Home to Danger

Somehow, without consciously having planned to do so, I’ve seen myself on a British thriller kick this summer and therefore embarked on this series of short pieces to log my thoughts and impressions as I’ve been going along. There hasn’t been any particular pattern followed but I have permitted certain films to lead me on to others, linking them up in a vague and loose form that probably makes little sense to anyone apart from myself. I appreciated Guy Rolfe in You Can’t Escape, had a fine time with Lance Comfort’s Tomorrow at Ten, and just recently enjoyed Terence Fisher’s direction of The Last Man to Hang. Those titles and the others I’ve been highlighting are all either films noir or crime/mystery pictures of one kind or another. All of this leads me to Home to Danger (1951), a film noir/whodunit hybrid starring Guy Rolfe, produced by Lance Comfort and directed by Terence Fisher.

Barbara Cummings (Rona Anderson) is the one coming home and the danger referred to lies in the stately pile she has just inherited from her late father. She’d been in Singapore and had left England under something of a cloud and so she feels a certain reticence about her arrival back in the family residence, particularly when she learns the inquest into her father’s death recorded a verdict of suicide. There’s a touch of guilt there but not too much – she knows she wasn’t responsible and no=one seems keen to attach any blame in that direction. However, it’s also clear that late changes to the old man’s will meant Barbara comes into everything of value, while some others who might have had what could be termed expectations have been either cut out at the last minute or not had the chance to be included. Although Barbara has an ally and someone to look out for her in the shape of debonair author Robert Irving (Guy Rolfe), there is a very real sense of menace following a botched attempt on her life. The question is who is behind it all, and what’s their motive?

Home to Danger is one of those slightly unusual amalgams of the country house whodunit and an urban film noir. The former characteristics are to the fore in the earlier stages following the new heiress’ return home. Terence Fisher gets good mileage from the manor house surroundings, and moves his camera around atmospherically, also creating some memorable and noteworthy visuals during the shooting of the exteriors. The action then switches back to town for a time in the course of the investigation into extremely dubious shooting. Again, Fisher is to be commended for altering the style appropriately and presenting different, but equally effective, imagery. The plot is entertaining and engaging enough and the director ensures, with the aid of those shifts back and forth in location, that the hour or so running time is full of incident.

Rona Anderson and Guy Rolf make for an attractive leading couple. Anderson has vigor and guts, and a quality which makes one want to root for her. Alongside her is the suave and assured Rolfe, winning viewer sympathy every bit as effortlessly. The likes of Francis Lister and Alan Wheatley drift in and out of the shadows and keep us guessing as to their real aims. A little further down the cast list is a young Stanley Baker, making the most of his smallish but vital role as a faithful and simple servant, hinting at the great things still to come later in his career.

Home to Danger should be easy enough to locate. It is available on DVD as part of a double bill with Montgomery Tully’s Master Spy in the UK via Renown. As far as I know, it’s also been released in the US as part of a set of British thrillers from a few years back. The transfer is mostly OK; although there is some weird shimmering effect that I noticed early on, it seems to settle down as the film progresses. The movie itself is a modest enough affair which, nevertheless, manages to pull off all it sets out to do. It tells a good crime story efficiently in a little over an hour, with an attractive cast and professional and stylish direction by Terence Fisher.

 

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10 thoughts on “Home to Danger

  1. “HOME TO DANGER” is another of the British thrillers I’ve enjoyed (more than once) in recent years. One of the most enjoyable facets for me is the location shooting, having grown up in the London area during the years these films were made.
    Rona Anderson appeared in quite a few of these films and she was always good in them, a pretty and spirited young woman who gave a natural performance usually. She mostly retired from films after her marriage to Gordon Jackson.
    Alan Wheatley was always interesting and I will always think of him as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the “Robin Hood” TV series. So, in my mind, the poor man is well and truly typecast!

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    • Even though I don’t share the familiarity with the locations, Jerry, I agree that it’s a strong aspect of the film.
      I like when Wheatley turns up too; he had one of those faces you immediately recognize, mostly due his having appeared in so many movies and shows.

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  2. Recently really enjoyed Rolfe in an early John Guillermin flick also released by Renown, OPERATION DIPLOMAT, which like a lot of Francis Durbridge tales starts well with a strong hook and then gets progressively more familiar. But it’s a really fun movie, especially the first half.

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  3. Hi, Colin – I’ve been enjoying your journey through these Brit thrillers. I was hoping you’d come to one featuring Rona Anderson. I think she has a rare beauty and solid acting ability to go with it. The American actor, Richard Conte, who starred with her in the tidy little thriller ‘Little Red Monkey’, wrote of her after her death that her face was almost too perfect for the camera, as it prefers more angular lines. It got me thinking about what is beauty in the cinema …

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    • I enjoyed Little Red Monkey when I looked at it last year. That’s an interesting quote and, as you say, it raises questions about how certain faces and types come across on screen, and therefore how we viewers respond to them or the way they are presented to us.

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    • Yes, “compact and easy to squeeze in” is a good way to describe this film, and indeed many similar productions of the era. Sometimes these spare little efforts are just what I’m looking for and it’s nice to have easy access to so many of them these days.

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