film: Double Bill

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The Independent Culture
It Always Rains on Sunday (Dir Robert Hamer, 1947)

3.10 to Yuma (Dir Delmer Daves, 1957)

I ABSOLUTELY love It Always Rains on Sunday. Here is a very violent and bleak story. It's about a small neighbourhood during a Sunday in post- war Britain. There are a lot of different stories and characters; one woman, the actress Googie Withers, is having an affair with an escaped convict. Another plot concerns three dumb little girls who have stolen a pair of roller skates, and throughout the film are trying to sell them.

In many ways it anticipates the films of Robert Altman. Hamer is one of the most neglected directors. He is only really known for one film, Kind Hearts and Coronets. But he did many other brilliant films, such as the mirror story in the five-part Dead of the Night, with Googie Withers again, or The Detective with Alec Guinness.

The film has bleak accents but it's lively as well. Hamer, in one of his rare declarations, said he was interested in characters who were doing horrible things in the dark. In one scene the escaped convict reveals scars on his back after whippings in prison. Googie Withers is always in a bad mood, yelling at her daughters and her husband. But she is a unique character.

Hamer was a rare director in England at the time, who was willing to deal with the sexual element in his films. Googie Withers, for example, is very clearly making love to the convict when the husband is also in the house. It's the reverse of the nice Ealing comedies, and very much influenced by what the French directors called poetic realism. But there is a British sensibility in the post-war background to the film; the absence of food, how they eat margarine rather than butter, and live in a very cold house.

The film is like a documentary in parts. The photography is stunning. Here is the best shade scene of the Forties: in a train depot - it's night time, among the railroad tracks and moving engines. You see the smoke and the lights. It's a good example that shows how some British directors were able to be as successful in the genre of film noir as American film noir.

The other film is a black-and-white Western, which was incredibly well photographed by Charles Lawton. It's one of the best Westerns of the Fifties. There's a great sense of the landscape, of the dry earth where it hasn't rained. You have an impression of land that is dust. It's one of a few Western films to have a documentary feel of the land, showing how hard it was to raise cattle.

The story deals with a farmer in debt from the drought, who needs to find a certain amount of money and is forced to do a job. He is watching a captured outlaw, and they have a Faust and Mephistopheles relationship - the outlaw says to the farmer that if he sets him free he will be paid three times the amount of money he'll otherwise earn. It's a cat and mouse game between these two men. The generosity of the vision of all the characters struck me; it's warm, it deals with human beings not just as action characters, cardboard characters.

The film has one of the most beautiful love relationships between Glenn Ford and a young barmaid, Felicia Farr. It's a scene that is totally unique, a seduction scene, where they are going to, and will, make love without any kind of guilt. There's also a married couple in their forties, who have endured a rough life, are worn out. It's difficult, and yet they are still in love. Again, it's rare. After watching all new American films, which are so misogynist, these two movies are a breath of fresh air.

Interview by Jennifer Rodger