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  Man with a Gun Night Life
Year: 1958
Director: Montgomery Tully
Stars: Lee Patterson, Rona Anderson, John Le Mesurier, Bill Nagy, Glen Mason, Carlo Borelli, Harold Lang, Cyril Chamberlain, Alec Finter, Joe Gibbons, Marne Maitland, Alan Mitchell, Richard Shaw, Dorinda Stevens, Peter Thornton, Jack Taylor
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mike Davies (Lee Patterson) is an insurance investigator who has seen a new case cross his desk that appears to be an open and shut affair, where a nightclub belonging to Harry Drayson (John Le Mesurier) has recently burned down in an apparently accidental fire - but the establishment has had thousands of pounds worth of insurance taken out on it mere weeks before, which certainly looks suspicious to the company Mike works for. Therefore he is ordered by his boss to head over to Drayson's latest club, which also has had thousands of pounds of insurance taken out very recently, to see if there are any dodgy dealings occurring, and whether Drayson is running a scam. As it turns out, there is something underhand going on, but not what Mike anticipated...

Man with a Gun had the privilege of being the first feature Michael Winner worked on, that auteur of some of the trashiest thrillers of the seventies and eighties which nevertheless managed to attract some pretty big names. Before that in the sixties, comedy was his forte, and he conjured up some titles that were actually fairly respectable before he started to pander to the audience's more dubious instincts about what he thought they wanted to see on the big screen. He penned the screenplay for this, his first assignment after making his debut the year before with a short subject, and soon after was behind the camera calling the shots on a series of low budget efforts much like this middling tribute to the American film noir of a decade before.

He had to start somewhere, and this was more or less basic B-movie thriller material that was like dropping in on a television episode of some weekly detective show. Its star was Canadian Lee Patterson, who sounded American enough to British ears to carve out a niche as leading men in supporting features which, as did many of these hailing from this country, wanted to come across as Transatlantic, not so much to be sold abroad, though that was always a welcome development, but more because British audiences found Hollywood productions infinitely more exciting than the movies from their native soil, so if there was an American accent to be heard, even if it was from a Brit pretending, then so much the better, it was a badge of validation.

Of course, if Man with a Gun had been properly like a TV show our hero would have had a name like Peter Gunn or Johnny Staccato, something more exotic than plain old Mike Davies, yet somehow that suited the not exactly boundary pushing experience of watching it. Once Patterson has shared a scene or two with Le Mesurier he is introduced to the love interest, Drayson's niece Stella (Rona Anderson), who convinces him through her general decency that her uncle is on the level and not torching his properties for the cash bonus. So who is? Here we enter an underworld of toughs and shady bosses, some of whom have American accents as well, as Mike is inexorably forced to pack a shooter and become the character of the title, as much for other people's safety as his own. Mostly filmed on generic sets with the minimum of location work, this was cheap, efficient but oddly for something connected to Winner rather indistinguishable from a host of others. Its main point of interest other than his name was seeing Dad's Army's John Le Mesurier in a full-on punch-up. Music by Ron Goodwin.

[Network's fresh-looking DVD is part of their British Film line, and has a trailer as an extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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