans get a lucky break. A film thought to have been lost suddenly turns up. Such was the case with Crosstrap, a B movie made in 1962, which, it seems, some fans had been searching for year after year because it marked the debut of director Robert Hartford-Davis (though I must admit his fame had completely passed me by). But a copy turned up a few years ago, and now it's available again and has recently been screened by Talking Pictures.

The film stars Laurence Payne, an interesting character because he was not only a capable actor, most renowned for starring as Sexton Blake in the Sixties, but also the author of a number of crime novels.  I was once told by a female contemporary of his that he was a man with great personal charisma. Here he plays a smooth baddie called Duke, who is involved in a jewel robbery. His gang are waiting in a deserted house for a plane to take them to Spain. Why they hadn't arranged to be picked up more quickly is not explained. Even worse, the house isn't deserted. A young couple, played by Gary Cockrell and Jill Adams, have rented it for a romantic first anniversary stay. What's more, a rival gang is staking out the house.

The gang's plot, in other words, is a bit of a mess. The same might perhaps be said of the storyline, based on a novel by the prolific thriller writer John Newton Chance. Bill Nagy and Zena Marshall are in the cast, and in fairness the story moves along at a lively pace. But the sex and violence scenes seem rather tawdry (yet also tame) by modern standards, and it's not a great advert, in my opinion, for Hartford-Davis. The best thing about it is Payne's performance, and the explosive final scene.

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