ESCAPE (director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; screenwriters: Philip Dunne/based on the novel/play by John Galsworthy; cinematographer: Frederick A. Young; editor: Alan L. Jaggs; music: William Alywyn; cast: Rex Harrison (Matt Denant), Peggy Cummins (Dora Winton), William Hartnell (Inspector Harris), Betty Ann Davies (Girl in Park), Marjorie Rhodes (Mrs. Pinkem), Maurice Denham (Crown Counsel), Jill Esmond (Grace Winton), Norman Wooland (Minister), Frederick Piper (Brownie – convict), Cyril Cusack (Rodgers), John Slater (Salesman), George Woodbridge (Farmer Browning), Patrick Troughton (Jim); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Perlberg; Twentieth Century Fox; 1948-UK)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Uninteresting remake of Basil Dean’s Escape! (1930). It’s directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz(“The Honey Pot”/”Guys and Dolls”/”Julius Caesar”), who tries to bring it up to date. The film is based on John Galsworthy 1926 play on the legal system’s rigidity.
In Hyde Park, former WWII pilot, Matt Denant (Rex Harrison), converses with a prostitute. A policeman arrives and starts roughly pushing her around. Matt defends her and in the ensuing struggle pushes the policeman on the ground. The policeman’s head hits the ground and he’s accidentally killed. At the trial Matt is found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in Dartmoor Prison. It leads to Matt’s prison escape, whereby he’s hidden by the socialite Dora Winton (Peggy Cummins) who feeds and clothes him. Matt rebuffs her attempts to get him to return to prison, as he vows to never return and makes plans to flee to France with a little help from friends. But his plans fall apart when an engineer sells him out for the reward money. When pursued by Inspector Harris (William Hartnell) he ducks into a church for sanctuary. But as the cops close in he surrenders in the church rather than have the kindly minister (Norman Wooland) put in an awkward position of not telling the police the truth. Dora vows to wait for him.
Though Harrison gives a good performance, the pic was too predictable and filled with too much artificial inspiration to ring out with the usual noir film delights it should have been entitled to.
REVIEWED ON 9/21/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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