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TREAD SOFTLY STRANGER (director: Gordon Parry; screenwriters: from the play Blind Alley by Jack Popplewell/George Minter/Denis O’Dell; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Anthony Harvey; music: Tristram Cary; cast: Diana Dors (Calico), Terence Morgan (Dave Mansell), George Baker (Johnny Mansell), Patrick Allen (Paddy Ryan), Jane Griffiths (Sylvia), Maureen Delaney (Mrs. Finnegan), Betty Warren (Flo), Thomas Heathcote (Sgt. Lamb); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Denis O’Dell; VCI Entertainment; 1958-UK)
“A trick ending and the sexy Diana Dors purring help make such a sour tale more bearable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A grim crime drama set in England’s north country. It’s based on the play Blind Alley by Jack Popplewell and written by George Minter and Denis O’Dell. Gordon Parry (“A Yank in Ermine”/”Tom Brown’s Schooldays”/”A Touch of the Sun”) helms this murky melodrama, where every character seemingly has a shit eating glum expression of disbelief on his or her kisser. A trick ending and the sexy Diana Dors purring help make such a sour tale more bearable.

The confident wiseguy Johnny Mansell (George Baker) arrives from London to Rawborough (filmed in Rotherham), a bleak industrial city in the north, to escape his gambling debts. He takes a room in the same boarding house as his weakling staid office bookkeeper younger brother Dave (Terence Morgan). The sexy platinum blonde vamp Calico (Diana Dors), a heartless gold digger who works as a dancer in the local bar, is Dave’s girlfriend. To keep her, Dave has cooked the books and is worried that his steel foundry boss is having the place audited soon. Dave asks his cooler and smarter brother for help in returning the £300 he stole. When the panicky Dave thinks Johnny ran out on him after he gave him a watch to hock, he gets a gun from Calico and is talked into robbing his boss’s safe. Johnny, who was detained because some mobsters from the bookie roughed him up at the racetrack, arrives at ten p.m. and Calico tells him his brother is robbing the safe. When Johnny rushes there to tell Dave he’s got the money and to forget about the robbery, the nightwatchman catches the brothers and is about to call the police when Dave pulls a gun on him and it goes off killing the nightwatchman when there’s a struggle. In the meantime, Calico has fallen in love with the handsome Johnny and worries that the wormy Dave is cracking up from the pressure and will get them all caught. Things get even more tense when the nightwatchman’s son (Patrick Allen) suspects the brothers and his unusual investigation gets unusual results.

REVIEWED ON 10/20/2008 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”