Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Vengeance is Mine (1949)

Vengeance is Mine is a 1949 British crime melodrama B-movie. The central premise has been used a number of times but it’s a premise that does promise some decent suspense and some twists.

Charles Heywood (Valentine Dyall) hires a hitman to kill him. The reason is obvious. Charles is dying and he wants to be murdered in order to frame someone for his murder.

It’s all part of an obsessive campaign of revenge that he’s been waging against Richard Kemp (Arthur Brander). Charles had been a successful businessman. Kemp involved him, unwittingly, in a nasty fraud. Kemp got off scot-free but Charles served a lengthy prison term.

As soon as he was released Charles set about slowly destroying Richard Kemp.

Then fate threw a curve ball at Charles. His doctor informed him that he had six months to live. That’s when Charles came up with his clever plan to frame Kemp. He found a very unlikely hitman in the person of Sammy Parsons (Richard Goolden). Sammy seems like a silly jovial ageing eccentric but that’s why he’s such a deadly and successful hitman. Nobody would ever suspect him.

You can probably guess some of the plot twists that follow. The upshot is that Charles has to find Sammy Parsons. But Sammy Parsons is nowhere to be found. This is apparently his usual method. When he’s about to make a hit he just disappears for a few weeks before carrying out the killing. And nobody has ever figured out exactly where it is that he disappears to.

The other complication for Charles is his secretary Linda Farrell (Anne Firth). He’s fallen hopelessly in love with her, and she loves him. She has taught him that there’s more to life than revenge. She has given him a glimpse of happiness. But Charles has two sentences of death hanging over his head.

This was clearly a cheap movie. A quota quickie if you like.

Writer-director Alan Cullimore seems to have made only two feature films including his one. On the evidence of this film he was moderately competent but given the low budget he presumably had little opportunity to do anything clever or ambitious.

Valentine Dyall is an interesting actor. He achieved his greatest fame in radio (he had a great voice). He did a lot of television work. In movies he mostly played supporting rôles. This is one of his very few starring rôles. He does quite a good job here, making Charles obsessive and disturbing in his obsessiveness but still fairly sympathetic. There’s a lot of good in Charles. He just needs a woman who can bring out that good in him. Maybe Linda can do that, but maybe it will be too late.

Charles slowly softens as he begins dimly to perceive what his quest for vengeance has done to him, and the gradual change in his character is believable. Linda is slowly teaching him to have trust. Maybe not trust in people in general, but he is learning to trust her and that’s a start.

Anne Firth is fine as Linda. We can see why she’s attracted to Charles. She can see things in him that he can’t see himself.

Sam Kydd plays Charles’ faithful friend and business associate Stacy. This is one of Kydd’s more substantial parts and he’s very solid.

You know that there are several ways the plot could be resolved and although we suspect how it will end we can’t be certain. Cullimore’s script is quite competent.

This is one of ten movies in the Renown Pictures Crime Collection Volume 2 DVD boxed set. The quality of the movies is variable but it does include neglected gems such as The Third Alibi (1961) and Impulse (1954). The transfer for Vengeance is Mine is far from pristine but it’s perfectly watchable.

An enormous number of fine British crime B-movies have been released on DVD over the past few years. Companies like Network specialise in finding obscure but forgotten treasures and releasing them in superb transfers. Renown Pictures take a different approach. They simply find any obscure forgotten B-film and release it completely unrestored. Some of their releases are, to be honest, movies that have been forgotten because they deserved to be forgotten. But Renown will collect ten or so obscure movies and release them in boxed sets. They’re like a lucky dip. You know that most of the movies in these sets will be so-so but you also know that each set will contain at least a couple of absolute gems. The sets work out to be great value for money. And even the lesser movies are sometimes interesting.

Vengeance is Mine isn’t a great movie but it’s decent entertainment as long as you don’t set your expectations too high. Recommended.

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