Sean Connery and Herbert Lom star in this enjoyable but flawed British crime film. Optimum UK R2 DVD.
London's East End a violent gang wrecks a small pub after the landlord
refuses to pay his protection money. When Police Inspector Sayers
arrives on the scene the landlord denies everything and puts the damage
down to a few rowdy customers. Nightclub owner Harry Foulcher is one of
the mobsters involved in the extortion racket and is making some good
money, but when he contacts the shady accountant Waldo Zhernikov
(Herbert Lom) to help him launder the funds, the accountant sees
potential to make a lot more money and works to co-ordinate the actions
of the various gangs. They bring in Paddy Damion (Sean Connery) a
common thief, but highly respected by the various elements of the
underworld, to keep tabs on the men. When the police start to crack
down on the illegal activities they find a brick wall against them...
Penned by the little known Leigh Vance and the director John Lemont who also produced the film, Frightened City gets
off to a strong start with a vehicular murder (although this is
unconnected to the storyline) and a more relevant scene of a protection
racket mob trashing a bar - settling the scene and quickly introducing
the notion of the
business owners being too afraid to talk to the police (hence the
film's title). As can be seen, from the very start the script more
closely resembles a traditional American gangster film than the
social-realist crime movies that were becoming popular in Britain
during the 1960s. This is particularly evident in the lack of a 'home
life' for any of the characters, aside from a few oblique references,
and the primary focus being on the criminal side (most of the British
crime films of the era would focus on both sides of the law).
dialogue throughout is noticably strong - particularly in the scenes
with the accountant Waldo Zhernikov who views the whole criminal
operation as simply another business opportunity. The way that Paddy's
character is presented is also very interesting, seeing himself as a
'straight thief' compared to the violent new mobsters who are now
dominating the criminal scene. Unfortunately the addition of the
police characters seems to be rather perfunctory, as though they were
added into the script at a later stage - they seem to pop up randomly
and know far more than they should be able to about the lead
characters. The film does build up nicely with a variety of
unpredictable twists and turns to a rather unsurprising climax that
ultimately seems rather cliché and tame compared to how the film began
and the ending would be a lot more interesting if the relevant
character had been properly developed. John
Lemont does a decent job with the direction with a few moments of flair
- however the film does rather suffer from a lack of location shots
that added so much atmosphere to many of the other British Crime films
of the era. Although the setting is nominally London it does resemble
more of an Anytown for much of the runtime. The soundtrack from Norrie
Paramor fits the film perfectly and really helps to set the mood.
Lom was a familiar face in British cinema of the 1950s and 1960s,
usually playing a foreign character to explain his strong accent, this
is no exception and as expected he gives a strong performance in a well
cast role. Sean Connery does nothing to disguise or explain his accent
and seems rather too clean cut to be a career criminal, but plays the
part as well as he can. War movie regular John Gregson, however, is
very poorly cast as Detective Sayers - he never convinces at all as a
rule-breaking police officer and is a major factor in the entire police
storyline being ineffective. A selection of character actors fill the
remaining roles, look out for the Brit-horror regular Yvonne Romain
(mother of the beast in Hammer's Curse of the Werewolf (1961)) as Anya.
Starting off well and with a largely strong script, coupled with two good lead performances, Frightened City
sadly does not live up to the better British crime entries from the era
and is let down horribly by the awkwardly written and poorly acted
police sub-plot. While of interest to fans of the genre it does not
come recommended and other titles will make a better starting point.
famous in it?
Sean Connery - the Scottish actor best known as the first James Bond in Dr No (1962) Herbert Lom - a very versatile Austrian actor who also starred in Brit-thriller Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958)
Directed by anyone
John Lemont - a very little known director, otherwise best remembered for the daft giant-ape film Konga (1962).
Any gore or violence ?
A few violent sequences, nothing bloody.
Who is it for?
Of interest to fans of British crime cinema, but not the best entry.
Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Black and White.
The film is strong visually, with minimal print damage, good detail and only light grain.
Original English mono - sounds fine.
(UK, Europe) - PAL
Available on DVD in the US from Anchor Bay with a good print, also includes the theatrical trailer.
The film is believed to be fully uncut. English language print.
A good script in places and some good acting overshadowed by an awkward police subplot means that this film is not recommended.
A solid print, although sadly completely lacking in extras.