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  Assassin for Hire Senseless Violins
Year: 1951
Director: Michael McCarthy
Stars: Sydney Tafler, Ronald Howard, Katharine Blake, John Hewer, June Rodney, Gerald Case, Ian Wallace, Reginald Dyson, Martin Benson, Sam Kydd, Ewen Solon
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A man has been shot dead on the streets of Soho tonight, and as far as Detective Inspector Carson (Ronald Howard) is concerned he will go to extraordinary lengths to bring the culprit in, since criminals are so dangerous now extreme endeavours at foiling them are a must for the modern police force. The gunman was actually Antonio Riccardi (Sydney Tafler) who poses as a collector and seller of rare stamps, though a substantial part of his income stems from his illegal activities, yet he can excuse himself his misdemeanours by telling himself he is doing it all for his brother Giuseppe (John Hewer), whose skill with the violin Antonio is obsessed with promoting...

By the nineteen-fifties the British B-movie was well established, but the general reaction from the nation's public when asking about a title they didn't recognise was "Is it a British picture?", meaning was it not from their preferred Hollywood entertainments but was something more local and therefore considerably less exotic. This resistance to watching the homegrown efforts was by no means a blanket dissatisfaction, and there were many hits from Britain by the British film industry, but when you watched something like Assassin for Hire you would probably sympathise with the original disdain.

Really this was the sort of melodrama which would begin to fill up hours of television as that medium grew in popularity throughout the fifties, leaving it rather pointless to be watched outside the comforts of your own home, especially when it was rather ordinary at best. It wasn't all bad, as there was some unintentional amusement to be had in such elements as Tafler's Italian accent, making Officer Crabtree from 'Allo 'Allo sound like Meryl Streep, and to all intents and purposes only present because American films would have Italian gangsters in them, though even then they would be Italian-American rather than labouring under the full Chico Marx "ice-a da cream-a!" intonation. Katharine Blake as Antonio's wife was little better, and their scenes together came across as a duel of who could sound the least convincing.

Thankfully John Hewer as the brother didn't go for that nonsense, just as well as he would be best known as Captain Birdseye for a good thirty years on television ads, also appearing in non-UK commercials as the same character (renamed Captain Igloo) and miming to foreign language voiceovers. Here was a chance to see him not only without his bushy white beard, but also without the Southwest accent he used as the Captain, which was a point of novelty if nothing else. Another point of novelty, and bringing some much needed comic relief, was the manner in which the overbearing Antonio, who has hired out a hall for a concert Giuseppe is reluctant to perform because he's not ready to make that leap, received his comeuppance. It was presumably meant to be a tug on the heartstrings, but the overall effect was hilarity, in spite of what was really going on; Assassin for Hire, which was very far from the action movie that title promises, was pretty creaky, but fans of the period would be intrigued. Music by Ronnie Emanuel.

[No extras on Network's DVD, but there are collectors of British B-movies who will be pleased to know it looks and sounds fine.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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