Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dublin Nightmare (1958)

Dublin Nightmare is another of the four neglected low-budget British noirs that comprise Strawberry Media’s excellent Great British Movies: Film Noir - Volume 2 DVD boxed set (which also includes the unconventional spy noir Deadly Nightshade).

A bank robbery organised by IRA terrorists seems to have one off successfully. Everything went according to plan, except that the two men left holding the loot fail to show up at the rendezvous after the robbery. Then the body of Steve Lawlor (Richard Leech) is found. He had apparently been killed in a crash crash. But the money was not in the wrecked car and Danny O’Callaghan has disappeared. The IRA naturally assume that O’Callaghan has double-crossed them, murdered Lawlor and taken the money.

Steve Lawlor’s old buddy John Kevin (William Sylvester) has just arrived in Dublin, only to find himself having to identify his old friend’s body. He meets up with Lawlor’s Italian girlfriend Anna (Marla Landi). And then somebody tries to kill John Kevin. This seems very strange to him - who on Earth would anyone want him dead? He’s not involved with the IRA and in fact he doesn’t at this stage know anything about Lawlor’s involvement. All he knows is that an attempt was made on his life, and he’s both annoyed and curious.

Being an inquisitive sort of person Kevin starts to take an interest in his old friend’s death. Perhaps it wasn’t an accident? Anna seems to have her doubts as well. At this point Kevin doesn’t know anything about the IRA angle but he soon learns of their interest in the “accident” that killed Lawlor. Kevin has no interest in their cause and no desire to help them but since they’re equally suspicious of the circumstances of Lawlor’s death he hopes to extract some information from them, and they certainly hope to get some information from him.

Anna certainly knows more than she’s prepared to tell Kevin. But what exactly is her agenda?

This was one of the infamous “quota quickies” - very low-budget movies made as second features and intended to take advantage of British government legislation that required British cinemas to share a certain quota of British-made films. Like many other quota quickies it was made at the now defunct Twickenham Studio.

This movie was John Pomeroy’s only film as director, which is surprising since he does quite a competent job. Pomeroy and veteran cinematographer manage to achieve a definite film noir atmosphere. The very low budget did not stretch far enough to allow for location shooting in Ireland but the Dublin setting is fairly convincing (at least it’s convincing for someone like me who has never been to Dublin).

The shadowy noir atmosphere may have been due more to the low budget than a conscious desire to achieve a film noir style (shadows can be very handy for hiding cheap sets and disguising the fact that a film supposed to be set in Dublin isn’t actually shot there). But whether conscious or otherwise it does nonetheless have at least some noirish-looking shots.

William Sylvester gives a very solid performance as John Kevin, a good-humoured and likeable sort of chap who hides a very determined nature under his affable exterior. Richard Leech is excellent while Marla Landi does well as Anna. William Sherwood makes a rather jovial if somewhat deluded IRA boss while Harry Hutchinson is an unlikely ageing IRA killer.

For a British-made movie of the 1950s Dublin Nightmare presents the IRA in a surprisingly sympathetic light although their obsession with their cause is portrayed as being slightly ridiculous. 

As with the other movies in this set Dublin Nightmare gets a very good transfer. It is presented in its correct 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and contrast is good.

Dublin Nightmare is quite entertaining in an unassuming B-movie sort of way. As long as you don’t approach it with unrealistically high expectations you should enjoy it. Recommended.

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