A double bill of films from 1962, each with its own peculiar feel and atmosphere. Both released by Bryanston Films and relatively short at a little over an hour each.
DON’T TALK TO STRANGE MEN runs like an elongated public information film about grooming. Jean (Christina Gregg) is a middle class girl who works as a babysitter at her uncle’s pub. At the end of her shift she catches the bus home from a stop near a telephone box somewhere in an idyllic part of England. One evening the phone rings. There’s no one else around to pick it up, so Jean does. From that point on the telephone box plays a central role in the story.
After several conversations with her unseen admirer, Jean becomes increasingly besotted. She rechristens herself Samantha and finally arranges to meet this chap who has made her feel so desirable and intriguing.
The cinematography is by Stephen Dade. The unwavering gaze of the camera on Jean as she enters into dialogue with this well spoken, initially charming fellow is quite chilling. The phone box becomes a world away from her doting, wittering parents and the rigid conformity of her everyday life. She becomes someone else when she’s speaking to him. She becomes Samantha.
The bus conductress Jean chats to on her journeys home is played by Dandy Nicholls, Alf Garnett’s wife in Till Death Us Do Part.
Jean and her feisty younger sister Ann (Janina Faye) devise a ruse to allow her to meet her suitor, but due to an unplanned chain of events Ann’s life is put in mortal danger.
Director Pat Jackson never shows us the villain’s face, although we are in no doubt that he’s capable of killing, as in the opening shots of the film a girl accepts a lift on a lonely street. Her body turns up later, discovered by children buried in hay in a farmer’s barn.
Transposed to the modern day, despite the quaint dialogue and cut glass accents, Don’t Talk to Strange Men says something about internet grooming, assumed identities and sexual naivety.
This was the support feature to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner when it was first released.
DILEMMA is equally idiosyncratic. What would you do if you returned home to find your wife away, a broken flowerpot in the driveway and a dead man on the bathroom floor?
Think about it for a minute.
Now if the answer is dig a massive hole in the living room floor and cement the corpse in it, this is the film for you.
Directed by Peter Maxwell and starring character actor Peter Halliday as Harry Barnes, Dilemma is set in a 60’s suburbia of manicured roses and wrought iron garden gates. A lot of it takes place in Harry Barnes’, house. The interiors are superb, all chequered floor tiles and glass fronted kitchen cabinets. The set up is replete with a spectacularly nosy neighbour who won’t give up until she knows exactly what’s going on. She’s played by Patricia Burke, looking not unlike the wonderful Daphne Oram.
Despite interruptions from nuns collecting for repairs to the abbey, his mother calling round and a blind piano tuner, Harry sticks to his task. Meanwhile his wife Jean (Ingrid Hafner) is up to no good. She’s just been to casualty with a cut hand, and now she’s trying to get the bank to open a safety deposit for her, you see she’s lost the key.
The main location used was Ormond Crescent in Hampton, Greater London. The cinematography was by Gerald Moss, whose work in TV included many episodes of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Husband and wife team Pip and Jane Baker wrote the original story.
The unguessable twist at the end displays a darkness and greed beneath the surface of the suburban dream. It’s as if Blue Velvet was set in Middlesex.