Release Date: April 15th, 1958 (London premiere)
Directed by: Val Guest
Written by: Jon Manchip White
Music by: Gerard Schurmann
Cast: André Morell, Carl Möhner, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgerald, Phil Brown, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goodliffe, Michael Ripper, Michael Gwynn
Hammer Films, 81 Minutes
“I’ve no use for shirkers and there’s no room for self-pity here.” – Col. Lambert
Being that André Morell is my third favorite Hammer actor after Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it was cool seeing him in something from the studio that wasn’t horror. Well, it’s a war film and with war there are certainly horrors.
This also features other Hammer regulars like Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper and Michael Gwynn. Being that this came out in 1958 also makes it pretty early on in their Hammer careers.
The plot revolves around the tension between a Japanese prison camp commandant and a British colonel held captive. The colonel knows that Japan has surrendered but the commandant isn’t yet aware of it. The colonel hides this fact, as the commandant has promised to slaughter a nearby camp full of women and children if Japan loses the war.
It’s a damn good setup and the film slowly continues to build its tension to a point where things start boiling over.
Some of the acting in this is really hit or miss and even if the film is a product of its time, it’s still weird seeing a non-Asian guy playing a Japanese commander. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, I don’t have any qualms with Christopher Lee playing Fu Manchu in the ’60s, as he did a stellar job and was believable. Also, his makeup was done by someone making a real effort. Here, the guy really doesn’t even look Asian. It’s just kind of jarring and takes my head out of the film, as I can’t suspend disbelief enough to ignore the glaring detail.
The good acting, mostly by Morell, isn’t enough to offset the strangeness of the Japanese commandant.
Also, this film moves really slow at times, which is surprising to me as it is only 81 minutes.
This is still pretty good, though. Morell absolutely steps up and brings his A-game making this movie much better than it would have been, otherwise.
I also thought that Barbara Shelley held her own and put in a believable performance, as a regular woman trapped in a very perilous situation.
All in all, this was a real departure from what Hammer is generally known for but they still put in a solid effort and this was better than I thought it would be.