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  Weapon, The Bang Bang You're Dead
Year: 1956
Director: Val Guest
Stars: Steve Cochran, Lizabeth Scott, George Cole, Herbert Marshall, Nicole Maurey, Jon Whiteley, Laurence Naismith, Stanley Maxted, Felix Felton, Denis Shaw, John Horsley, Fred Johnson, Joe Aston, Peter Augustine, George Bradford, Roland Brand
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Erik (Jon Whiteley) is a young boy in London born to an American single mother, Elsa Jenner (Lizabeth Scott), and his father died in combat some time ago. This does not put him off playing cowboys and Indians, which he is doing on bombsites and wasteground when the leader of his friends tells him to go and hide, so they can play cops and robbers instead and try and find him. This he does, but such sites are not necessarily safe, and when he and a pal conceal themselves in an abandoned building, they cause the roof to collapse. They are unharmed, but Erik notices a handgun embedded in the brickwork that immediately captures his imagination, though when he shows it off, there is some argument and he accidentally shoots said leader. "He's dead!" cries someone...

The Weapon was not the first movie to show British children getting up to mischief among the ruins of buildings thanks to World War II, but it was one to take the issue seriously, that it might not be the greatest of ideas to let them play there when there are so many things that go wrong. Not that finding a gun would be likely, but there were all sorts of perils involved, and here this is the trigger, so to speak, for a series of escalating events, as after all there has to have been someone who left the gun where Erik found it, and there is a strong possibility he wants it back. Heading this largely British cast were two American imports, Lizabeth Scott and Steve Cochran, the latter playing a US Army Captain doing a spot of investigating of his own to track down the provenance of the now-missing firearm.

It is of an unusual calibre, you see, which alerts the Americans stationed in Britain that something is seriously amiss. Actually, the London Superintendent heading the local investigation is played by George Marshall, a much-respected thespian of an earlier vintage, though here looking tired and distracted, sadly, as he does not appear to have ventured from the studio to film any of the location scenes outside around the capital. Therefore to the British audience it was the mixed feelings about American culture that fuelled the drama, as while there was much tutting about the American propensity for gun violence - as there is now - there was an undeniable attraction to the fictional depiction of that violence because it made for a rattling good yarn in all that imported television and movies, and indeed print.

This left the concern, on the surface, "Americans, cuh! So violent!" but underneath there was a current of "Americans, fantastic! So violent!", and though the villain was British and introduced early, he had been influenced by the love of guns from across the Atlantic. Perhaps surprisingly to those more used to his comedy work, he was played by George Cole, and you have to say this casting was quite inspired, as he did a very good job, genuinely unnerving when his usual affability was put to sinister use. Wanting his gun back, knowing he will be incriminated for murder if it gets to the authorities, he sets about romancing the distraught Elsa as her son goes missing when we can see she should really be connecting with Cochran's less shady military man. Also here was Nicole Maurey who gets a somewhat superfluous subplot as Cole's old flame who can also incriminate him, but is mainly present to add Continental flavour as many of her French countrywomen were in British films of the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Although skirting improbabilities, and a little too easily distracted, The Weapon was a pacy, noirish thriller with neat imagery of London from director Val Guest. Music by James Stevens.

[Network release this on Blu-ray as part of The British Film with a featurette (two of the crew are interviewed, and a teasmade makes a guest appearance), an image gallery and subtitles.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Val Guest  (1912 - 2006)

British writer, director and producer, best known for his science fiction films, who started on the stage, graduated to film scriptwriting (Will Hay comedies such as Oh! Mr Porter are among his credits) in the 1930s, and before long was directing in the 1940s. He will be best remembered for a string of innovative, intelligent science fiction movies starting with The Quatermass Xperiment, then sequel Quatermass II, The Abominable Snowman and minor classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

He also made Frankie Howerd comedy The Runaway Bus, Cliff Richard musical Expresso Bongo, some of Casino Royale, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 1970s sex comedies Au Pair Girls and Confessions of a Window Cleaner, and his last film, the Cannon and Ball-starring The Boys in Blue.

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