DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
MAN BAIT (aka: THE LAST PAGE) (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: from a play by James Hadley Chase/Frederick Knott; cinematographer: Walter Harvey; editor: Maurice Rootes; music: Frank Spencer; cast: George Brent (John Harman), Diana Dors (Ruby Bruce), Raymond Huntley (Clive Oliver), Marguerite Chapman (Stella Tracy), Peter Reynolds (Jeffrey Hart), Eleanor Summerfield (Vi), Meredith Edwards (Inspector Dale), Harry Fowler (Joe), Conrad Phillips (Detective Todd), Eleanor Bryan (Mary Lewis), Isabel Dean (Mrs. Harman), Jack Faint (Club Manager); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: ; VCI Entertainment; 1952-USA/UK)

 
"Hammer's Fisher builds tension and pulls off a decent thriller."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The title in England was "The Last Page." Director Terence Fisher ("The Devil Rides Out"/"Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed"/"The Gorgon") does wonders with this flawed atmospheric British mystery melodrama that has American stars. It's based on the play by James Hadley Chase and the screenplay is by Frederick Knott (author of Dial M for Murder). A nice guy bookseller is framed for the death of an ambitious employee blackmailer, whose bad behavior goes out-of-control. All the innocent American characters act dumb (George Brent & Marguerite Chapman), which makes the mess they get into seem unnecessary. But if you can live with that weak part of the film, Hammer's Fisher builds tension and pulls off a decent thriller.

John Harman (George Brent) is the London bookshop manager of the old-fashioned bookseller J. A. Pearson's, who is the devoted husband of an invalid (Isabel Dean). Ruby Bruce (Diana Dors) is the sexy but not too bright invoice clerk, who is under fire for her tardiness. Ex-con Jeffrey Hart (Peter Reynolds) is caught by Ruby stealing a valuable rare book and is not reported, but made to put the book back. The nervy Jeff makes a date to meet Ruby at his club, and then talks her into blackmailing her boss after told about a kiss between them when she worked overtime and how she innocently ripped the sleeve of her blouse on a shelf. When Harman refuses to pay, Ruby, under orders from Jeff, sends a letter to his wife. This causes Mrs. Harmon's death, as she forces herself to walk to the fireplace to burn the letter and then collapses from a fatal heart attack. A crestfallen Harman is visited at night in the bookstore by the reckless Ruby and extracts a handsome ransom, as he can't think straight and foolishly gives her the insurance money he just received. Ruby's crime partner sneaks into the bookstore and kills her when she holds out on paying him off. Jeff then stuffs Ruby's body in a packing case. By the time Harman discovers her body in the crate, the police are after him. It's only his loyal secretary, Stella Tracy (Marguerite Chapman), who secretly loves him, who is certain that he's innocent and feels compelled to act to help him catch the dangerous killer despite the great danger to herself.

This was the first film in the Hammer-Lippert partnership and it resulted in over a dozen low-budget crime dramas Lippert releases of Hammer films in the States between 1952 and 1955. The American actors were supplied by Lippert for box office appeal, while the films were produced in England by Hammer and they also supplied a fine cast of British supporting actors in this underrated series of noir B films.

REVIEWED ON 1/31/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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