It starts off with a great line of dialogue. Miss Dors steps off the pavement and loses her footing and a passer-by tells her that she almost ended up in the gutter. She gives him this wonderful look, as if she knows all about ending up in the gutter. If you’re going to make a sleazy film you might as well establish the proper mood right at the start.
Nick Biaggi has a number of business interests, none of them honest. He runs a finance company that specialises in offering loans, without any security, to pretty young women. It’s a means of recruiting girls into his real business, white slavery. He recruits a lot of his girls from abroad. To get them passports he has to find husbands for them. Temporary husbands of course.
Now Johnny isn’t stupid. He figures out pretty quickly what the racket is. Nick is bringing in prostitutes (or girls destined to be prostitutes) but he needs British passports for them so they can’t be deported once they start working the streets. Johnny thinks he doesn’t care because he thinks he’s cynical and hardboiled. When he meets his bride-to-be he naturally assumes she’s a tart. He’s amused when she tells him she’s a decent respectable girl.
Johnny has been thinking things through as well. And he doesn’t like the conclusions that he draws. He is after all, technically, married to Malou and he’s not keen on the idea of his sweet little French wife as a streetwalker. But is it too late for Malou, and for Johnny?
This movie boasts an awesome cast. Firstly there’s Diana Dors as Vicki, at the absolute height of her sex goddess phase and looking breathtakingly beautiful. Vicki is a Whore With a Heart of Gold. Well, sort of. She’s cynically realistic but it’s a life that ruined her sister so she’s not exactly happy being a whore. Like Johnny, she’s not as hardboiled as she thinks she is. Odile Versois as Malou is technically the female lead in the picture but Diana Dors was a much bigger name and a much bigger box-office draw, and while Mlle Versois is good it has to be said that Diana Dors effortlessly dominates the movie even in what is technically a supporting rôle (albeit a very meaty and substantial supporting rôle). Dors as always lights up the screen, and in practical terms she is indeed the star.
And finally there’s Eddie Constantine, best remembered from the wonderful French Lemmy Caution thrillers such as Dames Don’t Care. He’s a perfect slightly reluctant hero, a guy who doesn’t really want to do the right thing or get mixed up in other people’s problems but he just can’t bring himself to behave like a louse. It’s a fine performance with plenty of rough-around-the-edges charm.
Look out for Joan Sims (of Carry On fame) in a small part.
For those who like spotting classic cars in movies Nick drives a very cool Aston Martin DB Mark III (which is incidentally the car James Bond drives in the original 1959 novel version of Goldfinger).
There’s some nice hardboiled dialogue. Vicki tells Malou she’s in the entertainment business. Malou, all excited, asks her what she does. Vicki replies, “Entertain.”
This is a hard-to-find movie. The only copy I could get hold of is a slightly dubious grey market version which offers a fairly poor transfer which appears too be pan-and-scan. But it’s a Diana Dors movie so I had to have it. And if you’re a Diana Dors fan you’ll want it as well.
Room 43 is an overheated sex and sin melodrama but it has style, it has fine performances and it works for what it is. It’s sleazy and it’s romantic and it’s thoroughly enjoyable in a slightly disreputable way, and it has an exciting finale as well. Highly recommended.