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Classic British Thrillers (1935-1947)

Cast: Binnie Hale, Binnie Hale, Donald Calthrop, more...
Director: Michael Powell, Michael Powell
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: MPI Home Video
Genre: Classics, Drama, Horror, Suspense/Thriller, Supernatural/Occult, Classic Drama, British Drama
Running Time: 210 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

The Phantom Light (1935)
Three talented screenwriters collaborated in adapting Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford's play The Haunted Light to the screen as Phantom Light. This British chiller-diller-thriller begins with the mysterious murder of a lighthouse keeper. After his death, the region is plagued by shipwrecks, each heralded by a "phantom light" beaming from the lighthouse. Female detective Binnie Hale teams with new keeper Gordon Harker and navy officer Ian Hunter to solve the mystery. Directed with a sure and steady hand by Michael Powell, The Phantom Light is infinitely superior to the quota-quickie melodramas then flooding the British film market.

Red Ensign (1935)
One of the best of Michael Powell's low-budget "quota quickies" -- essentially British B-movies made on ultra-low budgets under the government-imposed quota system for British-made movies in British theaters -- Red Ensign was also one of the more intelligent thoughtful dramas of its kind. Set amid the massive economic disruptions of the worldwide depression of the mid-'30s, it tells the story of David Barr (Leslie Banks), the managing director of an idled Scottish ship-building company, who has devised a revolutionary new design for cargo vessels using arcform hulls, which permits them to operate more cheaply and efficiently than any ships currently in service. He can revolutionize the merchant shipping industry, but Barr wants more than that -- he sees that as only the first step to reviving the entire British economy. Barr, who worked his way up from the shipyards (starting as a riveter) to the boardroom, is able to see this larger picture, from the top down to the vantage point of the lowest yard worker, and from the bottom up to the management suites, and he is driven by the breadth and clarity of what he perceives. But before he can do that, or get even one ship built, he has to overcome the resistance of the other directors, upper-class all, who admire Barr's brilliance but can't understand his passion, content as they are to ride out this worldwide depression in cautious comfort. Their leader is the recalcitrant board chairman, Lord Dean (Frank Vosper), who not only doesn't believe in taking risks but also resents Barr's successful wooing of the company's principal shareholder, June Mackinnon (Carol Goodner), the daughter of the company's late founder.

The Upturned Glass (1947)
James Mason stars in The Upturned Glass as a prosperous British brain surgeon. Mason saves Rosamund John's daughter from blindness, whereupon the married John falls in love with the doctor. The illicit lovers conduct a passionate affair while John's husband is out of the country. When John dies mysteriously, Mason suspects that the culprit is his own jealous sister-in-law Pamela Kellino (Mason's real-life wife at the time). Acting on his suspicions, Mason murders Kellino, stuffs her body in the trunk of his car, and drives to parts unknown to dispose of the corpse. Before he is able to do this, Mason is called to the home of a dying child. Despite the risk of being exposed as a murderer, Mason leaves his car unattended to rush to the side of the stricken child. The film doesn't end very happily for Mason, but he is mildly comforted by the fact that he has remained loyal to the Hippocratic oath. Upturned Glass is a virtual compendium of late-1940s British melodramatic devices: tortured hero, well-planned crime, moonlight-drenched photography, lengthy flashbacks, quasi-classical music score, and the rest of the repertoire. The film was coproduced by James Mason, and cowritten by Mason's wife and costar Pamela Kellino.

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