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  No Orchids for Miss Blandish Lady Don't Fall Backwards
Year: 1948
Director: St John L. Clowes
Stars: Linden Travers, Jack La Rue, Hugh McDermott, Lila Molnar, Zoe Gail, Leslie Bradley, Danny Green, Charles Goldner, Walter Crisham, MacDonald Parke, Michael Balfour, Percy Marmont, Frances Marsden, Bill O'Connor, John McLaren, Jack Lester, Sid James
Genre: Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Miss Blandish (Linden Travers) is the daughter of a millionaire meat supplier, and all set to marry her fiancé soon, so who is it that sends her orchids accompanied by enigmatic cards with two dice printed on them? She asks them to be sent straight back with the message, "No orchids for Miss Blandish", but her path will cross with her admirer soon enough, only not in the way she could have imagined. Her maid is spying on her, and she passes on the information to her boyfriend Johnny (Bill O'Connor) of where Miss Blandish will be spending her next few days, giving him the perfect opportunity to thieve her famed diamonds, but he needs help. How about taking his plans to local club owner and gang boss Ma Grisson (Lila Molnar) and her son, the feared Slim (Jack La Rue)? Slim is certainly interested in the heiress...

What an enormous fuss this film kicked up when it was first released in Britain. Now almost completely forgotten, it was part of the pattern of moral outrage that has followed cinema in that country since its inception, where every ten or twenty years or so a film (or genre) will be held up as morally corrupting and the newspapers and campaigners descend on them as fuel to their indignant fire. There were even, as is traditional, questions asked in Parliament about this effort as to how exactly it was passed as fit for public consumption, such was its supposedly "sickening" violence. Of course, watching it now seems ridiculous than anyone could take it so seriously, as it's no worse than can be seen on any current television soap opera's racy plotlines.

The script was adapted by director St. John L. Clowes (who unsurprisingly never directed again) from the popular (and notoriously trashy) novel by James Hadley Chase, doing its best to capture the lurid spirit of the source, and to be fair, it does manage a certain sensationalist ambience. Unfortunately, it's painfully obvious that this British production is valiantly trying and failing to emulate the film noir-ish hits of America, and most of the actors except Travers are struggling with accents of a risible quality unheard of until Carry On Cowboy came along in the sixties. Well, to be fair La Rue was actually American, but you find yourself even criticising his vocal stylings along with the others.

What happens is that Miss Blandish ends up kidnapped by the robbers, who then meet untimely demises when one of them turns out to be a murderous psychopath and beats the fiancé to death. One thing leads to another, and she is re-kidnapped by Slim, intervening, but then falls in love with him and he with her - it was Slim who was sending the orchids. He takes her back to his nightclub to hide her away until the trouble blows over, and take a moment to ponder on those acts: a couple of manic dancers, a singer of ludicrous but supposedly risque songs, and a comedian whose impressions of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre don't sound anything like them. As for the much publicised violence, it's stronger compared to other British films of the time, but seeing Sid James get a bottle smashed over his head doesn't really shock these days. So what you're left with is fitfully entertaining, yet largely unintentionally funny gangster nonsense that climaxes in a scene of melodramatic hilarity. Music by George Melachrino.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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