The Square Ring (1953) Basil Dearden’s Knockout Boxing Drama

Funny to think of a ring being square? Ok, just me then… Ding Ding. So that’s that, my review of boxing drama, The Square Ring. Thanks for popping on by…

A re-match you say? Ok! here goes. This is a neat little boxing drama featuring a snapshot into the lives of six fighters ready to enter the boxing ring. The main narrative is centered within the changing rooms for our home club boxers. Men at different stages and journey paths of their careers. A wise ex-pro is the dressing room attendant, his experience puts him in the perfect place to give out honest and practical advice. Whether they listen to his sage wisdom is another thing but he would never judge. He’s been there before.

The Square Ring is directed by the superb Basil Dearden who just keeps surprising me every time I press play. Basil has been featured on here a few times with Sapphire (1959), Victim (1961) The Mind Benders (1963) A Place To Go (1963) and the superb The League of Gentlemen (1960).

Danny Felton (Jack Warner)
Rare to see Jack Warner out of a police outfit I’d say. Known to many of a certain age for hundreds of episodes (actually 432!) of the TV series Dixon of Dock Green where he played the bobby on the beat Police Constable George Dixon. He also starred as PC George in another film for director Basil Dearden in The Blue Lamp (1950) with rookie cop Jimmy Hanley and the young hoodlum Dirk Bogarde. Jack Warner would also play a detective inspector in the superb murder mystery I did a review for called Jigsaw (1962). His character in The Square Ring is the kind and caring Danny Felton. He’d been in the same position as these guys at some point in his fighting life and he’d also seen the aftermath first hand. He tapes the fists ready for the gloves, fetches their personal robes, taking his time to calm their nerves and give the right inspirational words to help them before entering the arena. He’s also ready with the first aid kit. He’ll patch them back up if he can. Each boxer goes through Danny.

Whitey Johnson (George Rose)
Past his prime by many years. Whitey had come off the streets bare-knuckle fighting. Boxing was all he knew. Nowadays he was just a punching bag. The first event for some up and coming whippersnapper to hurl powerful blows into his mashed up face. Whitey was a brawler, his face showed the years of slams, he was punch drunk but he was also forever the optimist. Bet him a pound that he couldn’t win might be all the stubborn beat up fighter might need?

Eddie Lewis (Ronald Lewis)
Eddie was a rookie. He’d worked his way through the ranks of the amateur ring. Today was his first fight as professional. Mum and Dad are there for support, mixed within the riotous screams from the boisterous crowd. The three had traveled from Wales together, ready to watch their son with pride. Eddie was nervous and timid. The stage had opened his eyes. Being in the changing rooms with all these fighters had equally frighten and inspired him. Now was the time for the stage, his first big fight. Off he goes with his head in a spin… Ronald Lewis is superb in the thriller Taste of Fear (1961).

Rowdie Rawlings (Bill Travers)
A giant heavyweight. Comes off slow and forgetful. Years of being punched or maybe uneducated, possibly both. Big Rowdie looked like a brute but under that hulking frame was a kind heart. His gormless smile was friendly to everyone. He sit’s patiently for his ring time and as he does he reads his favourite science fiction comic book with great fascination. “She’s off to Jupiter to marry some sort of alien vegetation!” he happily proclaims to everyone.

Rick Martell (Maxwell Reed)
Rick was down on his luck. Lost two fights in a row. His girlfriend was besotted with him. It didn’t matter that he’d lost, she love him no matter what. He’ll win this fight, that’s for sure. Little did she know that Rick had gangsters gunning for him to take a dive in the fourth round! If he didn’t they threaten to slash up his love! Rick’s girlfriend is played by the saucy Joan Collins and the couple were married in real life. He was husband number one from five. It didn’t go well for these two, I wonder if they fared better in the film?

Happy Burns (Bill Owen)
The flyweight fighter on a winning streak. He’s incessantly cocky and with annoying amount of ego and confidence. He bounces about shadow boxing and telling everyone how skilled he is and even more importantly, to him, how good looking he is. This pint sized pocket rocket still pulls the girls with three ladies on his arm dotting over him from the side lines. One of them is Joan Sims the Carry On Queen. And of course, if again you are of a certain age, Bill Owen is the household name of Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, the long running comedy saga.

Kid Curtis (Robert Beatty)
The main event and the top fight on the nights card is Kid Curtis. He had been big time. He’s won the title, crowned the champ. However it had broken him. The young Eddie asks him “It must’ve been terrific, winning the title an’ that. How did it feel?” to which Kid Curtis replies “I don’t know how it felt. It was a week before I could remember my own name…“. A few fights later, all lost, he had hit rock bottom. Retired at 29! He’d lost the love of his life, his wife Peg (Bernadette O’Farrell). It wasn’t due to him losing, it was down to him not quitting. In his head he was making a come back to win her back!

Verdict

I will flippantly say it has some common ground in similar style to Robert Wise’s incredible, The Set Up (1949). With it’s focus firmly on the fighters getting ready to enter the arena. Anyone who’s watched The Set-Up will know it’s not on that level. But don’t be fooled with it’s at times comic approach, it will come around and bite you. It has some deep insight into the darker side of the boxing trade, especially for that era. It took me by surprise how very aware of thing’s like concussion, with the brain smashing around inside the skull, being punch drunk, sight loss and the other dangers associated with the tough sport. There’s also the gangster and hoodlums element. Them using their power to rig matches with fear and intimation. Even cheating and promoter politics get a little look at. With all that, there’s a lot of fun to be had spotting all the actors you may of seen in something before. With club owner and master of ceremonies being the one and only Sid James who has a running cigar joke going. Check the beautiful Kay Kendall and the devious Eddie Byrne too. For a fan of British films and a love of boxing dramas I thoroughly enjoyed this but as I forewarned it’s not all good times and laughs and can sucker punch on the darker side when it wants too.

Wolfman’s score card comes in with an unanimous win for Basil and his team with 7.5/10

The Dark Man (1951) Killer Thriller With A Big Chase Filler…

I wanted a short movie, preferably with a dash of crime, thriller and drama all rolled into one. Oh go on then, chuck in a young sexy lady for a bonus! I’m equal, even throw in a hunky fella to balance it out. Devilish good looks with a cad like pencil thin mustache. Tall, dark and handsome but sorry ladies there’s no gentleman with this guy. He so happens to be a relentless killer! Dubbed The Dark Man! His demeanor is threatening, with a foreboding sinister evil that he’d use to quietly menace and kill with. Truth be told he was also a tad stupid. You see, he had just killed. Blasted a man to death. This guy has no virtues, he shot him straight in the back. You see the man had seen him, not kill, yet the Dark Man had, no he had seen his face. The poor man, who would soon become deceased didn’t realise his fate at first. Then when it dawned it became kind of obvious. It didn’t matter, like I said, his life was over, he wasn’t telling no one. Now if the Dark Man was sensible he’d remove himself from this small town with haste…

The bullet smashed it’s way into cloth, ripped through flesh, blood and then muscle as it hit the young man’s back. The pistol let out a clack-pow sound that echoed across the open the road. A hundred feet a way, on her bike, Molly Lester (Natasha Parry) stopped, more intrigued to what the sound was. It had left an eerie silence. She looked, saw a crashed vehicle by a clearing near the woods. Then he appeared! The Dark Man. It was too far to really make him out. Anyhow she was late, the curtains would be going up soon and she would miss her stage time. Molly was an aspiring actress, it was all she wanted to do. She dismissed the man of shadows. She rode on. The dark man stood in silence as he looked on…

The newspaper described the murder scene. Molly’s friend Barbara (Carol Burns) read with morbid excitement. She was clearly more interested. Molly hadn’t seen a thing, she didn’t get all the fuss. The police on the other hand were concerned that this man had no problems killing, he may come for the girl. The Superintendent (William Hartnell) assigns Detective Inspector Jack Viner (Edward Underdown) to investigate and shadow Molly. Arriving at the theatre her friend comments how young and handsome Jack is. “You look too young to be a policeman!“. Barbara needed her eyes tested! Jack looked sixty plus. Molly and Jack fall in love instantly. It took one walk, for a few minutes, before they are in full embrace. The cops were fast movers back then!… Note – looking up Edward Underdown’s age at time of filming I was shocked he was in fact 43! If he wasn’t telling porkie pies about his birth year! People really did look so much older back then…

Molly Lester –Is he alright?
Superintendent –Depends what you mean by alright. In two minutes I’ll be able to tell you whether you’re marrying a lunatic or a corpse.

In the dimly lit shadows, the outline of a man stared unblinking from his hotel room over looking the theatre. He waited for Molly to appear. Drawing on a cigarette in the blackness the smoke filled the window. The Dark Man (Maxwell Reed) watched his pray. Ready to cover up, silence, all the loose ends before returning to the stash of money he had originally killed for. He watched, stalked and planned, binding his time to sweep in and finish her. Turn her lights out…

Tagline – Set in one of Britain’s Forbidden Areas…..this is one of the most fascinating films ever screened!

I found this film looking through William Hartnell’s filmography. Mister Hartnell’s superintendent character doesn’t really get going in the film until near the end. He gives a little deep speech before joining the end man hunt. A man hunt that really takes to an unexpected turn. It all about the strange landscape set piece that jumps a dramatic contrast to rest of the film. A vast stretch of land with dunes and dotted about islands of vegetation. Broken down outhouses and a large old ancient round looking castle appear. What was this place? It was filmed at Camber Castle on the Sussex coast. What makes the end chase so unique is that it’s an army firing range with a few hundred military personnel firing missiles across the pathways of our hero and villain.

Now I’m sorry to bring the tone down or offend anyone but I must place my pervy hat upon my head! Natasha Parry is stunning here and they really do go to many lengths to show her off. Pulling up stockings, undoing her top to reveal her bra. 50’s sunbathing outfit for a impromptu read on the beach. Ok, nothing really is shown but you can imagine it being all rather titillating back then. There’s one moment when Miss Parry walks to the bus stop. Legs appearing from her floating dress and you feel yourself blowing mouthfuls of air at the tv to help the gust of wind flow her skirt up. It was close I tell you, hang on did I just write that? Damn it I must remember never to put that hat on! Not the first time I got myself in hot water wearing that same hat I’ll tell you! Yeah I remember the time I turned up at a Women’s Institute Christmas event wearing my trusty hat… Yep I’d leave that story for another time, all I’ll say is wooden spoons and spatulas and I couldn’t sit down for a whole week!

The Dark Man is written and directed by Jeffrey Dell. It says he’d been in the Royal Flying Corps. I wonder if he still had connections with the British Army? That end scene really is something else with all the military presence. Which brings us to this great little speech from a sergeant to his eager men ready to join the hunt….

Look there might be another chap out there on the ranges, he’s a police inspector but he’s in civvies? So we don’t want any mistakes. Don’t go blazing away at the first chap you see, challenge him and then if he shows fight, let him have it in the legs!”

Maxwell Reed made for a handsome baddie. A few sinister scenes with the light bulbs and the hiding in the shadows were well put together. His opening introduction scene is superb as he towers on the screen as the others cower. A few sections are so-so especially with the love interest with the inspector being rather ridiculous. Besides, it didn’t matter, as of course there was the divine Natasha Parry to look at. Then the finale comes, the near on 20 minute end chase gave this film a good unique feel. Kudos to Jeffrey Dell and and his camera and lighting crew for going to town. We get treated to some cool sweeping noir lighting shots across vast open landscapes with vehicles and men running around in the moonlight. I’m sure Jeffrey had army connection’s as he managed to get his hands on a world war two search light that streaked a laser like light across the blackness of night. Ok I quite possibly might be guilty of bigging this up a little but I enjoyed it. Let me know if you know it, see it or just wanna say hello.

And remember to keep howling at the TV with the window open. Keep the neighbours on their toes.

Thanks for popping on by… Mikey

7.5/10 6.3/10

Turn the Key Softly (1953) Joan Collins And Friends Are Released From Prison

Here’s a small review for Turn the Key Softly, a British thriller from 1953 about three female prisoners released on the same day from Holloway Prison. The drama follows the three convicts on the first day of their release. Waiting patiently in their prison uniform’s for their release orders. The three are from varying backgrounds and standing in society. Each had committed a different crime but nothing that had resulted in long hard time, yet…

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Winchester 73 (1950) Crack Shot James Stewart Tracks Down Ruthless Killer

Do you believe it! I got six film reviews in the works, all half done! I can’t seem to get them finished. So I’ve changed my tracks completely and started this new Western review series. A mule kick with spurs on to get my ass rolling again! The Western genre has been a little neglected in the review department here. I hope to make amends this month. Lets see! Right whip out your Colt six shooter and fire up a dance. Yeeehaa.

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The Asphalt Jungle (1950) A Robbery In The Sin Sodden Shadows Of A Noir Soaked City

No messing around. Lets drop the score. Yep it’s a straight 10. Been sitting on The Asphalt Jungle for a while. You know the feeling. You know full well that it’s gonna hit the spot. Enough people have nudged me. I’m sure you’re like me? It’s gotta be the right time, you want that perfect time. That perfect head space to sit back and let it flood over you. Last night was that time. Damn man! Was it fantastic! Ready to watch it again. Not only did it look incredible and believable, you could feel the sweat and hot heads bursting through the screen. All the characters felt rounded and real. Every single player dropped into the drama. They all linked perfectly up with the other. Each move, how big or small, effected the next play like a chain of events that fell fateful into place. The darkness, the grimy opening dirty streets. The sweat, the tension, the running and the pounding of fists.

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Decision Before Dawn (1951) WW2 German POW Spying For The Allies

What could possibly be the motivation to spy on your own country? Captured by the enemy. Resigned to the fact that your country is most certainly losing the war. What would make you decide treason is an option against your homeland? To help give your foe the upper hand. This was a dilemma given to a collection of German prisoners of war during World War Two. To cross back onto your battered boarders to retrieve valuable information for the Allied invasion. An unspeakable betrayal!

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