Monday, July 18, 2011
Tread Softly Stranger (1958)
George Baker is Johnny Mansell, a gambler and man-about-town. Unfortunately he’s been on a major losing streak and he owes rather a lot of money and the people he owes it to are the sorts of people who tend to get rough when they’re owed money. Johnny decides it’s time to get out of London for a while.
Dave has his own problems though. Well one problem really, his girlfriend Calico (Diana Dors). It’s not that Calico isn’t fun to be around. She’s lots of fun. And she’s gorgeous. But Calico likes pretty things. Pretty things that tend to expensive. Jewellery. Nice dresses. And she likes going out to clubs and restaurants. Keeping Calico in the style to which she’s accustomed isn’t easy when you earn 12 pounds a week as a book-keeper for a large steelworks.
Calico and Dave have come up with an alternative solution which is for Dave to rob the factory and steal the payroll. Johnny will need to come through with the money from the horse race in time to stop Dave from putting his hare-brained scheme into practice. The two brothers face another awkward problem. Calico and Johnny have fallen in love. Dave is a nice guy and all that but he’s a little on the dull side for a girl like Calico. Good-looking raffish gamblers are more her speed.
The acting is equally entertaining. I’ve always admired George Baker and he’s a fine noir hero, a likeable loser who drifts aimlessly through life enjoying himself but is not quite as clever as he thinks he is. Terence Morgan is extremely good as Dave, a man who is very different from Johnny but in his own way just as weak and just as likely to find himself shipwrecked by life.
Perhaps not a classic in a conventional sense but a thoroughly enjoyable movie with a nice mix of darkness with a dash of camp. The all-region DVD from Odeon’s Best of British range is highly recommended. A lovely transfer that does full justice to Slocombe’s cinematography.