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Painted Smile, The (1961)

Courtesy of Mike Blakeley

Main image of Painted Smile, The (1961)
35mm, black and white, 60 mins
DirectorLance Comfort
Production CompanyMancunian Film Corporation
ProducerTom Blakeley
Story/screenplayPip and Jane Baker
Original ideaBrock Williams
PhotographyBasil Emmott
MusicMartin Slavin

Cast: Liz Fraser (Jo); Kenneth Griffith (Kleinie); Peter Reynolds (Mark); Tony Wickert (Tom); Craig Douglas (Nightclub Singer); Nanette Newman (Mary); David Hemmings (Roy)

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A young student narrowly escapes a murder rap.

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By the 1960s, the founder of Mancunian Films, John E. Blakeley, had died and the company had been inherited by his son Tom. The studios in Manchester were long closed and the company had reverted to hiring studio space and crew members in the south. Thus, The Painted Smile was shot at Shepperton by experienced director Lance Comfort.

Second features were often a training ground for young actors, and the then relatively unknown David Hemmings and Nanette Newman went on to have successful careers. Comfort, though, had a team of seasoned veterans around him, including cinematographer Basil Emmott, in the business since 1921. Story writer Brock Williams started out on 'quota quickies' in the 1930s.

The plot is standard B-movie fare (it was exhibited on the ABC circuit in support of the Warner Bros comedy A Majority of One, US, 1961), and sends a clear moral message, telling of an innocent dragged into the criminal underworld after one small slip. Despite the small budget and tight shooting schedule, however , Comfort does manage to bring some of his personal style to the film.

The tight editing of Mark's murder, intercut with Jo and Tom's noisy progress through the empty streets, creates tension, while particularly innovative is Comfort's use of sound. The radio in Jo and Mark's flat emits loud pop music throughout the opening scene, and Kleinie turns it up on entering to cover the noise of Mark's murder; it's still blaring as Jo and Tom arrive. After they discover the body, Tom stumbles drunkenly across the room, knocking the radio to the floor, from where it emits a distorted and ominous din until Jo pulls the plug out of the socket. Later, the jaunty melody recurs, waking Tom from his drunken stupor on top of a pile of flour sacks at the bread factory and bringing back the awful recollection of the night before.

Jo Botting

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Video Clips
1. Wrong place wrong time (2:55)
2. On the run (3:36)
3. The pursuit (3:01)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Comfort, Lance (1908-1966)
Griffith, Kenneth (1921-2006)
Hemmings, David (1941-2003)
Newman, Nanette (1934-)
Ngakane, Lionel (1928-2003)
Mancunian Studios
B Pictures