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  Night Beat Demob Disasters
Year: 1947
Director: Harold Huth
Stars: Anne Crawford, Maxwell Reed, Ronald Howard, Christine Norden, Hector Ross, Fred Groves, Sid James, Nicholas Stuart, Frederick Leister, Michael Medwin, Michael Hordern
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Don Brady (Hector Ross) has just been demobbed from the Army after six years and now he's on Civvy Street he ponders his next move, as does his best friend from the forces Andy Kendall (Ronald Howard). They meet up in a London pub to toast the uncertain future, but Andy gets into a spot of bother with some local toughs and a brawl breaks out until a copper arrives to break it up. It turns out Don and Andy recognise him as their old sergeant, and are highly amused, but it does point the direction they both can take if they're looking for a job: the police are always looking for recruits. However, Andy's sister Julie (Anne Crawford) has been engaged to Don all those years he was away, and is none too keen on being rewarded for her patience by becoming a policeman's wife...

Beginning the story with two of the main characters (though this was something of an ensemble piece) leaving the military to try and eke out a living in post-war Britain was a sure way of getting the home audience on the film's side from the outset, but this was no simple drama about the austerity many men found on their release from their duty to their country, as it was evident the production was taking note of the popularity of the film noir movement from across the Atlantic. Thus we had an example of two separate paths a demobbed citizen could take: the straight and narrow, or the, er, wide and twisting, as Don and Andy both join up for the police but only one of them succeeds there, Don, who resists Julie's offer to work for her "friend" Felix at his nightclub.

Felix was played by Joan Collins' first husband Maxwell Reed, something of a heartthrob in his day, but for the gentlemen there was another pin-up as part of the cast, Christine Norden playing Jackie the nightclub singer who was our femme fatale. Norden (who gets an introducing credit here) had a colourful life to say the least: her big screen career didn't last very long but she made an impact as the first post-war British sex symbol, paving the way for Diana Dors, Sandra Dorne or, yes, Joan Collins in the following decade. She then went off to Broadway where she appeared topless in a production in a first for the showbiz arena, had affairs with both genders and married many times, and ended up back in Britain where she had a couple of nostalgia-driven roles in television before she passed away. A life well-lived then, and rather more action-packed than her co-star Crawford, who would die aged just 35 of cancer.

Only the good die young, as the saying goes, and Norden certainly played up the bad girl roles, here as the most dynamic presence in the whole thing, shaking the drama up considerably when she was on the screen. Of course Jackie gets slapped around, it seemed to be the norm in movies such as these no matter which side of the Pond they were from, but she gives as good as she gets, and you'll likely be dismayed at the way she ends up, she deserved to go out in more of a blaze of glory in comparison to boring Don and Andy, the latter of which she lends her affections to and then promptly takes them straight back to give to the louche Felix who has married innocent Julie (are you following this?). By this time Andy is cause for concern, dismissed from the force and turning to the black market, but Howard (son of Leslie) was nobody's idea of a spiv, so we are left with Reed and Norden to create the sparks. Also worth mentioning were Sid James as the most downtrodden you've ever seen him, and in one scene Michael Hordern as an instructor. Creaky but amusing. Music by Benjamin Frankel.

[Network's DVD is part of its British Film line. There are no extras, but the print is serviceable enough.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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