SEVEN DAYS TO NOON (directors: John and Roy Boulting; screenwriter: Roy Boulting/Frank Harvey/based on a story by Paul Dehn & James Bernard; cinematographers: Gilbert Taylor/Ray Sturgess; editor: Roy Boulting; music: John Addison; cast: Barry Jones (Prof. Willingdon), Olive Sloane (Goldie), Andre Morell (Superintendent Folland), Sheila Manahan (Ann Willingdon), Hugh Cross (Stephen Lane), Joan Hickson (Mrs. Peckett), Ronald Adam (The Prime Minister); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy Boulting; British Lion Films; 1950-UK)
“Gripping suspense thriller about the possible nuclear destruction of London.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The British brother directors John and Roy Boulting (“The Risk”/”Heavens Above!”) codirect this gripping suspense thriller about the possible nuclear destruction of London. It won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for co-writers Roy Boulting and Frank Harvey. The film is well-executed and maintains a tense atmosphere throughout and gets an intelligent performance from veteran character actor Barry Jones as a scholarly gentleman who happens to be a lunatic terrorist with misguided aims to achieve world peace, as he aims to wake up an indifferent world to the real dangers of nuclear proliferation by giving them a taste of what damage a well-placed bomb could do. Only a few too cutesy Cockney cameos (i.e.; landlady and actress) bring the spine-chiller down a few notches into more pedestrian territory.
Esteemed English atomic scientist Prof. Willingdon (Barry Jones), chief of research at a suburban London government nuclear research lab, posts a letter to the Prime Minister (Ronald Adam) threatening to blow up the center of London (a 12-mile range that includes the Houses of Parliament) with a nuclear bomb he stole from the lab if the Government doesn’t publicly announce the end of any research in the nuclear field within a week, as he believes his nuclear work is now being used for evil purposes. Superintendent Folland (Andre Morell) from Scotland Yard heads the investigation and tries to track down the missing deranged scientist before he can carry out his threat, who for the remainder of the pic is running around London with a bomb in his suitcase. The superintendent is abetted by a slew of agents, the army, the professor’s loyal assistant Stephen Lane (Hugh Cross) and the professor’s distraught daughter Ann Willingdon (Sheila Manahan). As the time grows close to the noon deadline, the government decides not to bow to a terrorist and refuses his demands. London is calmly evacuated and only former showgirl Goldie (Olive Sloane) is forced to stay in town, as she’s held hostage by the morally disillusioned apolitical mad scientist who sought shelter for the night in her flat. The tension mounts until the deadline approaches, and we’re left wondering if the bomb will be dismantled in time as the scientist is located alone with the bomb by his side while praying at Westminster Chapel.
The film acts as a parable on the social-political problem of having a nuclear program, admitting there’s a chance for its wanton use as a means of destruction but the dilemma is that it could also be used as a force to keep the peace. It’s a world problem that hasn’t been resolved some fifty odd years later, but this entertaining and thought-provoking film asks us to think about this dilemma in more sobering terms and does a very good job in showing how terrorism and government actions can be so tied to each other and of the power each exerts over the ordinary citizen’s life.
REVIEWED ON 2/8/2009 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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