Cy Endfield (director)
Network on Air (studio)
01 May 2017 (released)
05 June 2017
This 1957 Pinewood Studios monochrome job is a deserved classic of its time. After all, how can you go wrong with out and out all action men like Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan (both it would seem ex-boxers who wisely hung up theirs gloves in favour of movie stardom) in the lead roles.
The pace of this film is quite unrelenting and there is little if any slack. ‘Tom’ Yately (Stanley Baker) applies for a job as a track ballast driver and really, this is no job for a sissy! In short, Tom soon finds out what this well paid but highly dangerous job entails. Unfortunately not only is corrupt works manager Cartley (a slippery William Hartnell) 'on the fiddle' but his fellow 'Hell drivers’ equally are a bunch of no-goods with one exception: gentle and considerate Gino (Herbert Lom), nicknamed ‘Spaghetti’.
The drivers operate on highly questionable morals and the aim is to makes the most runs - meaning that he who dares most finds himself in possession of the coveted solid gold cigarette case. In this case it’s a nutter by the name of Red (Pat McGoohan at his butt smoking and over-the-top best… Tom Hardy couldn't have done it better) who is in on the crooked deal with the works manager.
But newcomer Tom Yately has another problem: he has just been released from the slammer and he doesn't actually have a driving license. Nevertheless, after being at the brunt of a nasty joke played on him in the works canteen by Dusty (the 'irrepressible' Sid James), Tom is determined to make more runs than foreman Red.
This could be seen as an unwise decision but an integral part of writer John Kruse and director Cy Endfield's script is the rivalry between good guy Tom and psychotic Red. Just as well Tom has one friend to help him, namely Gino (an angel among scumbags), who basically just wants to get enough money to go back home to Italy and take his girlfriend Lucy (Peggy Cummins) – the wages clerk for the haulage firm - with him. As if things weren’t complicated enough she isn't really that interested in Gino any longer after developing a bit of a thing for our Tom. And being in the position of a wage clerk, she is well aware of the scam that manager Cartley and Red have going for themselves. Things come to an ugly head when the gang of truck drivers get involved in an inevitable punch-up at a local dance. Tom simply cannot get involved and thus is branded a ‘yellow belly’. Fear not - this will lead to the climactic fight that we've all been waiting for and there's much more going on besides!
Plaudits must go to Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography - the gripping scenes on the quarry lime pits will not be easily forgotten and the same goes for the speeded-up road shots. As for the soundtrack: from the off, composer Herbert Clifford's score hits exactly the right note. As mentioned before, with Baker and McGoohan in the leads there can be no qualms here! Little squeaky voiced Peggy Cummins was very voguish at the time and Herbert Lom was always a quality and versatile act. We even have a young Sean Connery as trucker Johnny Kates, one of the snides (here looking a bit gauche complete with his Edinburgh accent and heavy eyebrows). And David McCallum also makes a small appearance as Jimmy, Tom’s younger and disabled brother. Hell Drivers still leaves its mark on any road after sixty years and is pure adrenalin to watch! The release furthermore offers Bonus Features a-plenty!