Hell is a City - out on DVD

Monday, 08 October 2012 07:35 Written by 

Hell is a City - out now on DVDHammer Film’s gritty 1960s thriller stars Stanley Baker (“Zulu”, “The Guns of Navarone”) as police Inspector Harry Martineau, a man driven by one goal: to apprehend Don Starling (John Crawford – “The Enforcer”, The Waltons), a violent robber he has already put behind bars once, only to see him escape and re-offend. Starling’s gang goes on the run in and around Manchester after their latest job results in the death of a female clerk.

As Starling flits nervously from one hide-out to another whilst planning the retrieval of a previous robbery’s stash, Martineau’s unit races against time to track down chemically-tainted bank notes which they hope will lead them to the gang. The gallows await if Starling is caught, and the more he is backed into a corner, the more dangerous he becomes. Meanwhile, Martineau does not want any more casualties on his hands but he will not rest until the case is closed.

“Hell is a City” really is a cracking little film. Shot in black and white and remastered especially for this re-release, the picture quality is amazingly good for a DVD. Director Val Guest (“The Quatermass Xperiment”, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire”, Space: 1999) keeps the pace high and the atmosphere thick with fear and tension. The film reminds me of Michael Mann’s “Heat”, not least because it features a violent gang on the run, and a gripping clash between a policeman and a criminal who are known to each other and both totally committed to succeeding in their chosen careers.

The ending is also reminiscent of “Heat” because it features a nerve-jangling chase, only this time it is noisy trains rather than planes that disrupt the pursuit.

Also in common with Mann’s movie is the depiction of the problems Martineau has at home because of his single-minded dedication to the job. His wife Julia (Maxine Audley – “The Vikings”, “Peeping Tom”) is fed up with him never coming home in time for dinner, and they get precious little time together. The Inspector is a flawed man who finds himself tempted by another woman, blaming his wife for their lack of intimacy rather than looking in the mirror.

Other actors in key roles include Donald Pleasance (“Fantastic Voyage”, “The Great Escape”), Billie Whitelaw (“The Omen”, “Hot Fuzz”) and Vanda Godsell (“A Shot in the Dark”, “This Sporting Life”).

There are some excellent set pieces, including the rat-like scurrying of dozens of illicit gamblers (engaged in some exciting coin tossing, no less) down a hillside when the police turn up to spoil their fun, the aforementioned dramatic finale, and a supremely claustrophobic scene where a mute girl who cannot scream is being chased around a cramped and cluttered loft by Starling.

The music by Stanley Black (“The Young Ones”, “Summer Holiday”) is not especially original but it does match the film perfectly, accompanying tense or violent scenes with hammering piano riffs, and quieter or romantic scenes with softer, more flowing pieces.

Fans of film noire, and more particularly cat-and-mouse (or really cat-and cat here!) dramas will surely love this release. The Northern, moorland and industrial city setting is refreshingly different from London-based movies, giving the action more space to breathe whilst remaining very tense.

The only extra on the disc is an alternate ending, which it has to be said does have quite a different flavour to the standard one. It paints Martineau’s character and his future in quite a different light, and is definitely worth watching.

“Hell is a City” (1960) is out now, courtesy of Studiocanal. The main feature has a running time of 92 mins approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Monday, 08 October 2012 07:42

denizli escort denizli escort