It is the dead of night, and outside this prison a man is skulking around the walls, waiting for the guards to emerge and head off home, thereby offering him the chance to make his move. After they have disappeared from view, the man throws a grappling hook with rope attached and secures it to the top of the wall, then scales it as meanwhile inside in one of the cells an inmate opens a cigarette packet and draws out a selection of explosive equipment which he attaches to the window. The night shift come running when they hear the bang, but they're too late: Paul Gregory (George Nader) has escaped.
Nowhere to Go was the second last Ealing film ever made, and happened along at a time when the axe was about to fall on production head Michael Balcon's operations, having recently seen them have to give up their studio. The writing was on the wall, but this film offered an interesting insight into where the company might have headed should they have been allowed to continue as for such a British producer of films here they seemed to be taking the cue of the Continental style of thriller, meaning what you had here was one of the moodiest efforts from Ealing, though that was not entirely without precedent.
For their star, Americans MGM, who were assisting Ealing by using their British arm, got George Nader to take the lead as the doomed in the film noir fashion criminal. For a while Nader was the subject of cult interest thanks to his starring role in infamous so bad it's good sci-fi turkey Robot Monster, and to an extent he still is, but it was his personal life which began to generate intrigue in the latter half of his career as he was in effect thrown to the lions when his studio wanted to distract attention away from any scandal involving his lifelong friend Rock Hudson. The reason? Both actors were gay, and as there was more money in Rock's career, Nader got saddled with the gossip rags sniffing round his personal matters.
This had the effect of forcing Nader to Europe, where he appeared in low budget genre pictures of which Nowhere to Go was one of the first; work like this and The Human Duplicators ensured he would sustain a profile among cultists, as would his later branching out into writing gay science fiction novels when his health began to deteriorate. So quite an interesting chap, but sadly this rarely came across in his acting, which was mostly your basic stolid leading man of his generation, and he was little different here. However, director Seth Holt was able to utilise this in his favour as Gregory wasn't exactly a sympathetic character, and we watch him more out of curiosity as to how he will extricate himself from the scheming he is trapped within - or possibly won't.
Other points of interest included a young Maggie Smith as the love interest, who passes Gregory like a ship in the night until attaining significance as the net tightens around him, and the co-writer of the script with Holt being Kenneth Tynan, who had worked as a script editor for Ealing. Tynan became renowned as one of the greatest theatre critics of all time, and also as the first person to say the word "fuck" on British television, which caused an awful fuss, though whether it aided or damaged his career was hard to say. As the plot unravels, much of the pleasure from this could be gained simply by appreciating the stark black and white imagery courtesy of cinematographer Paul Beeson: you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, and a variety of reliable Brit thesps added personality, from Bernard Lee as Gregory's dodgy partner in crime to silent star Bessie Love as the lady they burgle a fortune from; it was nice to see Lionel Jeffries as a pet shop owner, stealing the scene as usual. Add Dizzy Reece's late night jazz score and you had a moody thriller which overcame its limitations.
[Studio Canal release this rarity on DVD in the most complete version ever available, restoring its original distributor's cuts, which is as good a reason as any to check it out. The extra is a featurette with interviews to set the film in context.]