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DVD Review

DVD cover

Nowhere to Go (1958)


Starring: George Nader, Maggie Smith, Bernard Lee and Geoffrey Keen
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Available 14 January 2013

Paul Gregory makes a daring escape from prison, having spent five years paying for the con of a wealthy woman out of her late husband’s coin collection. With fifty-five thousand hidden in a safe deposit box all Gregory has to do is collect the money and flee the country. He turns to his old friend, Victor Sloane, who helped release him from prison, only to be double crossed. Desperate to get hold of his money events quickly spiral out of his control, his only hope of escape appears to reside with Bridget Howard, a disillusioned debutant, but the net is tightening and time is running out.

Nowhere to Go (B&W - 1958 - 1 hr, 39 min, 24 sec) is one of the last films made by the Ealing Studios, best known for its clever comedies, a dark nihilistic noir was probably an unusual last hurrah. Directed and co-written by Seth Holt, who completed the script with film critic, Donald MacKenzie, the film is typical of its era, with an American in the lead, supported by some excellent British actors.

The film opens with Gregory’s escape from prison, a nail biting ten minutes of film with no dialogue from the two principles, Gregory (George Nader) and Sloane (Bernard Lee, better known as M in the James Bond films), before we flash back five years to the original con. The con goes well and Gregory has the money, his solution regarding how to keep hold of it is simple, he will get captured, go to jail for a couple of years and then be able to just walk away with the cash. The judge has other ideas and sentences him to ten years.

Having escaped prison Gregory holds up in a flat, the owner being overseas, a fact unknown to his fiancé, Bridget Howard (Maggie Smith in her first film role), although she is uncertain about Gregory there is an instant attraction between the two characters.

Events turn sour when Sloane decides that he will take all of the money for himself, but he has horribly miscalculated, even though he witnessed Gregory go to the bank, Gregory was scared off by the sudden appearance of a policeman who would recognise him, Sloane has played his hand too soon. To give any more details of the film would spoil the enjoyment of watching, suffice it to say that things spiral out of Gregory’s control very quickly.

Holt was a very clever and visually astute director; his early death robbed him of a place in the pantheon of great British directors. Nowhere to Go feels less like a British film, more like a French noir. Holt uses every visual trick to pen the audience in, increasing the sense of being trapped. Interiors are shot from a low angle, often showing the ceiling, limiting both the characters and the audience. The motif of a fishbowl crops up twice reinforcing this feeling of entrapment. London is post war, oppressive, shot mostly at night and in the rain, the city threatens to smother Gregory. All this is played against the backdrop of an excellent jazz soundtrack created by Dizzy Reece.

The film is awash with famous brutish actors, many only appearing briefly, including Geoffrey Keen, Harry H. Corbett and Lionel Jeffries.

There is a single extra on the disc, Revisiting Nowhere to Go (12 min, 49 sec) with contributions from Charles Barr, writer and film historian, Michael Birkett, 1st assistant director, Herbert Smith, camera assistant, which places the film in its historical context and discusses Holt.

The widescreen, remastered version of the film is the complete version, MGM originally cut fifteen minutes out of the film ruining its pacing and so the film did not do well. However, presented on DVD for the first time audience have the chance to fully appreciate a little lost gem of British cinema.


Charles Packer

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