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|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)|
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
Harman (George Brent) is the
bookshop manager of the old-fashioned bookseller J. A. Pearson's, who
is the devoted husband of an invalid (Isabel
(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
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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