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  Seven Days to Noon Bomb Threat
Year: 1950
Director: John Boulting, Roy Boulting
Stars: Barry Jones, André Morell, Hugh Cross, Sheila Manahan, Olive Sloane, Joan Hickson, Ronald Adam, Marie Ney, Wyndham Goldie, Russell Waters, Martin Boddey, Frederick Allen, Victor Maddern, Geoffrey Keen, Merrill Mueller
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There has been a letter sent to the Prime Minister which has raised concern with the Special Branch of Scotland Yard because it does not seem like the usual crank writing in. If anything, the threat contained within comes across as all too real, and Superintendent Folland (André Morell) starts telephoning round to ascertain if there is any authenticity to it. There is bad news: the Professor (Barry Jones) who penned the letter has apparently disappeared and his colleagues, never mind his family, have no notion of where he could be. But the worst of it is that Professor Willingdon has taken something with him - an atomic bomb...

There was always something of the troublemaker about filmmaking twins The Boulting Brothers, and this early-ish hit of their's shows their tendency to bring up subjects that anyone looking for a quiet life would have left well alone. But as one of the first films to tackle the encroaching worries that the nuclear bomb held for the man in the street, it set out the stall for future productions with some skill and perception, not falling back on the sci-fi allusions by applying the force to creating monsters that represented the unease, rather meeting the disquiet head on by placing the capital under threat from nuclear destruction.

Of course, the man who has brought Britain to this state of affairs, Professor Willingdon, may be sensitively portrayed, but it's clear the pressure of his job has played havoc with his nerves and he's not in his right mind, quite refereshing to see when anyone threatening to detonate that kind of device in the movies nowadays would be an action villain with a neat line in badassery and a mean way with sardonic dialogue. No, the Professor here is a poor soul whose sense of the weight of all those millions of lives hanging in the balance has broken his spirit, and now he holds the country to ransom with the request that all such bombs be dismantled and research into them cease.

Interestingly, there's never any possibility of the authorities going along with his demands, no matter that it would make the world safer in the long run as well as the short if the capacity to blast ourselves to kingdom come many times over were dispensed with. But the Boultings are not content to write the Professor off completely as their intention was to have you leave the film pondering over the issues it raised and not necessarily siding with those who put the globe under the spectre of the Cold War. If there's one element that sabotages the suspense, it's that the manner in which the Londoners are shown is so colourful that you cannot envisage the Boultings annihilating them - they seem far too in love with the place.

That's not to say the directors do not relish the chance to evacuate the capital and film all those empty streets in a dramatic fashion, or create a near-chaos when all the inhabitants are sent out of the area for their own safety, as these sequences are shot with stark and atmospheric style. To make this scenario as realistic as possible the media is employed, so we get actual newsreaders reading the bulletins, advertising space alerting the populace to the appearance of the Professor, and newspaper headlines screaming the news that you're all about to be destroyed. Also to that end, some broadly played Londoners who must have seemed authentic at the time show up, most memorably Olive Sloane as the gregarious Goldie who takes pity on Willingdon only to become his hostage when she cottons on to what he's up to. Seven Days to Noon might be dated in its trappings, but its musings over the price of international security will probably never go out of fashion, sadly. Music by John Addison.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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