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The Long Memory (1952)


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Did anyone else see THE LONG MEMORY (1952), starring John Mills and directed by Robert Hamer? This is a first-rate British noir. Mills plays Philip Davidson, a man who's served 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. When he's released, he wants only revenge and shies away from other people. Most of the film was shot on location in the desolate marshes of northern Kent along the Thames estuary and in the backstreets of Gravesend (perfect name for a town in a film noir). The early scenes between Mills and a tinker who tries to befriend him, set on and around an abandoned boat, actually made me think a little bit of Samuel Beckett.

 

Recently I've enjoyed Mills in films like THIS HAPPY BREED and THE WAY TO THE STARS playing an English innocent, rather like the transatlantic version of Jimmy Stewart. This Mills performance is the equivalent of the Stewart roles in Anthony Mann westerns. The only other cast member I recognized was Thora Hird, superb in a supporting role as a wronged wife who doesn't behave the way you might expect. This subplot brings some welcome comic relief.

 

I've avoided discussing the plot, which has two major twists. There are some beautifully composed shots during the final showdown. The cinematographer, Harry Waxman, also did BRIGHTON ROCK. The director, Robert Hamer, is best known for KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, but his film IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY was apparently a big hit at the 2008 Brit Noir festival in New York.

 

Once again, I'm amazed to find such a good film that I had never even heard of before.

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Solid film that I'd never heard of before, either, but it was part of a local film festival this past spring and I keep hoping this would presage the American DVD release. But nothing yet.

 

It's been available from AMAZON UK for a couple of years, as are three box sets of John Mills films, few of which had widespread American release.

 

I was happy that TCM snagged a copy and broadcast it. Thanks for that!

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