Time Lock (1957 with Robert Beatty and Betty McDowall)


UK / 1957

Director: Gerald Thomas
Writer: Peter Rogers

Cast: Robert Beatty, Betty McDowall, Vincent Winter, Lee Patterson, Sandra Francis, Alan Gifford, Robert Ayres, Victor Wood, Jack Cunningham, Peter Mannering, Roland Brand, Sean Connery

Modest in scale only, this gripping rescue drama (directed by Gerald Thomas who went on to be the stalwart director of the Carry On series) clings with sweat-soaked claustrophobia and suspense. Robert Beatty heads a team of concerned Canadians, labouring against the clock to save a six-year-old boy who’s been trapped in a seemingly impregnable bank vault.

The plot couldn’t be simpler. On Friday evening, Lucille Walker (Betty McDowall) and her young boy Steven (Vincent Winter) go to the bank to pick up Mr Colin Walker (Lee Patterson). Before shutting up shop, Colin and branch manager George Foster (Alan Gifford) set the vault’s time-lock, ensuring that it cannot be opened until Monday morning. Distracted by an accident on the street outside, they fail to see little Steven slipping inside the vault, and casually shut the safe door, thereby trapping the boy inside.

As soon as they realise what has happened, Walker and Foster spring into action. They call Inspector Hugh Andrews (Robert Ayres) who swiftly organises a crew of acetylene welders to try and burn their way through the door. But this is no ordinary vault. The door is 14 inches thick and made of concrete reinforced by four layers of steel rod mesh, and try as they might, the welders make no progress. It’s 63 hours before the door will open. But Dr Charles Foy (Peter Mannering) and anaesthetist Dr Hewitson (Gordon Tanner), calculate that the air in the vault will last perhaps for only six to ten hours.

By now Howard Zeeder (Victor Wood), the Assistant General Manager of the bank, has arrived. He’s convinced that only one man is able to save the boy. As luck would have it, noted vault expert, Peter Dawson (Robert Beatty), is away on a fishing trip. Eventually he’s tracked down, however, and whisked to the bank by helicopter.

Once on the scene, Dawson injects a new sense of urgency into the fight for Steven’s life, and with the help of the gathering crowd and the introduction of heavy machinery, the rescue team finally manages to punch a hole through the door. But has the kid made it through alive?

The Daily Mail called Time Lock , “A neat and nerve-racking drama played…with an urgency that makes you feel a heartless lout for sitting there doing nothing to help”. Trivia fans should watch out for an early screen appearance by Sean Connery, breaking sweat as a welder.