Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Brit Noir Watch: Cloudburst (1951)

Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

There's trouble!  Right here in London City!

It's interesting that the French focused so hard on the American films they'd dub "film noir".  It's not like the British weren't making gloomy crime movies around the same time.  Night and the City, Brighton Rock and others point not just to the "noir movement" in England, but that the films made there weren't afraid to go incredibly dark.

Produced by Hammer (they did more than horror, kids), this one stars American Robert Preston as a Canadian in service to British Intelligence as a codebreaker still doing his work in the wake of WWII to help prosecute war criminals.  The film takes place just a year after the war, and Preston is married to a fellow intelligence officer whom he fell in love with during their time as POWs, where both were tortured.

They have a chance now at a happy, calm life, with a baby on the way, when - one night as they pause on a country roadside considering buying some property, Preston's wife is struck and killed by criminals escaping a murder.  

Because this is noir and *not* American, Preston keeps the cops out of it.  He wants to hunt the crooks down like dogs.  

I won't give away too much more.  The codebreaking does play a part, but not in any way I expected.  Mostly it's a story of a man who once fought Nazis hand-to-hand avoiding the cops as he goes about the business of revenge.

I... don't think I need to explain why this is noir.  This is as noir as it gets.

I noticed the ratings for this movie weren't very good, and it is true that the movie feels oddly disjointed.  It kind of stops and starts a great deal with uneven scenes, but it I'm a bit surprised the RT score (there's no metacritic score) is so low - it's about 33% for an audience score.  I'll argue no one else in the movie aside from Elizabeth Sellars who plays Preston's wife matches his energy, and she's gone in Act I.  But I kinda liked the plot.  I mean, you don't see that many movies where a man is asked to break his own code and hunt himself.

It is strange to see Preston not using his showman's patter from The Music Man or even The Last Starfighter.  He's natural here, and absolutely buyable in the part.  

It's not my favorite movie.  I don't entirely love their metaphor of a "cloudburst".  But.  Anyway.  An interesting noir for actually pointing our heroic character and watching him become the villain.

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