Stanley Baker stars longside Sean Connery and Herbert Lom in this top-gear adventure film from Cy Enfield. Network UK R2 DVD.
Yatley (Stanley Baker) is an ex-con desperately looking for a job.
Under a fake name he gets a job at Hawlett's trucking firm who have a
reputation for ruthlessness, but on the test drive he discovers that
they expect nothing short of insane driving to shuttle ballast between
sites. Still, he takes the job, desperate for money and meets the rest
of the drivers - he quickly makes friends with the Italian driver Gino
Rossi (Herbert Lom) but the company foreman and number one driver 'Red'
(Patrick McGoohan) makes it clear he does not want friends, just hard
workers. When Tom bales out of a brawl on a night out, leaving the
rest of the gang to get arrested, he discovers that their animosity can
Adapted for the screen by director Cy Enfield himself, Hell Drivers
is a dark and gritty film, somewhere between a crime and an
adventure film. Written at the beginning of the 'New Wave' of British
cinema the script takes a very realist approach to its theme, making
sure that before the thrilling truck sequences, we get to know Tom and
the fact that he is certainly not a 'squeaky clean' hero. The rest of
the characters are very well defined too with none of the usual
clichés, and there is enough detail in the group to make an entire
television series. There are a few more light hearted scenes with these
characters but it never devolves into full comic relief, instead coming
across as the desperate attempts of the men to make light of their
deadly careers and the grim atmosphere is never lessened. Most
impressive for an adventure film, the love themes are very well
incorportated into the storyline, becoming an integral part of the plot
instead of just being tacked on. Well balanced pacing gives the film
time for characterisation and some genuinely exciting action scenes.
The climax is really thrilling but it does just seem a little rushed
compared to the rest of the film.
As a director, Enfield was clearly inspired by the Film Noir
era for many of the film's dialogue scenes with some beautiful
portraits of the actors. A fistfight stands out as a real highlight of
the film while the truck scenes contain some superb stunt driving and
some interesting angles but are sadly let down by some obviously sped
up footage and optical effects in the in-cab shots. Hubert Clifford
provides a nice contemporary jazz soundtrack mixed in with some
dramatic Northern brass in the trucking scenes.
Baker was on the verge of fame and gained his first top billing here,
he excelled at the tough, realist roles and his casting as Tom Yates is
simply perfect - he gives a standout performance throughout. The rest
of the cast is an amazing collection of British cinema regulars - with
a gruff accent and persona, Patrick McGoohan is the polar opposite of
his better known Danger Man
character but manages to be really convincing. Sid James, many years
before his Carry On fame is perfectly cast as the closest thing the
film has to comedy relief, while a very young Sean Connery (in only his
second film) gives a solid showing.
Herbert Lom made his career playing
foreigners of whatever nationality the script called for and this time
he is Italian and quite convincing too, with a nice meaty role (for
once, a good guy).Film Noir temptress Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy (1950)) plays the more subtly alluring company secretary Lucy while the BBC's first Doctor Who, William Hertnell is well cast as the company boss and a very young David McCallum (Man from Uncle) has a small part as Tom's crippled brother.
Baker's break into the (relatively) big time came with this film and it
is no surprise to see why. Combining break-neck action with a very
solid storyline and backed up with a superb cast of familiar faces, Hell Drivers
is a thoroughly enjoyable film and it is a real pity that it could not
have been made into a television series, so much potential the format
has. Highly recommended to fans of British cinema and a must-see film
for any fans of Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan or Herbert Lom for
their superb performances. It comes generally recommened to all film
famous in it?
Stanley Baker - the hardened Welsh actor who came to fame with this film and Campbell's Kingdom (1957) Herbert Lom - a very versatile Czech actor who made his name in British films playing any 'foreign' villain. Patrick McGoohan - American born but played the quintessential Englishman in the Danger Man TV series. Sean Connery - a Scottish actor best known for being the first James Bond in Dr. No (1962) Sid James - soon to become internationally famous as the filthy minded star of the Carry On comedy films.
Directed by anyone
Cy Enfield - a blacklisted American director who went on to work with Stanley Baker on Sea Fury (1958) and Jet Storm (1959) as well as Zulu (1964).
Any gore or violence ?
A very rough fistfight and a little blood.
Who is it for?
A must-see film for
fans of Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan or Herbert Lom and highly
recommended to British cinema fans. Generally recommended for all film
Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Black and White.
The film is very good visually, with no print damage, good detail and only light grain.
Original English mono - sounds fine.
This two disc set includes:
commentary with sound assistant Harry Fairbairn and film scholar Andrew
Robertson. Some interesting chat but nothing particularly new.
contemporary promotional television special about the film including
interviews with the cast and crew, as well as some very interesting
behind-the-scenes shots. (15 minutes)
Still photos and film artwork - presented as a video file, good quality and a big selection but sadly no music.
strip version - a promotional comic book retelling the film. Very
interesting, but the lack of music behind the video presentation makes
it a little dull to sit through.
The DVD includes .pdf files of the promotional material and the complete, type written, 174 page script.
The set also includes:
Who Killed Lamb? (1974) - a one-off television episode (from the makers of the Thriller
series) sees Baker in one of his last British based roles, playing a
hardened police officer trying to solve the murder of a man who
seemed to have no enemies. Well written, with good use of flashbacks it is
very enjoyable - also stars Peter Sallis. (1 hour)
Loyalty Always Pays (1965) - an episode of Patrick McGoohan's classic Danger Man
series sees John Drake in Africa sorting out an internal crisis. Well
written, with some interestingly modern ideas (black self-rule) and
fortunately a genuine cast - no blacked up white actors to be seen.
Only a random action scene seems to spoil the flow. Directed by Peter
Yates (Robbery (1967)). (50 minutes)
Return to the Rhonda
- a television documentary from the 1960s presented by actor Donald
Houston about the Welsh valleys. Includes a short interview with
Stanley Baker talking about his early life, in particular the boxing.
Provides a very interesting time capsual of the 1960s Welsh valleys
shortly before the collapse of the coal industry as well as a detailed early history of the
region. (35 minutes).
television interview with Stanley Baker from 1959 - some interesting
details about Baker's early days and some footage from Hell Drivers, Violent Playground (1958) and Sea Fury
(1959). Fascinating to see just how staged the whole interview seems -
very different to the modern studio style interview segments. (15
television interview from the 1960s with British presenter Bruce Lewis
- goes into Baker's background although without too much detail (5
Mute television footage of Stanley Baker in 1970, unveiling a plaque on the house where he was born. (3 minutes)
(UK, Europe) - PAL
Previously available in the UK without any features, also available in various releases around Europe - none with any extras.
The film is believed to be fully uncut. English language print.
A superb script, an amazing cast and strong direction make this exciting adventure film highly recommended.
good looking and sounding print is complemented by an amazing swathe
of bonus features for which this disc would be worth buying alone. One
of the most complete special editions ever provided on DVD.