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Noose (1948)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK ltd

Main image of Noose (1948)
35mm, 95 min, black & white
DirectorEdmond Greville
Production CompanyEdward Dryhurst Prod'ns;
 Associated British
ProducerEdward Dryhurst
ScreenplayRichard Llewellyn
Original PlayRichard Llewellyn
CinematographyHone Glendining
MusicCharles Williams

Cast: Carole Landis (Linda Medbury); Derek Farr (Captain Jumbo Hoyle); Joseph Calleia (Sugiani); Stanley Holloway (Inspector Rendall); Nigel Patrick (Bar Gorman); John Slater (Pudd'n Bason); Edward Rigby (Slush); Reginald Tate (the editor); Hay Petrie (the barber)

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An American fashion journalist and her ex-commando fiance take on an Italian black market racketeer and Soho nightclub owner using a gang of honest tough guys from a local gymnasium.

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Adapted from a successful stage play by Richard (How Green Was My Valley) Llewellyn, Noose forms part of the 'spiv cycle' of a dozen or so British films produced between 1945-50. Described as a 'black market comedy thriller', it displays some slack plotting and character motivation, but has moments of striking visual style.

Whereas 'foreign' Italian racketeer Sugiani is associated with business and violent criminality, Bason's gang represent the British proletariat - tellingly a poster in the opening scene states 'We Work or Want'. They are WW2 veterans, now hard-working market porters. To distinguish themselves from racketeers, they wear football jerseys during the raid, and they use good old-fashioned fisticuffs. In its depiction of good guys versus criminals, Noose captures a widely held view in 1948 that black marketeers like Sugiani, who evaded conscription and profited through criminal activity during the war, needed to be brought to account. The Soho church and the choir heard in the film act as a reminder that a moral code has been violated, so it is appropriate that Sugiani meets his end there.

But the tone of Noose is uncertain - there is little of the sense of threat that one expects from film noir, and the sometimes dramatic lighting has little effect beyond an exercise in visual style. Menace is diffused by comedy: in the portrayal of Bar Norman, Mercia's reading matter, and the western saloon-like raid at the finale. Noose also evokes the murky world of Contraband (d. Michael Powell, 1940) set in the WW2 London blackout with a West End cinema acting as a front for villainy. In Noose, the 'Blue Moon' singer performs in French, and there is elegant dancing. The acting style is decidedly theatrical, notably Nigel Patrick's mannered performance as Bar Gorman, with his telephone answering routine clearly modelled on Sid Field's comic spiv. Maltese-born Joseph Calleia, who spent most of his career playing Hollywood villains, plays Sugiani in a highly melodramatic manner, with heavy make-up emphasising his saturnine features. He and Gorman are the characters you remember - both far more interesting than the dull Hoyle and Rendall. Sugiani's gang features excellent character performances from Edward Rigby, Hay Petrie and Uriel Porter, as black gang member 'Coaly', and Carole Landis attractively plays a journalist writing about Dior's 'new look', and of course, wearing it. Tragically, she had died by the time of the film's release in August 1948.

Roger Philip Mellor

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Brighton Rock (1947)
Contraband (1940)
Third Man, The (1949)
Gréville, Edmond T (1906-66)
Heller, Otto (1896-1970)
Holloway, Stanley (1890-1982)
Slater, John (1916-1975)