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  Marilyn Left At The Side Of The Road
Year: 1953
Director: Wolf Rilla
Stars: Sandra Dorne, Maxwell Reed, Leslie Dwyer, Vida Hope, Ferdy Mayne, Hugh Pryse, Kenneth Connor, Ben Williams, Gerald Rex, Hugh Munro
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Marilyn (Sandra Dorne) lives with her husband George (Leslie Dwyer) in his roadside garage and cafe business, out of the way near this highway popular with truckers. But nobody else, and she is getting very lonely, with just the maid, Rosie (Vida Hope), her husband hired for company, so when a handsome new arrival shows up to work as a mechanic there, Marilyn is immediately interested. He is Tom (Maxwell Reed), who left his last job when it became too monotonous, but will he find more to amuse himself here?

Well, he'll have, shall we say, mixed feelings about this new place of work, one of the benefits being the presence of his boss's wife, who is obviously interested in him at the expense of her feelings of now-resentment for grumpy George. If this is sounding like a familiar set-up, that's probably because it was lifted by writer and director Wolf Rilla from that classic film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice, although this went in a slightly different direction, with the results predictable. This may have been largely dismissed at the time, or at least accepted with little question, but over the years it has risen in stature.

Loosely, anyway, and not due to a notable innovation in its framework, which was one of umpteen British B-movies of the fifties that tried and failed to compete with the impossible glamour of those films from across the Atlantic (the title character's name is no coincidence). Therefore, yes, the film noir-ish trappings were there, but there was no getting away from the fact that a transport caff in England was not going to match a diner in America, purely because of geography. So what the interest here lay in was what it said about the society of Britain of the decade more than how it sought to emulate Hollywood.

As you might expect, morality was the order of the day, and the script looked sternly upon the anti-heroine's yearning for sensation and entertainment rather than being stuck with a boring cold fish of a husband who reacts angrily whenever she expresses any desire to do anything except sit at home brushing her hair - he doesn't even want her to dance to the jukebox. All of this could be crushingly poignant in the right hands, but Rilla appeared to want to punish Marilyn for her pleasure-seeking, no matter how thwarted it was otherwise, and pin-up of the day Dorne was not quite up to generating sympathy for her character.

Then again, as the femme fatale it was possible she was not intended to do so, and our loyalites were meant for the hapless Tom, played by another star better known for their good looks than acting ability, the well over six foot tall Reed. Dwyer would go on to be most recognisable for the eighties sitcom Hi-De-Hi, where he played the Punch and Judy man who hated kids, and on this evidence he did not bother to modulate his performances much from this to his late period fame. If you know the Postman... story you won't be too surprised at what happens to George, and there are all sorts of seething emotions underneath the surface which occasionally break through - some of them don't, of course, like Rosie's latent lesbianism, or the way that Ferdy Mayne's louche playboy leads Marilyn on when we know he's no good (if he was that rich, what was he doing in these surroundings?). Most distinguished by the way nobody is allowed to get away with anything, this was relentlessly provincial but quite compulsive. Music by Wilfred Burns.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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