Nowhere to Go (Seth Holt & Basil Dearden, 1958) 9/10
Bleak but stylish film noir from Ealing Studios is more in line with similar films from France (early Jules Dassin and the films of Jean-Pierre Melville come to mind) than with its American counterparts. The convoluted plot, co-written by Holt and film critic Kenneth Tynan (based on a novel by Donald MacKenzie), begins with a superbly shot prison break-out in silence using only natural sounds on the soundtrack. The escapee, a suave con-man (George Nader), recalls his past while in a bathtub after his escape. He charms an old widow (silent screen star Bessie Love) and steals her husband's coin collection, sells it and hides the money in a bank safe. Thinking he will get a minor prison term he gives himself up but the judge sentences him to a 10 year term thus forcing him to escape. Hiding out at an apartment arranged by his accomplice (Bernard Lee before he played "M" in the Bond films), he meets and befriends a lonely woman (Maggie Smith in her film debut). Things go from bad to worse when his accomplice double crosses him and later ends up dead with the police convinced he is the murderer. Refused help by the underworld he turns to the girl for help who hides him at her family home in Wales. Paranoia takes over when he thinks the girl has betrayed him leading to the film's climax on the icy heath. Shot mostly on location - damp London streets, dark alleys, derelict train stations, snow covered countryside, smoky clubs. The brilliant camerawork of Paul Beeson, using low angles and shadows, creates a sense of claustrophobic entrapment which the protagonist feels throughout. The memorable jazz score by Dizzy Reece adds to the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. Superbly acted by Nader, Smith and Lee, this forgotten masterpiece of British cinema easily holds its own with the best noirs out there. A must-see.