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  Black Rider, The At Breakneck Speed!
Year: 1954
Director: Wolf Rilla
Stars: Jimmy Hanley, Rona Anderson, Leslie Dwyer, Lionel Jeffries, Beatrice Varley, Michael Golden, Valerie Hanson, Vincent Ball, Edwin Richfield, Kenneth Connor, Robert Rietty, James Raglan, Frank Atkinson, Edie Martin, Peter Swanick
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There are rum doings afoot in the coastal village of Swanhaven and its surrounding countryside, something tied in with the legend of the so-called Black Monk which was said to haunt the area. Local drunk George (Kenneth Connor) is shown the door by the pub landlord after one too many Scotches and opts to take the shortcut home through the nearby ruins, but as he does so he is shocked to see a cowled figure lurking there and scarpers in the opposite direction. Nobody will believe him when he tells them what he has seen... but newspaper reporter Jerry Marsh (Jimmy Hanley) isn't so sure.

One of a plethora of British B-movies distributed by that old reliable Butcher's, The Black Rider was a game try at a biker movie. Yet where the staples of that genre guarantee action, motorcycles roaring down dusty trails, Hell's Angels wearing leathers and denim, the loose women who love them and fights with flickknives and chains, the most exciting thing on offer here is an egg and spoon race. Scripted by A.R. Rawlinson, this was about as twee as adventures got back in the fifties.

Never mind that juvenile reporter Hanley - described as a "young fly by night" by his short-tempered editor (Leslie Dwyer, the short-tempered Punch and Judy man from sitcom Hi-De-Hi) - looks not a day under forty-five and casting him as a thrusting young buck is somewhat hilarious, it all fits the terminally quaint tone. It is Jerry who spearheads the investigation, convinced that there's some kind of smuggling operation going on down at the cove, and he's not wrong as Lionel Jeffries' shady Mr Bremner would appear to know more about this than he's letting on.

We know this because to sabotage any suspense we're privy to his plans, so the only question remaining is whether Jerry will foil him or not, and if you can't work that out then presumably you've never seen a film before. The treatment of motorbikes is highly amusing, starting off as a threat to public safety as the editor and Jerry's mother believe - mother is inconsolable as Jerry drives off with girlfriend Mary (Rona Anderson), wailing that she'll never see them alive again. However, by the end everyone has come round to the powreful force for good that they can be.

This is because British cinema at the time wouldn't dream of having Jimmy Hanley tearing up the streets on his bike, and so there had to be a strong element of social and moral improvement about this. The equivalent of the biker gang we see performs at the village fete, with that egg and spoon race well to the fore, and the only people harnessing the transport for evil are Bremner's gang, who include some dodgy foreigners intent on using an atomic bomb that they are assembling in the ruins, smuggling in the parts on fishing boats. There's not one moment of doubt that this will turn out well for the good guys, no tension and no real danger (Jerry is just as perky after being knocked down a well as he was before), but as an insight into the bog standard entertainment of austerity Britain, it's absorbing. Music by Wilfred Burns.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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