UK / 1950
Director: John Boulting
Writer: Frank Harvey, Roy Boulting (based on a story by Paul Dehn and James Bernard)
Cast: Barry Jones, Olive Sloane, André Morell, Sheila Manahan, Hugh Cross, Joan Hickson, Ronald Adam, Marie Ney
Excellent British thriller which earned writers Paul Dehn and James Bernard an Academy Award for their story, while the film’s documentary style is superbly paced through to its gripping denouement.
Barry Jones stars as Professor Willingdon, a leading atomic research scientist who struggles to think about the consequences of his work. He cracks under this strain and devises a novel way of ending any potential nuclear war: he steals an atomic bomb and announces that, unless all work on the atomic project stops, he’ll detonate it in central London in precisely a week’s time. Special Branch officer Superintendent Folland (André Morell) is given the thankless task of trying to track the scientist down.
John Boulting’s movie successfully depicts a city gripped by panic, with the mass evacuation scenes particularly effective. The manhunt is also well handled, although one of the film’s greatest pleasures is its depiction of the incidental characters: Olive Sloane is strong as the working-class woman who befriends the professor and unwittingly provides him with sanctuary, while Joan Hickson delivers a fine comic cameo as an eccentric landlady who briefly also has the scientist under her roof. The film’s other star is London, with the city’s familiar tourist spots shown in a completely new light.