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Never Let Go (1960)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Never Let Go (1960)
35mm, 91 min, black & white
DirectorJohn Guillermin
Production CompanyIndependent Artists
ProducerPeter De Sarigny
Screenplay Alun Falconer
From a story byJohn Guillermin
 Peter De Sarigny
CinematographyChristopher Challis
EditorRalph Sheldon
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Richard Todd (John Cummings); Peter Sellers (Lionel Meadows); Elizabeth Sellars (Anne Cummings); Adam Faith (Tommy Towers); Carol White (Jackie); Mervyn Johns (Alfie Barnes)

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A cosmetics salesman suffers the theft of his prized Ford Anglia. His search leads him to a car-stealing ring operated by a vicious criminal.

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If Never Let Go had been made a decade earlier, the plot would almost inevitably have had a 'little man' battling with the help of some paternalist authority figures. However, when the film entered production in late 1959 it reflected a far colder, less benevolent Britain. As such, it deserves to be compared with The League of Gentlemen (d. Basil Dearden, 1960) for its sense of unease with the prevailing social mood.

John Cummings is a physically unimpressive figure, who hopes his new Anglia (supplied to Independent Artists by a very publicity-conscious Ford Motors) will lend him a touch of affordable glamour as well as allowing him to increase his sales calls. The film clearly suggests that his dreams of affluence are destined to remain unfulfilled. His repayments are nearly beyond his means and the new Anglia is swiftly stolen. Cummings is a man variously pitied and despised by his colleagues, his employer, his clients, the police - even his wife. One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is the implication that Cummings' main enemy is not so much the criminal mastermind Meadows but himself.

By contrast, Lionel Meadows is a dapper figure with a large car showroom, a taste for imported Buicks and a craving for respectability - his constant watchword is 'legitimate business'. A shrewd operator, he leaves most of the dirty work to his unintelligent henchmen. If Cummings is to confront Meadows, it means leaving his lower-middle-class bolthole to enter a neon-lit Hades of seedy cafes and jukebox music frequented by Teddy boys and sinister men in black shirts and white ties. One particular strength of the film is the way it allows Adam Faith to make Tommy Towers a believable teenager instead of the familiar 'folk devil' of so many British films of the time.

Richard Todd brings to Cummings truthfulness and great conviction, but the real acting honours go to Peter Sellers, who makes Meadows one of the most frightening villains in British cinema. As a highly intelligent strategist whose inner rage is barely concealed by a slick exterior, Meadows anticipates Richard Burton's Vic Dakin in Villain (d. Michael Tuchner, 1971) as a hood who secretly yearns for social acceptance.

Andrew Roberts

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Video Clips
1. A car is missing (3:09)
2. Death for a Salesman (2:19)
3. Youth is taught a lesson (2:36)
4. 'What about my car?' (2:17)
Villain (1971)
Challis, Christopher (1919-)
Faith, Adam (1940-2003)
Jones, Peter (1920-2000)
Le Mesurier, John (1912-1983)
Sellers, Peter (1925-1980)