Nowhere to Go
The films of Ealing Studios usually evoke and exploit the same basic themes: small, underdog communities united in a sense of charming public spiritedness against some overbearing foe. So it comes as a surprise that one of the final movies produced by the famous brand, the second to last as it turned out, is a hard boiled noir that pulls no punches.
Nowhere to Go opens with a gripping jail break which lasts a full nine minutes and is shot in total silence. This device serves to ratchet up the tension superbly and it easily holds its own against the more famous silent heist in Rififi, filmed three years earlier. Oh, and did I mention the man coming over the prison wall is actually busting INTO the jail?
The bird being sprung is Paul Gregory who, we discover in flashback once he is safely out of stir, pulled off an audacious robbery; stashed the cash and waited to be arrested, safe in the knowledge he could breeze through the medium term sentence, return home and spend his ill-gotten at leisure. However he miscalculated the judgement so must now lay plans to escape both prison and – once reunited with his loot – the country.
It all seems to be going to plan at first but this being a film noir the good times don’t last very long and soon Gregory finds himself on the lam, friendless, the law on his tail and his options getting fewer by the minute.
In all honesty George Nader, who plays Gregory is not much of a natural leading man and an actor of limited means but he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast, notably Maggie Smith in her movie debut and Bernard Lee (a stalwart of Ealing dramas here playing against type as a thoroughly nasty piece of work) and he’s working with a script that explores his increasingly desperate world with perfect pitch and a director with a real eye for a crime thriller.
Regrettably this wasn’t loved by the critics when it came out and sank almost without trace but it has a hell of a lot going for it and perhaps Ealing may have lasted a bit longer if they’d produced a few more films of the same quality.
Nowhere to Go – directed by Seth Holt (1958)
Ealing proves it can make more than wartime comedies and Bernard Lee proves it’s much more fun breaking into prison than out.