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  Hell Drivers I Like Trucking
Year: 1957
Director: Cy Endfield
Stars: Stanley Baker, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, Herbert Lom, William Hartnell, Wilfrid Lawson, Sid James, Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, David McCallum, Sean Connery, Wensley Pithey, George Murcell, Marjorie Rhodes, Robin Bailey, Marianne Stone
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A man calling himself Tom Yately (Stanley Baker) arrives at the gates of Hawletts, a road haulage firm, looking for work. A friend of his told him that there was a job to be had there, the reason being that his friend has been in an accident and has left a position free, so after a little persuasion he is allowed entry to go to the office. The secretary, Lucy (Peggy Cummins) isn't sure that he's needed, but sends him through to see the manager, Cartley (William Hartnell) anyway. Tom isn't giving much away, but after pressing Cartley he finds he is needed. However, breaking the law is second nature to Hawletts' employees - will Tom be up to scratch on the dangerous country roads?

Gritty is the word for Hell Drivers, which mixes drama and action in a way that suggests that driving lorries full of gravel is a vocation to be taken very seriously indeed. In fact, the whole film demands to be taken seriously, with a great cast of British character actors and cult stars from film and television acting as tough as they possibly can: the production reeks of testosterone. And few were tougher actors than Baker, a real man's man who secures a fitting vehicle (so to speak) for his talents as a fellow with a shady past he's trying to forget, but starting anew working for a dodgy business might not be the best idea he ever had. Although when you're just out of prison, what choice is there?

A spell in jail is Tom's big secret, which is not revealed until well into the film but is guessable from the opening scene. Nevertheless, he has more urgent matters to deal with now, such as avoiding being splattered all over the country lanes he is forced to hurtle down by Hawletts. After a quick driving test that sees him in the ominously titled truck number 13, which has unreliable brakes, Tom finds himself at the beck and call of a company that exploits his unsteady status for their own monetary gain. Not only that, but there's only one fellow driver out of about ten or fifteen that he really makes friends with, the kind-hearted Italian known as Gino (Herbert Lom) who happens to be going out with Lucy. To complicate matters, Lucy now has her eye on Tom.

Those action sequences are as muscular as the acting, thanks to director Cy Endfield (who scripted with John Kruse, writer of the short story this was based on) maintaining a grim tension throughout. All the males are gruff and macho, a state of mind that turns yet more threatening when Tom's rivalry with foreman Red (Patrick McGoohan fiercely deploying an Irish accent and constantly smoking even when brawling) ends up with Tom ostracised by the other drivers (except Gino) and subject to workplace bullying. He's made of stern stuff, of course, so doesn't take this behaviour lying down, and soon has made up his mind to break the corruption racket. Meanwhile, his relationship with Lucy is in danger of losing him his only friend. Everyone is so teeth-grindingly hard as nails that Hell Drivers works up an atmosphere akin to hysteria that erupts in the fights and truck chases, but for a window into the world of British 1950s tough guys, it's hard to beat. Music by Hubert Clifford.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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