Monday, September 8, 2014

THE LONG HAUL (1957- U.K.) Columbia Classics DVD-R

D: Ken Hughes.  Harry Miller (Victor Mature) is an American serviceman stationed in Europe who is eager to get back to his home turf.   When his transfer is granted, he joyously informs his spouse and son only to be dismayed at his Brit wife‘s wildy negative reaction.  The couple reach a compromise that requires a month's delay so she can visit the her parents in Liverpool.  In true noir fashion, this proves to be a bad move that triggers a series of spiraling tragic events.  Harry’s misfortune begins when he takes a temporary trucking (hauling) gig that gets him entangled with local gangsters guided by the corrupt cigar chomping contractor, Mr. Easy (Patrick Allen).  His first day on the job spells doom when Harry witnesses an act of theft, gets nicely bruised up and bumps into Mr. Easy’s bosomy platinum coiffed mistress, Lynn (Diana Dors). Things only get worse for Harry when Lynne is publicly humiliated by the boss and seeks solace in Harry’s truck. Events snowball from there as Harry gets more and more entangled in Mr. Easy’s sticky web.

THE LONG HAUL unloads a truck-full of  adultery, marriage on the rocks, juvenile brain hemorrhage, copious cleavage, stray puppy adoption, dark rain-slicked highways, seedy truck stops, bleak blue-collar dockyards, theft and murder. The film peaks with a treacherous mountain trek, a harrowing river crossing and a fatal fist fight that creates palpable tension that conjures comparison to other two-fisted, four-wheeled fare such as THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), HELL DRIVERS (1957) and Clouzot's WAGES OF FEAR (1953).  Who needs nitroglycerin when you have the equally volatile DD on board?  Thankfully, there is a downbeat but hopeful denouement for the emotionally invested

This well-paced British noir presents Mature at his stoic best, facing an endless, devestating array of physical and psychological hurdles.  Dors (her curvaceous wax figure graced the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover- NOT Marilyn Monroe‘s as is sometimes mistaken) shows a startling dramatic range that was out of reach by most of the era's over-hyped studio sex bombs.  Dors does justice to the part of Lynn, playing the abused, misunderstood and sympathetic gangster’s moll to perfection.  In later years, Dors put on extra pounds and was pretty much relegated to character parts where she still managed to proved memorable. Up until her tragic early death, she racked up a slew of credits in the horror and softcore genres and occasionally appeared alongside horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.  Patrick Allen is familiar to Brit horror hounds for his parts in Hammer’s NIGHT CREATURES (aka CAPTAIN CLEGG) and Terence Fisher’s NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT (aka ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED)- both recently released on U.K. blu-ray.  The sturdy supporting cast includes Gene Anderson (DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE), Peter Reynolds (DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D.), Liam Redmond (CURSE OF THE DEMON), John Welsh (REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK) and a quickie cameo by Norman Rossington (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT).  Hammer horror fans will recognize a certain forest location.

Trevor Duncan’s powerful, emotion-wrought music is accented with tingly harp glissandi, utilized to similar effect by Bernard Herrmann for his classic TAXI DRIVER score.  One of Duncan's pulse-pounding cues will be instantly familiar to fans of Ed Wood’s PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE.  Director Hughes helmed two Ian Fleming screen adaptations- CASINO ROYALE (1967) and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1968).  The anamorphic DVD is matted at 1.85 and boasts a robust fine grain transfer that showcases Basil Emott’s (CURSE OF THE FLY) crisp monochrome photography.  Some of the dynamic, razor sharp close ups are breath-taking when up converted on a blu-ray player.  This Columbia Classics made-to-order DVD-R includes the original, lurid trailer as the sole extra.

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