August 18th, 2015

I Wash

Debts to Shadows

One of the greatest pleasures in life is to see a beautiful actress paired with a great cinematographer. Here Douglas Slocombe shoots Diana Dors seducing George Baker, and us, from across a couple rooftops in 1958's Tread Softly Stranger. A good British film noir, this movie is sadly unavailable in any decent format.

The moral murkiness is wonderful. Baker plays Johnny, a gambler who flees London after owing too much money to the wrong people. He goes to his home town in Yorkshire where most people work in a hellish but brilliantly shot steel mill, including Johnny's sensitive brother Dave (Terence Morgan).

Dave, it turns out, is in debt, too, largely because he keeps buying gifts for his girl, Calico (Dors), who, as she explains to Johnny, may not love Dave but her exploiting of him isn't personal. "I have one talent and most people haven't got any," she says. It's a living and there's upkeep, in other words.

No-one's a villain in this film and the most innocent person commits the worst crime.

Chaotic piles of flats, smoky tunnels with long shadows, white molten metal in grimy black void, the visuals are beautiful expressionism. So it's especially unfortunate the only U.S. release for the film is part of a set of DVDs with miserable reviews on Amazon regarding quality. You might as well watch it on YouTube, which is what I did:

TWitter Sonnet #781

Dollops of scaffolding gird the cooked man.
Envy drips in cherry sun flares of pop.
Sunshades smell of sunscreens and rooftop tan.
Midnight jobs never repealed the bellhop.
Glowing mushrooms were waiting underground.
A golden strut raised technical questions.
Red and silver cables connect the pound.
Johann contained more Bachs than Sebastians.
Concrete rounds deliver games too quickly.
Violin crops provide stringy harvest.
Rooftop Mercurys may die quite slickly.
Breaded crowns teach in a grainy earnest.
Rainstorm blurred footage streaked across the tube.
Flowers with canine spirits dragged the rube.