Lawrence Huntington (director)
Network on Air (studio)
06 April 2020 (released)
05 April 2020
This 1949 British Film Noir concerns the misfortunes of a British Army deserter who finds himself wanted for the murder of a policeman after being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sergeant Peter Burden alias Brown (Derek Farr) is a British Army deserter (having served four years in the Army nonetheless) who is working behind the bar of a little village pub on the South Coast. Unfortunately a punter called Newman (Kenneth More) chances into the pub and - would you believe it - he was a Corporal in the same regiment as Burden. How unlucky can you get? Well well, and what does the slimy basket (you couldn't say bastard then) do after having recognized the deserter? He promptly decides to blackmail the poor sod. Peter Burden, who now calls himself Peter Brown, does the only logical thing by packing his bags and heading for London (hardly a good idea - why didn't he go to another quiet coastal resort?). In no time he's in rental arrears and thus decides to sell his service revolver. Now another coincidence lies in store for Peter and it really does verge on the ridiculous. Having entered the shop he takes out the gun and is about to ask the shop owner how much he'll offer him when two masked and armed men burst in… also brandishing guns. Only they aren’t planning on selling their weapons but intend to rob the shop. They don't bother with Peter and run out of the store (as does he) but in making their escape the police are already on the scene (just like in real life) when one of the robbers shoots and kills a copper.
Of course the shopkeeper assumes Peter was involved with the two criminals and is able to give a good description to the police, as Peter was the only one not wearing a mask. Peter shaves his moustache off but later runs into even more trouble in a local Soho pub when he is accused by a paratrooper of stealing his change (just as the pub’s wireless delivers a message about the robbery and murder). Making a hasty exit Peter abducts a woman going into her flat and forces an entrance. After explaining to her in detail what has happened the woman, Jean Adams (Joan Hopkins), agrees to help the luckless chap. Yes, you guessed love is in the air. Meanwhile the police, headed by the intrepid C.I. Mitchell (Edward Chapman, who was far too short to be a policeman) and his assistant Detective Sergeant Lawson (Laurence Harvey) arrive within minutes to search her flat after a tip-off but fail to find Peter (who is hiding under the bed sheets). Jean agrees to get rid of the incriminating gun that Peter still has and walks down to Waterloo Bridge to chuck it into the Thames. For whatever the reason she doesn’t make sure no passers by are near and indeed, no sooner does she chuck the gun in the water when she is apprehended by a Bobby: “Not thinking of chucking yourself in, are you?” It gets more fantastic still for the revolver, instead of landing in the water, ended up on the deck of a passing boat!
Jean and Peter then go to stay - as the situation in London is getting a little hot - with May Baker (Eleanor Summerfield), a friend of Jean's who runs the Anchor Hotel on the Sussex coast. Also, Detective Lawson and Inspector Mitchell are on to Jean as they don’t believe her story of not helping the culprit… In the hotel, Peter tells Jean that he remembers one of the men was tall with an Australian accent and the two middle fingers of his left hand were missing. On returning to London alone, Jean sees the very same man in a local cafe sitting at the table opposite her. How about that for another coincidence? This man is Slim Elfey (Edward Underdown - who appears to be attempting to hide the tops of his two middle fingers behind a teacup handle). Jean follows him to his whereabouts and then phones Peter at the hotel who returns to London to confront the villains. The other villain, Dan Underwood (John Bailey) is about as convincing as Andy Pandy playing Ronnie Kray though both thugs manage to capture Peter. At the end his ass is saved by Mitchell and Lawson. Despite his enormous help in bringing the robbers/cop killer to justice Peter can’t escape justice, as he’s a deserter after all. Off he walks into the slammer while Jean promises to wait for him. In contrast, the alternative German ending offers a happy ending (and a very different courtroom)!
David Farr is just about acceptable as a leading man and the most remarkable thing about the little known Joan Hopkins (they all had to have pukka accents then) was her tiny waist. The film is an almost competent little piece from writer/director Lawrence Huntington who was at the time very prolific and is perhaps best known for 'Wanted for Murder' and 'The Franchise Affair'. MAN ON THE RUN, however, is all Huntington and the amount of coincidences piled one here mount up to something almost beyond laughable but this in itself should not spoil your enjoyment. As part of the British Film Collection, Network have just released this film newly restored on Blu-ray.