20 AUGUST 1948, Page 13


"London Belongs to Me." (Leicester Square.)—" Berlin Express." (London Pavilion.)—" The Kiss of Death." (New Gallery.) London Belongs to Me, adapted from Mr. Norman Collins's book of the same name, is concerned with the lives and hard times of the tenants of a South London boarding-house. As must always be the case in a film of this kind which roves from floor to floor and changes from mood to mood, we must depend for our pleasure more on the actors than on the story, the central thread of which is apt to become lost in a cat's-cradle of side issues. Fortunately in this instance there are, on every floor of to Dulcimer Street, a number of performers into whose very bones the art of acting is stuffed like marrow and who have not reached stardom because they are beautiful, kissable or able to croon.

To Mr. Richard Attenborough goes the first bouquet for his outstanding portrayal of a weak but ordinary young garage hand, gay, vain and as thoughtless as a linnet, whose efforts to impress his girl friend lead him into the dock on a charge of murder. Mr. Attenborough mixes the ingredients of modern youth, instability, kind-heartedness, carelessness for the future and complete mental woolliness with an adroit and shining spoon, and his performance can be recommended as being one of the finest we have seen for a long time. Close on his heels comes Mr. Alastair Sim, whose bogus medium is a thing of irresistible unctuousness, well matched by the arid gentility of his dupe, Miss Joyce Carey, whose face at times could launch a thousand DUKWS and at other times a fleet of swans. Miss Fay Compton has an ungracious part, but does well with it, Mr. Wylie Watson is endearingly commonplace and Miss Ivy St. Helier, who keeps "uncertain hours," keeps them with heartbreaking gaiety. The film itself lacks cohesion, and jumps too swiftly from comedy to tragedy, but Mr. Sydney Gilliat has wisely gathered together a cast powerful enough to bridge the gaps and dazzling enough to hide the patches.

Hollywood, it seems, is taking a depressingly realistic view of the United Nations. Although England, the United States, France and Russia, as accounted for by Messrs. Robert Coote, Robert Ryan, Charles Korvin and Roman Toporow, gang up together in the Berlin Express to rescue a democratic German professor, Mr. Paul Lukas, from the Nazi underground, one is left with the idea that, but for the beaux yeux of Miss Merle Oberon, they would have much preferred a policy of isolation. This film has a message—i.e., that unless We All Work Together for Good it will be a Bad Thing— but although this novel idea is undeniably true, nobody seems a bit hopeful about it, not even Miss Oberon, who lectures the boys when they are not being shot at with great intensity and a French accent. Miss Oberon is, alas, like the state of international affairs, Not Good. The film is well directed though by Mr. Jacques Tourneur, and at moments it is very exciting. Nevertheless, thrills do not blend well with Messages, and though I am all for studying the German problem and mulling over the Occupation Forces' national characteristics, Mr. Tourneur cannot expect me to go straight from there to swim round the bottom of a beer vat or struggle, wounded, in a clown's costume over the devastated wastes of Frankfurt. I am not sufficiently adaptable.

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In Mr. Henry Hathaway's latest film, The Kiss of Death, the atmosphere of suspense is, at times, so appalling it is nigh un- endurable. In its bare outline the story is an unappealing one, sentimentalising as it does over a thief who robs to buy his little children Christmas presents, but its presentation is so horribly credible, and made more so by being photographed in the actual streets, bars and lodging-houses of New York, that the story becomes absorbed in the atmosphere which is plainly fearful. This is one of the best, if best means totally frightening, thrillers I have ever seen, and those long heavy moments I waited with Mr. Victor Mature to be murdered by Mr. Richard Wicimark—surely the most perfectly repulsive sadist alive—have taken years off my life. Both these men and their director deserve the highest praise for infusing the audience with a feeling of genuine terror,