With an opening credit scene of you sat in the back of a police car driving down the bright lights big city streets looking like the beginning of Police Squad/The Naked Gun. Well apart from you don’t drive down a bowling alley or move your way through the birthing canal into the hands of a midwife!
What with the black and white film print and way director Val Guest gets his film look, Hell Is A City could easily be the most American looking film set in North Britain, the city of Manchester. Even with the Moors and the vast industrial factories as the backdrop of the city, it’s the dialogue and jazz score which give this film the American look.
Tagline – From dark till dawn … From dives to dames … From cops to killers … Hell Is a City…
As with Val Guest’s absolutely brilliant The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Val writes the screenplay as well as directs and it shows. With frantic dialogue always firing between the characters, non-stop quips and banter, it’s a wonder to behold.
Starring the man with some awesome eyebrows Stanley Baker, he plays the tough and dedicated Inspector Harry Martineau. A man determined to catch an infamous escaped convict and hell raiser going by the name of Don Starling (John Crawford). A violent criminal who heads back home to Manchester to cause mayhem with a bunch of old crooks and cons, resulting in a brutal street robbery for a heap of cash. What they didn’t expect was for the bills to leave a permanent green ink on their hands. Which gives Harry Martineau and his partner Detective Devery (Geoffrey Frederick) something to go on! Let the man hunt begin.
Tagline – MURDER MONEY marked his hands….. BLOOD STAINED his soul!
Now Harry has to not only shift through all the crooks and criminals to find a route to Don Starling, he also has to fend of the charms of the very saucy innuendo queen Lucky Luske (Vanda Godsell) the landlady of Harry’s favorite pub. But our Harry is a professional and only has eyes for his job which unfortunately means his poor wife is left home alone as he takes the stress off with another pint.
Also part of the terrific cast in this fabulous film are the wonderful duo Billie Whitelaw and Donald Pleasence who play husband and wife Gus and Chloe Hawkins.
Can our Harry manage to track down the evil bastard Starling before he can cause more hell in the city? Can he sort out the really bad from the harmless wheelers and dealers. Can he save his marriage, get a decent ale down the pub and most importantly can he keep the busty lusty Lucky from seducing him? I whole heartily recommend this amazing British crime thriller. Track it down if you can.
The story is based on a novel by Maurice Procter whom I have just found out wrote a whole series of books starring the character Inspector Harry Martineau. I wonder if there were anymore transformed into movies? For those interested in the jazz score, the music is composed by bandleader Stanley Black.
Random observation – In a most wonderful scene with hoards of people gathering around on a hilly suburban park with the factories as a backdrop, you get to see the men gambling on a curious game involving two coins flipped in the air, betting on heads and tails. Its the second film I’ve seen recently to feature the game Two-Up that stars Donald Pleasence. The other being the amazing scene in Wake In Fright.
Be sure to pop on over to fellow film nut, the man with the knowledge, Mike’s Take On The Movies he has gone proper doolally for Stanley Baker and has done a fantastic movie marathon series on his films. Well worth a read.
Keep watching the silver screens and feel free to let me know what you thought of the film if you wish. All the best….. Wolfie.