My enjoyment of film noir began with American film in the 1940s. My favorite noir still mostly centers there. But the more I watch 1940s and 50s British noir — or noirish British dramas and thrillers — the more I love it. There’s a less cynical edge, less hard-boiled violence and more angst. There’s even humor, something antithetical to much textbook noir. Some of my favorites include Turn the Key Softly (which we watched and enjoyed on #BNoirDetour), It Always Rains on Sunday (my review post here), and Hangover Square (which I plan to show on #BNoirDetour in future).
Yesterday, I was looking for another noir film I hadn’t seen to spend the afternoon with as I folded laundry, and I found the 1955 public domain film Postmark for Danger, originally titled Portrait of Alison.
I became acquainted with the acting talents of Canadian Robert Beatty and the delightful Josephine Griffin, and I was reintroduced to Terry Moore, whom I’d enjoyed in high camp fashion in Shack Out on 101. Despite her smoker’s voice and overacting, I truly enjoyed this noirish thriller about artist Tim Forrester (Beatty), whose brother Lewis is killed when his car plunges over a cliff and explodes (I hate to confess I love when that nonsense happens in films). In the car with him was, he is told, Dave’s girlfriend Alison Ford (Moore). A third brother, pilot Dave (William Sylvester), is the one who shows up to give Tim the news, and from that moment on life is turned upside-down for Tim. His favorite model Jill (Josephine Griffin) has just quit to marry a wealthy upper-class twit, and then Tim is hired by one John Smith (Henry Oscar) to paint a portrait of his daughter, who turns out to be none other than Alison Ford.
[SPOILERS begin here.] Scotland Yard enters the picture when it is discovered that Lewis’s death was engineered by a gang of international diamond smugglers he was about to expose. Before he died, he sent someone in London a post card with a sketch of a woman’s hand holding a Chianti bottle. While Tim is out, the supposedly-dead Alison enters his studio, but flees when she finds the body of Jill. Inspector Colby (Geoffrey Kene) suspects Tim because his alibi evidence keeps vanishing before the Inspector can confirm it. Things get worse with every new plot twist and turn, from a used-car dealer blackmailing Tim but denying it when the police become involved to Alison showing up in his apartment again to explain that she believes it was her father who had Lewis killed and is part of the diamond-smuggling ring. More happens with a man named Nightingale who turns out to be Jill’s fiance and the reappearance of Tim’s brother Dave, who confesses he is in with the gang as well.
The tension is high as Tim seems likely to face charges for the murder of Jill, but in the end, all is returned to normal when at last Tim can prove his innocence and ends up in happily-ever-after land with Alison.
I like the dark twists and turns of the film, Beatty’s acting, and the focus on art images as clues to the murder. It’s another engaging entry for those looking for noir that’s a bit different from more hard-boiled fare. And it’s public domain, so it’s easy to find (in a less than pristine print) online to screen for free.
Got a favorite Brit noir to add to my viewing list? Please share it!