Wednesday, 12 January 2011



There's a certain degree of creaky charm to be derived from the British B-pictures of the 50s and 60s: it's not just nostalgia (and I'm not old enough to be nostalgic for those years), but it's almost archive footage of the way Britain was in those days. The cars, the fashions, the attitudes, the prices, they way everyone spoke like the Earl Of Onslow. Everybody smoked, and if you saw a shot of the M1 it had about five cars on it. And there's the chance to see veteran British character actors before they were massively famous, even in the cheapest of the cheap. Some of these are being rediscovered as little time capsules of The Way Things Were, and even if they're not very good as films they can be of some historical interest. Occasionally they're putting two out on the same disc - these two, both directed by Terry Bishop in 1959, run for barely an hour each.

You can skip over Life In Danger, to be honest - it's a fairly dull tale of the lynch mob mentality of a Kent village. Following the sirens going off at an institution for the criminally insane (it's even referred to in the dialogue as "the loony bin") and the escape of a particularly violent offender, rough, taciturn Derren Nesbitt staggers out of the undergrowth and heads for the nearest village, claiming to be looking for a bit of farm work. While the police bumble aimlessly around doing little more than getting everyone to stay indoors until they've caught him, some of the locals seize the initiative and track Nesbitt down to a barn with a couple of local children.... There's a terrific twist at the end, but despite that (and seeing British character players like Howard Marion Crawford and Bruce Seton), it doesn't grip at all.

No, the gem of the disc is the second film, the luridly titled Cover Girl Killer, in which a maniac is killing off pinup models in the same styles as their magazine covers. It's giving away nothing to reveal the murderer, as the film isn't a whodunnit (he's revealed as such very early on), but the thrill of it is that he's played by Harry H Corbett! And as serial killers go he's actually a pretty cunning one, adopting disguises and multiple characters, while still doing the usual pathetic self-justification about how these women deserve to die and ranting about moral filth and spiritual corruption. (And not once does he get the chance to declaim "you dahty old man!") Despite the incredibly low budget it's a brisk affair and far more fun than Life In Danger.


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