Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Hell Drivers (1957)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Hell Drivers (1957)
35mm, black and white, 108 mins
DirectorCy Endfield
Production CompanyAqua Films, Rank Film Productions
ProducerS. Benjamin Fisz
ScriptJohn Kruse
 Cy Endfield
PhotographyGeoffrey Unsworth

Cast: Stanley Baker (Tom); Herbert Lom (Gino); Peggy Cummins (Lucy); Patrick McGoohan (Red); William Hartnell (Cartley); Wilfred Lawson (Ed); Sidney James (Dusty)

Show full cast and credits

An ex-con takes a job as a ballast driver and encounters a world of dangerous conditions, murderous rivalry and corruption.

Show full synopsis

A vigorous, violent and thoroughly enjoyable ride, Hell Drivers (d. Cy Endfield, 1957) is saved from the B-movie graveyard by taut plotting, tense direction and potent performances. Stanley Baker is impressive as troubled ex-con Joe, haunted by a driving accident that crippled his brother, who drifts into a new job and ends up confronting corruption and murder.

Set among the swaggering drivers of a road haulage yard, Hell Drivers is an unusually tough film for its time, which, with its mix of regional, working-class characters, its natural, uncompromising performances and its bleak, black and white aesthetics, has something in common with the emerging British New Wave. The setting is an unidentified dead-end semi-rural wasteland, punctuated only by a greasy spoon café, a run-down guesthouse and the tawdry local hop, where the drivers vent their bottled-up aggression on the boyfriends of the local women.

An unusually strong supporting cast is led by Patrick McGoohan as Joe's arch-rival Red, and also includes William Hartnell, Herbert Lom, Sid James, Wilfred Lawson and a pre-Bond Sean Connery. In the film's only significant female role, Peggy Cummins is particularly good as Lucy, the sexy, tough but finally tender femme-fatale caught in the centre of a whirlwind of testosterone. Endfield delivers the thrills with some jaw-tightening driving sequences, as the fleet of decrepit trucks compete at breakneck speed along narrow and potholed country roads to carry off the trophy for most deliveries in a day.

It is a supremely macho film - a study of male aggression and rivalry, skill and professional pride which evokes memories of the great American director Howard Hawks and covers similar territory (although not quite so impressively) to the French classic The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur, France/Italy, d. Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953), which was itself a model for the later Speed (US, d. Jan de Bont, 1994).

Mark Duguid

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Trial run (4:17)
2. Lucy and Gino (2:15)
3. Road rage (2:58)
4. At the dance (1:31)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
They Take The High Road (1960)
Baker, Sir Stanley (1928-76)
Bass, Alfie (1920-1987)
Cummins, Peggy (1925-)
Day, Tilly (1903-1994)
Endfield, Cy (1914-95)
Hartnell, William (1908-1975)
Jackson, Gordon (1923-1990)
James, Sidney (1913-1976)
Lom, Herbert (1917-2012)
McGoohan, Patrick (1928-2009)
Unsworth, Geoffrey (1914-1978)