The Night Won’t Talk

Continuing with my trawl through British movies that have been largely neglected, I now come to The Night Won’t Talk (1952), an atmospheric little whodunit with a tempting title and another of those ever attractive one hour running times.

A good opening goes a long way with me, and The Night Won’t Talk hits the ground running with a hooded figure slipping through deserted nighttime streets, headed towards a basement flat and a victim. Right away we’re pitched into the middle of a murder case, an artist’s model having been killed in that initial sequence. Certain settings tend to work well in mysteries and an artistic milieu often provides at least an interesting set of suspects, and the kind of undisguised personal and professional competition that doesn’t need to be restrained in the way it might in more conservative circles. The murder victim is soon established as a source of jealousy for other women and also, more suggestively, a siren who sparked romantic rivalry among those men she came into contact with. The complicated web of relationships first needs to be unraveled and that task falls to the cool and detached Inspector West (Ballard Berkeley) and his equally laconic assistant (Duncan Lamont). As with many (most?) investigations, the shadow of suspicion has a habit of resting more comfortably on one particular person. In this case, it’s the victim’s fiance, unstable artist Clay Hawkes (John Bailey) but nothing is certain and there’s no shortage of alternatives for us to keep in mind.

Actress Hy Hazell got top billing, and to be fair she does deserve it as she is a strong and attractive screen presence. Her film career was somewhat limited although I’m keen to see more of her work. I have another two  of her movies in my collection but I see I’m missing Stolen Assignment, which sounds like it might be worth a look and I’m keen to get my hands on it at some point now. There’s marvelously relaxed support from Ballard Berkeley as the policeman on the case and the film is more fun whenever he’s on view. I’ll have to admit I was less impressed with John Bailey as the main suspect; he’s good enough I guess but his nervy brand of angst didn’t fully convince me and I think it hurts the film somewhat when such a central role isn’t entirely successful.

The Night Won’t Talk was directed by Daniel Birt, but I’m not all that familiar with his other work. I have a couple of his titles to hand though – The Deadly Game and Three Steps in the Dark – and should make an effort to check those out at some stage. Birt’s direction is brisk and efficient enough but it’s also noticeable that at times the film has a look that belies what must have been a restricted budget. A quick glance at the credits shows that the art director was one Bernard Robinson (the man responsible for the distinctive and deceptively luxurious appearance of many a Hammer production) so it shouldn’t really come as any surprise.

Network give The Night Won’t Talk quite a nice transfer to DVD in its correct Academy ratio and even include a brief gallery of press clippings as a supplement. Again, it’s a solid presentation of a lesser-known British crime picture. The movie is a reasonably neat whodunit which is plotted satisfactorily and moves along at a good clip.

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10 thoughts on “The Night Won’t Talk

  1. Another that I liked a lot. As you say, Hazell has a splendid screen presence, and I think that works very much to the advantage of the movie not just as an entertaining screen offering but also, more specifically, as a whodunnit, through distracting us from what might otherwise have been a very obvious solution.

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to write about TNWT Colin. For some reason this one has always stuck out for me amongst the vast slew of cheaply-produced and often not-very-good British B Crime Movies of the Fifties. Probably because of the redoubtable and stellar presence of the inimitable and oddly-named Hy Hazell, a now mostly-forgotten celebrity who, like so many other once great names was seemingly erased
    from the public memory by the Swinging Sixties and the Beat Boom. She deserves better. A distinctly earthy and provocative femme fatale in a period where British cinema was awash with products of the Rank Charm School. The shelves aren’t groaning with the availability of her movies but another Hy Hazell picture worth checking out is a 1957 Lee Patterson vehicle entitled ‘The Key Man’. I believe the lady had a tragic and slightly Noirish end, choking on a chicken bone in a west End Restaurant …

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    • I spent a very pleasant hour or so with the movie so it writing it up and drawing a bit more attention to it was certainly no chore. The leading lady is a big part of what makes it work and I have a copy of The Key Man and her presence in the cast makes that even more enticing.

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