So Herbert Lom Was Still Alive
In my head, there's the whole list of people who died "you know, in like the seventies or something." Most of them are relatively minor celebrities--C-list actors or writers more known for their "literary" nature than their popularity. Certain political figures. I've seen plenty of Herbert Lom movies, though I don't care for [i]The Pink Panther[/i] very much. And I guess I assumed he died long enough ago so that I wasn't paying attention; it's not an unsafe assumption. He was born in a country that doesn't exist anymore--it's been two different countries since then, and that's not counting its occupation during World War II. He was very nearly a century old, born during World War I. He was on the list of "actors who fled Hitler." He lived a long and moderately successful life, never being a big star but being someone people had heard of. And this is the not-[i]Pink Panther[/i] movie Netflix had.
Leo Martin (William Hartnell) gets recruited to do a smash-and-grab. His partners, Gus Loman (Raymond Lovell) and Gregory Lang (Lom), wait in the car. Unfortunately for Leo, smashing the window triggers an alarm, and it drops a set of bars--onto Leo's wrists, breaking them. Leo goes to prison, and he does not spill his partners' names. When he gets out, he informs them that he believes he should get something in exchange for this. His partners do not agree. Leo kills a cab driver and frames Gus, using taxi dancer Carol Dane (Joyce Howard) as his alibi. Detective Inspector Rogers (Robert Beatty), a Canadian working for Scotland Yard, is investigating the death of the cabbie, and he quickly begins to suspect Leo. However, Leo was very careful with his frame. Unfortunately, Gus is not the only person he's caught in it, and Gregory is not a man to mess around with. And Leo's demands keep going up as life gets more and more difficult.
Leo didn't want to be rehabilitated. In fact, what he goes to Gus for upon getting out of prison is a job, and his anger is sparked at least in part by the fact that he's told that there is no place for a thief with the after effects of his two broken wrists. He isn't fast and clever with his hands anymore. There is no disability program for thieves. And, for what it's worth, Leo does want to work. It's just that the job he wants to do is one that is bad for society. There is probably a job that he was capable of doing, but he only wants the one he had before he went to prison. As far as he's concerned, it's nothing more than what he's owed anyway. He followed the rules. He didn't talk. He probably could have gotten a lighter sentence if he'd ratted out his partners, but he didn't. It's up to his partners to do right by him in return. And if they won't, well, he has ways of getting what he wants in turn.
And then, there's poor Carol. She's a decent human being. She's in a bad place, but that isn't entirely her own fault. Working as a taxi dancer isn't actually prostitution, but it isn't always all that far from it. She makes sixpence a dance, I believe, or anyway not much more. There are only so many dances in a night, and that assumes she'll dance every one. In a situation like that, it's not unsurprising for a woman to find other ways to increase her income. Carol, poor thing, even falls in love with Leo, who is the first man in some time to treat her with respect. She wants to believe that he's a better man than he is, and it almost seems cruel of Rogers to try to dissuade her. Yes, all right, he's also trying to find justice for the dead, and that's important as well. However, it's just sad that Carol has to get hurt by it. Oh, if Rogers didn't, she'd probably just get hurt worse somewhere along the line. The necessity is cruel either way, and Carol did nothing to deserve the pain she ends up experiencing.
I find World War II-era films to be a source of endless fascination. It seems that no one was quite sure what kind of movies the public wanted. There were patriotic films, and there were escapist fantasies. This, I think, was an early part of the noir movement--a look at a dark underworld that the general public would never see. There seems no real agreement as to what caused the rise of noir; I do not think I can do better on that subject than anyone else. There is always the aspect of how cheap they were. Cheap films have varied from year to year, but they have always been popular, especially in the era of the double feature. And, yes, this was the kind of film which adequately filled out the bottom half of the double bill. These films didn't attract much notice then, and they don't attract it now. However, that is not to say that they deserve to be lost. In some ways, ephemera is of more historical interest than what was designed to be kept. After all, we throw away what we have a lot of!