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Tomorrow at Ten (1962)

Courtesy of Mike Blakeley

Main image of Tomorrow at Ten (1962)
35mm, black and white, 80 mins
DirectorLance Comfort
Production CompaniesBlakeley's Productions, Film Corporation
ProducerTom Blakeley
ScreenplayPeter Miller, James Kelly
PhotographyBasil Emmott
Music Bernie Fenton

Cast: John Gregson (Parnell); Robert Shaw (Marlow); Alec Clunes (Chester); Alan Wheatley (Assistant Commissioner Bewley); Kenneth Cope (Detective Sergeant Grey); Ernest Clark (Dr. Towers)

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A millionaire's small son is kidnapped and locked in a room with a time bomb set for ten a.m. the following day. After the kidnapper is killed, the millionaire finds he has only hours to locate his son.

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On its release in the summer of 1963, Tomorrow at Ten received the lukewarm reviews usually accorded to a low-budget film noir of the period. However, watched now in context of other films of the genre, it does have notable elements which set it apart.

Tension is powerfully established during the pre-credits sequence and built up throughout, especially in the intercutting between young Jonathan locked in the nursery and the police attempts to find him. The barely disguised panic and frayed tempers of the adults contrast with the boy's calm demeanour. The film transcends the usual kidnap scenario by having the kidnapper confront both the father and the police, lending the conflict an extra dimension. Moreover, the death of Marlow and the failure of the police to rescue Jonathan in time subvert generic expectations.

The air of antagonism is exacerbated by the lack of female characters: Jonathan's mother is absent, the nanny serves little purpose, save calling the police, after the kidnapping occurs and Parnell's wife waits at home with the dinner on the table. The film is heavy on dialogue and shows a greater interest in psychology than most second features, though it is hindered by time and budget restrictions which allow little development of character and motivation. The character of Parnell is rather one-dimensional, defined by his tenacity and belief in his own ability to persuade others to open up to him; beyond this, the film fails to offer much insight into his personality. The character of Marlow is also somewhat subservient to the plot; tellingly, Parnell is on the point of discovering the root of his anger, but Marlow dies before revealing his motive.

Headed by two experienced and charismatic actors, Robert Shaw and John Gregson, Tomorrow at Ten is a more convincing affair than many such low budget programme fillers, although Shaw was yet to reach the peak of his fame. Other guest stars beef up the smaller parts, with William Hartnell and Renée Houston playing Marlow's parents. Their one scene takes place in the seedy club they run, with its Afro-Caribbean man playing the bongos and buxom woman gyrating to the exotic beat, and is typical of films of the period in focusing on the underbelly of life in the city, anticipating the 'swinging London' period about to explode.

Jo Botting

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Video Clips
1. The kidnap (4:43)
2. Fatal interrogation (1:19)
3. The Golliwog Club (3:06)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Comfort, Lance (1908-1966)
Fowler, Harry (1926-2012)
Hartnell, William (1908-1975)
Shaw, Robert (1927-1978)
Mancunian Studios
B Pictures