SIEGE OF SIDNEY STREET (aka: THE SIEGE OF HELL STREET)(director: Robert S. Baker/Monty Berman; screenwriters: Alexander Baron/Jimmy Sangster; cinematographer: Robert S. Baker/Monty Berman; editor: Peter Bezencenet; music: Stanley Black; cast: Donald Sinden (Mannering), Nicole Berger (Sara), Peter Wyngarde (Peter), Kieron Moore (Yoska), Leonard Sachs (Svaars), TP McKenna (Lapidos), Tutte Lemkow (Dmitrieff), George Pastell (Brodsky), Angela Newman (Nina), Godfrey Quigley (Blakey), Jimmy Sangster (Winston Churchill); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert S. Baker/Monty Berman; VCI Entertainment; 1960-UK)
“The acting was stiff.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The B film thriller from England is loosely based on the well-known true events of January 2, 1911 (“The Battle of Stepney”), where a blazing gun battle erupted between Latvian political anarchists and the London police in the Whitechapel district. The film carelessly calls the terrorists Russians and not Latvians, as it tells of this group of ruthless revolutionaries who are living as expatriates in London and go on a robbery spree to fund their political cause. It’s all fictionalized, including its love story. The film is set in the East End of London in 1911. Robert Baker and Monty Berman (“The Hellfire Club”/”Jack the Ripper”/”The Flesh and the Fiends”) direct, while it’s based on a story by Jimmy Sangster and written by him and Alexander Baron.
Sara (Nicole Berger) is a pretty twentysomething orphaned Russian refugee, who in the club where she sings she meets and falls in love with the radical Peter Piaktow–better known as Peter the Painter (Peter Wyngarde). He gives up his paint brush to be the leader of a gang of Russian anarchists, that includes Yoska (Kieron Moore), Svaars (Leonard Sachs), and Dmitrieff (Tutte Lemkow). They rob banks and murder those who resist them. At first Sara is appalled by the violence, but accepts Peter’s warped logic that it’s all for the good of the cause.
Detective Mannering goes undercover as a shady man on the run, and takes a room as a boarder in the club where Sara works and the anarchists hang out. His dedicated police work gives the police enough info to know the gang’s movements. When there are further violent crimes that arouse the public anger, the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, puts the pressure on the cops to get the bloody anarchists before they escape the country. It leads to three anarchists at 100 Sidney Street using automatic weapons to stand off about 200 heavily armed police in the climactic scene, until the fiery conclusion ends in tragedy for all the anarchists but the one who escapes.
The gun fire scenes were lively and the Victorian world is fully captured in depicting the street life with ambulances and fire trucks on horse carts galloping by in a rush and the sense of honor (or really stupidity!) of giving the criminals a fair chance to surrender even if it means endangering the life of a policeman, but the acting was stiff, the dramatics were not compelling and the romance between the anarchists was unmoving.
REVIEWED ON 10/8/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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