Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pool Of London (1951) Nautical Noir

Directed by Basil Dearden, excellent cinematography by Gordon Dines. The film stars Bonar Colleano, Earl Cameron, Susan Shaw, Renée Asherson, Moira Lister, Max Adrian, Charlie Vernon, Joan Dowling, James Robertson Justice, Michael Golden, Alfie Bass, Christopher Hewett Christopher, and Leslie Phillips.

Johnny (Cameron) and Dan (Colleano)
The film's story revolves around  two crewmen of the small merchant ship Dunbar. The Dunbar arrives in the Pool of London and docks near the Tower Bridge. All the crew members are given shore leave, but first they must pass through H.M. Customs and the stern no nonsense Customs Officer (Golden).

customs officer (Golden)

Dan and Mike (Christopher Hewitt)
Dan MacDonald (Colleano) does a sideline business smuggling small items past customs in post-war London. He deals mostly in cigarettes, and nylons. Dan is an expat yank, an over confident cocky wisecracker, he'll remind you a bit of James Cagney. He's quite the ladies man. Johnny Lambert (Cameron) is a native of Jamaica, he's mild mannered and passive. Johnny follows Dan around like a kid brother follows his older sibling. They are good friends. On shore leave they hang together in the same waterfront bars with Johnny also following along with Dan and his floozy girlfriend Maisey (Moira Lister) on his dates to dance halls and cabarets.

Maisey (Moira Lister)
Maisey and Dan
In the course of 24 hours, Dan agrees to smuggle a small package to the continent for a friend of one of his regular underworld acquaintances Mike. Before leaving the Dunbar, Dan is caught by customs trying to smuggle some pairs of nylons off the ship. Dan asks Johnny if he will take the package on board for him in his place. Johnny agrees. Going to a theater with Dan to meet his new contact, Johnny befriends the box office gal Pat (Susan Shaw), they hit it off and this interracial relationship is the first ever portrayed in a British film.

Planning the heist

Pat (Susan Shaw)

Music Hall

Mike, Dan, Vernon (Max Adrian)

Johnny and Pat
Dan's new contact is Vince Vernon (Max Adrian) an acrobat who has devised a scheme (with inside information from his brother George Vernon) to rob the safe of a import export diamond exchange by using his acrobatic skills to jump the gap from a destroyed WWII blitz-bombed building to the roof of the exchange, and from there gain access to the interior through a skylight. Once Dan agrees to carry the package to Rotterdam on the continent the heist is on. Vince gets into the exchange, knocks out the watchman, and opens the front door for his safecracking team. The safe blown, Vince grabs the diamonds and leaves by the roof while the safecrackers and their tools get picked up by their wheelman driving a Jaguar.

While the heist is going on, a local constable on his rounds by the exchange, notices a bottle of milk left on the steps by the door of the exchange. The watchman usually retrieves it at 10:00 AM. The milk is for his pet cat. The constable uses a call box to report the oddity. When the safe is blown the alarm sounds off and we get an exciting chase through the relatively deserted Sunday streets of London.

As pre arranged, at a church service, Vince passes a gift wrapped cigarette pack sized package to Dan. Scotland Yard is now on the case and with "all the wheels working" for them they are "checking on all the likely ones".

Meanwhile, Dan is bragging to Maisey about the 50 quid he made for agreeing to convey the package to Rotterdam, with more to come when he makes the drop. Maisey asks him what is in it. Dan says he doesn't know, tells Maisey he "gets paid not to know," and Maisey  replies that then it's probably worth 10 times that amount. Opening the package they see the diamonds. Maisey connects the diamonds to the diamond heist and tells Dan that the watchman cracked on the head died. Dan now has second thoughts and tells Maisey that he asked Johnny to carry the package since the incident with the nylons. All this is overheard by Maisey's younger sister Pamela who soon sends it all to Noirsville.


Pamela (Joan Dowling)

Pool of London



Pool of London rivals Night And The City (1950) cinematically. If you need a Noir visual fix this film will not disappoint. 7/10

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