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  Siege of Pinchgut, The The Island
Year: 1959
Director: Harry Watt
Stars: Aldo Ray, Heather Sears, Neil McCallum, Victor Maddern, Carlo Giustini, Alan Tilvern, Barbara Mullen, Gerry Duggan, Kenneth J. Warren, Grant Taylor, Deryck Barnes, Richard Vernon, Ewan MacDuff, Martin Boddey, Max Robertson
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: An ambulance is speeding through Sydney, siren blaring, but there is not an injured man inside, rather there is a man wrapped in bandages who is actually an escaped convict, Matt Kirk (Aldo Ray). He and his cohorts manage to get through a police roadblock using this subterfuge, but as they head towards the docks they are pulled over by a motorcycle cop. Not because he knows what they're up to, but because he has a patient who has been run over and needs to get to the hospital, so the criminals have no choice but to head over there, and a potential misunderstanding arises...

Not that this will stop Matt, because he is on a mission to clear his name, as the reason he escaped from prison is down to his staunch belief that he is an innocent man, not a bad premise for a story except that here he acts like a guilty one throughout. The Siege of Pinchgut nevertheless held a small place in history for being the last ever Ealing film, a studio perhaps better known for their comedies (which this movie certainly was not), and already winding down by the time this was released. It would be nice, of course, to say that they produced one final classic before they marched off into the cinematic sunset.

It would be nice to say that but alas it would not be true, while what they did produce for their last hurrah was nothing to be ashamed of, it simply was unlikely to be admitted to the pantheon of their better works. The main trouble is that we spend so much time in the company of characters who we can never really work out, and the film does not resolve the question of whether the escapees were justified or not. By the time they have holed up in the Pinchgut Island of the title, we are having serious doubts and something that could have been a breezy caper gets too bogged down in bickering amongst those who have been drawn together by circumstance.

There is a family of the guard (Gerry Duggan) living on the island, mostly there to show the tourists around but also to make sure nobody gets to the hoard of amunition in the cellar, and put an actual missile into the cannon which sits outside. Which is precisely what Kirk and his three companions plan to do, holding the city to blackmail in the process: if they don't get their new trial to clear Kirk's name, then he'll unleash a shell at a boat full of gelignite sitting across the bay. Now, you can see the flaw in his reasoning there, because even if he was cleared of his past misdemeanour, there's no doubt about his responsibility for his fresh plans to ensure that everyone on the shore is in a state of panic.

Ray does well in a starring role, still early enough in his career to be offered more prestigious movies as by the end of it he was appearing in tiny budgeted garbage, including a porno movie at the close of the seventies; rest assured he didn't perform in its sex scenes. Here he proved that his customary tough guy act could lift what might have in other hands been by the numbers, as for all his corruption he still comes over as a decent man sabotaged by cruel fate and his own deficiencies. Backing him up are a few solid talents, such as Victor Maddern as Kirk's right hand man, and Neil McCallum suitably uncertain as the brother who is in way over his head, all of them targets for the line of police snipers arranged on the nearby bridge and taking potshots at the four bad guys. It all ends on a note of downbeat triumph, if such a thing is possible, and remains an efficient diversion. Music by Kenneth V. Jones.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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