Ian Christie

Film historian, curator and broadcaster picks The Queen Of Spades, Hue And Cry, Peeping Tom, Scott Of The Antarctic, The Tales of Hoffmann and It Always Rains On Sunday.

You’ll probably realise that I’ve already contributed to some of these with ‘extras’ – a commentary for Peeping Tom, booklet material for Scott Of The Antarctic and Tales Of Hoffmann, and some video extras I think for It Always Rains and some of the other Ealings. But there are so many others here… I think maybe the best I could offer is to pick out several lesser-know titles – Queen Of Spades and Hue And Cry, for instance – and explain why I think these are as worth celebrating as the better-known titles. I’ve got a special regard for QoS because this was directed at the last moment by Thorold Dickinson, stepping in to rescue the production, and has one of Anton Walbrook’s very best non-Archers performances as the obsessed gambler. Even more remarkable is the fact that it was shot in the tiny studio at Beaconsfield which now houses the National Film and Television School; and Oliver Messel’s brilliant sets had to work hard to create a sense of space in such a restricted stage. There’s always a danger of underestimating Dickinson, but this is really one of his triumphs. My other pick would be Hue And Cry, which works in exactly the opposite way, using the war-scarred landscape of London’s South Bank as a setting for a lively story of a gang of youngsters making their own entertainment. While QoS was based on a Pushkin classic, H&C was an original script by the Ealing stalwart T.E.B. Clarke, inspired by the popular culture of children’s comics, and starring the great Alastair Sim. It was the first of Ealing’s post-war films, and it revels in its use of a wide variety of streets and locations, most of them still showing signs of war damage. Not as well known as the later classic Ealing comedies, but every bit as cherishable – and in a way, it parallels Italian neo-realist dramas of the same period. But, like Emil And The Detectives, it’s one where the kids win!

Recommended Titles

Robert Hamer1947
Charles Crichton1947
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger1951
Charles Frend1948
Thorold Dickinson1949