Sony // 1957 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // April 13th, 2013
Mobsters invade Teamsters!
Harry Miller (Victor Mature, Kiss of Death) is an American serviceman just out of the Second World War and is living with his British wife, Connie (Gene Anderson, The Day the Earth Caught Fire), and their son in his wife's homeland. He wants to return to the States and restart his life, but Connie wants to wait a few months so she can spend time with her family. He reluctantly agrees and gets a job as a truck driver with her uncle's company. He's a solid, moral man so is disturbed to discover the systemic corruption within the company. When he tries to fight back and helps Lynn (Diana Dors, Here Come the Huggetts), the girlfriend of Joe Easy (Patrick Allen, Hell, Heaven, or Hoboken), he finds himself in danger. When she falls in love with him, it threatens to tear his life apart.
Generally, I'm pretty selective about the movies I'm willing to call film noir; a crime thriller doesn't automatically become noir because it's low budget and in black and white. The Long Haul comes close in enough ways, though, for me to cede the point, even though there are plenty of plot points that don't fit and it premiered nearly a decade after that specific genre was done.
Regardless of what you want to call it, this British produced thriller is a whole lot of fun. With its grim and mean plot, heavy dose of violence, and sexuality, it pretty much hits the notes of what I like to see in my crime stories. Given its overseas origins, I don't know how heavily it was under the thumb of the American production code, but almost every plot point seems to break some aspect of it (except the "crime does not pay" issue, but that was pretty common everywhere during the era). Adultery and murder run rampant throughout every part of the film and there's even a weird paternity plot twist that, while maybe not the best handled of twists out there, was fairly surprising to see.
The American serviceman coming home to find a poor life waiting for him was a very common trope at this time, but director Ken Hughes (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) moves through the with a sure hand. There's an interesting, almost comic book, way in which the film is put together, the way scenes are framed, and the way the performances are delivered. It's like a Rex Morgan strip about corrupt truckers, which is kind of jarring and fun to watch.
The problem with the style is that, as a result, many of the performances are way overdone. Mature is perfect in his role; he played such men plenty of times to his best successes, and delivers a kind of everyman pathos that his grizzled face was well-suited for. The big draw for British audiences was Diana Dors, whose platinum blonde locks and healthy "assets" made her England's answer to Jayne Mansfield (minus the gruesome death). Unfortunately, Dors wasn't much more of an actress than her American counterpart, and delivers her lines like she's in constant distress. She looks the part, but can't quite handle the drama. The other performances are pretty stock, but that's no big deal. They serve their purposes, but Mature is the star here and the only performance to really watch. With his performance, the strong plot, and fine direction, The Long Haul is well worth a watch.
The Long Haul arrives on DVD from Sony with a fine looking release in their Columbia Classics line. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is quite good, with strong black and white contrast and a clean crisp image. I can't say how prior editions of the film fared, but there is very little damage to the print at any point and it looks as solid as I could have hoped, especially for a manufactured on-demand product (contrast this, especially, with the recent Fox Cinema Archives travesty that is Warlock). The 2-channel mono sound mix fares pretty well, too, though maybe not quite as well as the image. The dialog is consistent and clear, but the music is a little low and there is an occasional background hiss. The only extra is the very fun old-style trailer, standard for the label.
While many of the performances are overwrought, even for noir, the plotline is rock solid and The Long Haul is a perfectly enjoyable British thriller that most genre fans will love. It isn't the best example of the style, but I can easily recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated