Yep that’s right, Peter Sellers as a deranged car salesman. I have to say I never knew he played such a villainous character as he does in Never Let Go. He plays Lionel Meadows, a sinister, pencil thin mustachioed, wildly smiling and vicious, dodgy car showroom wheeler and dealer. An aggressive, tough gangster who runs his business like a machine, ticking all the boxes to ensure everything goes smoothly and he stays, king of his empire.
The frenzied opening scenes show us how Lionel Meadows gets his supply of cars. Straight out the gate, jazz and a flurry of fast paced bongos set the tempo as the camera pans on a series of shifty looking geezers. The first, at a car breakers yard, removing car registration plates from smashed up motors and passing them to a fence for notes. Then a change of direction, to a cafe filled with young hoodlums, a motorbike gang of rockabillies. A whispered job from a car window is offered to top dog of the gang, Tommy Towers (Adam Faith). The job, to match a car up to the plates for Lionel’s showroom. To steal a Ford Anglia, changing its identity, whilst flipping it out the showroom for some cold cash money. Lionel’s got it all sorted, the perfect little operation, nothing can get in his way.
Well maybe someone can? Step in down on his luck, cosmetic salesman, John Cummings (Richard Todd). Another actor playing against typecast. You will no doubt recognise Richard Todd as the heroic Wing Commander Guy Gibson from the classic bouncing bomb film, The Dam Busters. Here though, the poor guy is in constant worry for being a failure and underperforming but at least he has a nice shiny new car to keep his sales numbers up! His job is in jeopardy but this new start could be the break he needs to help support his family. Plus when he has made a few extra pounds he can get some insurance on his beloved new motor, life’s looking up for our John?
Richard can’t bring himself to let this one go, he may of given up before but he can’t keep failing, he’s made his mind up, never let go!
Other characters caught up within this story are Richard’s wife Anne (Elizabeth Sellars), Lionel’s girl Jackie (Carol White), Lionel’s muscle Cliff (David Lodge) and newspaper seller and terrapin lover Alfie Barnes (Mervyn Jones).
Lionel Meadows – To a barmaid “Keep it for me love, I’m just gonna water the horse”
With its blistering jazz score from composer John Barry and director John Guillermin’s fast paced story, this is a rapid-fire, entertaining watch. Add to that the stylized cinematography and first-rate performances from a great group of actors and you got to say, that novelty of seeing Peter Sellers so bad. It all adds up to making this such a superb little film.
The end scene is quite unique and has some resemblance to something you would see on a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. Also with the mannerisms and controlling ways Lionel uses his power over, not only his young terrified girlfriend but also everyone who happens to be in his way. The mad smile and quirky voice from within the shadows is menacing and fascinating at the same time. It all adds up to rocking fast paced British style noir film.
Lionel Meadows – “Do you think I’m gonna let a lousy lipstick peddler take apart everything I’ve got?”
This is definitely a superb gem of British drama and well worth hunting down if you haven’t seen it. Let me know if you wish if you too liked this one.