This movie is unique in a number of ways. For one thing, it’s a British film noir. According to Ben Mankiewicz on TCM, it marked the beginning of British New Wave cinema.
The tone of the film is unquestionably gritty. It concerns a man named Tom (played by Stanley Baker) who has some dark secret from his past. He takes a job hauling gravel by truck (or lorry, if you wish) over some of the twistyist, crappiest backwoods roads you’d never want to speed on.
There is, however, a competition among the drivers to be the fastest of the bunch. What’s at stake is a £250 gold cigarette case that the current leader of the pack offers to anyone who can beat his record of 18 runs a day.
The leader is an Irishman named Red (played with, er, intensity by Patrick McGoohan). The man has something of a temper, to put it mildly. In fact, he seems to take great joy in punching guys in the face and taking punishment in return, only to spring back up for more.
So, basically, that’s the movie. Tom is bound and determined to beat Red (who, BTW, cheats — in really stupid, dangerous ways), and Red is just as determined to be №1. (Literally. That’s his truck number.) (I’m trying really hard not to make a Prisoner joke here.)
Meanwhile, an Italian driver named Gino (Herbert Lom) befriends Tom. Gino is in love with the boss’s secretary, Lucy (Peggy Cummins). Too bad the feeling is not reciprocated. The fact that she acts sympathetic to Tom when he comes in looking for work kind of makes up for the shabby way she treats Gino. But not really. It’s clear she likes Tom and that leads nowhere good.
Along with the delightfully unpolished and frenetic camerawork that puts you right in the driver’s seat throughout much of the film, it features outstanding performances from so many emerging and veteran actors of the time, including the following:
William Hartnell (who’d end up playing the first Doctor on Doctor Who)
Herbert Lom (who’d play the unfortunate Commissioner Dreyfus from the Pink Panther movies)
David McCallum (the future Illya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
Sid James (best known for the Carry On series)
Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy)
Without revealing spoilers, I’ll just say that Gino ends up with the short end of the stick. In more ways than one.
Yes, do see this movie. It’s well worth it!
Here’s a fan-made trailer!
Directed by Cy Enfield
Produced by Benjamin Fisz and Earl St. John
Screenplay by Cy Enfield and John Kruse
PS: I now know how to make pound symbols on a Mac.
Just hit OPTION and 3. Like this £! :)
BTW, do me a solid and open this in Medium, please. It’ll make much better reading! :)