director Cy Endfield
viewed: 01/26/2013 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
The second feature I caught at the Castro Theatre’s Noir City Festival was Hell Drivers, an English production, like Night of the Demon (1957), also featuring the festival’s guest of honor Peggy Cummins. Unlike Night of the Demon, Hell Drivers might fit a little better into the Noir category, though it also might be pushing the true definition a bit.
It’s a gritty drama that perhaps falls into a subgenre of movies about truck drivers and the tough world they inhabit, perhaps a bit like They Drive by Night (1940) which is actually considered a Noir film though it also depicts a kind of social realism.
Directed by Red Scare scapegoat ex-pat Cy Endfield, the film actually captures a Britain of genuine character. It also features a very notable cast beyond stars Stanley Baker, Cummins, and Herbert Lom. It includes Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan, David McCallum, and Jill Ireland.
It’s the gritty story of an ex-con (Baker) who lands a rough job as a ballast driver. The crew is a pack of tough guys, with Red (McGoohan) as the toughest of the lot, all driving hell for leather across the English roads, back and forth with trucks full or empty of gravel. The boss encourages recklessness and speed and is also ruthlessly pitting them against each other while he skims from the top.
It’s an entertaining yarn. And it’s interesting to watch to Cummins pictures back to back. Neither of these films has anything on Gun Crazy (1950), her best role, but it does illuminate the pretty, vibrant actress.