Saturday, June 5, 2010

Danger List (1959)

I just received a spare copy of Hammer's Stolen Face today and was going to give it away as I already have the movie as part of the Hammer Noir boxset. To my surprise, however, I discovered that this single disc Region 2 release contains not only a 24-page booklet with stills and information about the film written by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby but also a Hammer short movie Danger List with Honor Blackman that I was previously not familiar with and that both were not included in the Region 1 boxset version of the movie (which on the other hand contained introductory comments by Richard M Roberts). Needless to say I decided there and then that this DVD would stay in my possession.

Danger List is a 22 minute short movie directed by Leslie Arliss in his one and only Hammer movie connection. Blackman plays a doctor who discovers that one of her assistants under the influence of a vicious “mee-graine” accidentally dispensed a lethal medicine to three of her patients. In a race against time Blackman and her colleague (played by Philip Friend) need to locate all three patients before they can take the medicine.

I wish I could say that this was a lost masterpiece but the best I can offer is that this was professionally shot and didn't overstay its welcome during its short running time.

Ultimately, however, none of it really makes all that much sense. The film is all over the place with plot holes galore and also can't quite seem to make up its mind where it wants to go to. Scenes of suspense (an old man stoically refusing to pick up his phone) are followed by attempts at very poor humour (a young child gets her stomach pumped and handed over to her mother by the altogether far too cheerful doctors, yet she never took the pills and had them in her hands all along but could never make herself heard) which in turn are followed by a twist ending that is both quite foreseeable as well as badly executed leaving you with a very awkward taste in your mouth as to what the ultimate message of this production was meant to be. It sure doesn't end up qualifying as a feel good movie.

None of that, however, matters. What does matter is that one of Hammer's rare shorts has now been made available to the Hammer-Fan-who-has-all. If there is one aspect of the company's history that so far is underreported it is its history of shorts. Very few of them have been made available. Some of them appear lost. Others may not have even been listed as Hammer productions. So anytime I get a rare opportunity to explore this aspect of Hammer's productions I am game regardless of the overall quality of the production.

I did quite enjoy the scenes set in a cinema with promotional stills of Gordon Jackson and John Agar clearly to be seen on the walls. Its posters also seem to advertise Checkpoint, a Rank movie. Quite surprising given that Hammer could have possibly pulled a plug for one of their own movies.

Phil Leakey provided Make up. And it sure was nice to see Honor Blackman given that up till today I only ever thought of her as a Hammer actress in two other films (The Glass Cage, To the Devil a Daughter).

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