LONG MEMORY, THE
(director/writer: Robert Hamer; screenwriter: from the novel by Howard Clewes/Frank Harvey; cinematographer: Harry Waxman; editor: Gordon Hales; music: William Alwyn; cast: John Mills (Phillip Davidson), John McCallum (Supt. Bob Lowther), Elizabeth Sellars (Fay Lowther), Eva Bergh (Ilse), Geoffrey Keen (Craig), Michael Martin-Harvey (Jackson), John Chandos (Boyd), John Slater (Pewsey), Thora Hird (Mrs. Pewsey), John Glyn-Jones(Gedge), Vida Hope (Alice Gedge), Harold Lang (Boyd’s chauffeur), Fred Johnson (Driver); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hugh Stewart; Hollywood’s Best; 1953-UK)
“A well-crafted and acted Brit film noir.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-crafted and acted Brit film noir, though downbeat. It’s based on the 1951 novel by Howard Clewes and co-written by Frank Harvey and director Robert Hamer (“The Detective”/” School for Scoundrels“/”The Scapegoat“). The revenge thriller is fueled by the desperate protagonist being too gentle to exact his punishment on those that did him wrong.
An embittered Phillip Davidson (John Mills) is released from prison after serving 12 years for a murder he did not commit, and goes to live on a rundown barge in a muddy Thames estuary. Honest lawman Supt. Bob Lowther (John McCallum) orders him followed fearing he will go after the three witnesses he claims are liars. The three witnesses–Fay Driver (Elizabeth Sellars), now the wife of Lowther and mother of a young son; Fay’s drunken criminal father, now deceased; and ex-boxer Pewsey (John Slater)–lied as witnesses at Phillip’s trial, resulting in his conviction of the murder of Stephen Boyd (John Chandos)–whose unrecognizable body was recovered from a burning building.
While Phillip tracks down the witnesses, he will eventually discover that racketeer Boyd faked his death and is now operating on the London docks under the name of George Berry. While the cold-hearted opportunistic Fay, confesses to hubby that she lied to protect her elderly craven father (Fred Johnson). Hubby tells her that it will be awkward for him, but she must tell Scotland Yard the truth to correct a horrible injustice even if she will be charged with perjury and he will have to resign the position he so coveted.
There are just too many plot conveniences and too many improbable events in the climax to keep things real. There’s also a contrived romance, that sticks out like a sore thumb, between lost-soul abused drifter foreigner Ilse (Eva Bergh) and the always angry anti-social Phillip. The saintly woman gets down on her hands and knees to scrub the floors of Phillip’s barge and rekindle human feelings again in the reluctant lover through her unconditional love, as her love overcomes his hate to make him human again. Though it’s flawed as drama, it works just fine as a moving observation of the pain caused by loss and how vengeance if not examined properly can turn one into a monster.
Mills, the key to whether the film works or not, is decent in the role as the sympathetic tortured soul, who survives all his misfortunes to get a chance to have a fresh start in life.
REVIEWED ON 2/8/2011 GRADE: B