Jacques Tourneur (director)
Studiocanal UK (studio)
89 min (length)
05 February 2024 (released)
04 February 2024
Despite being promoted as a ‘thriller’ there is next to no action in this British b/w movie from 1951. Instead, Jacques Tourneur, a director who seemed to favour a restrained approach for many of his films (including the 1942 supernatural horror ‘Cat People’) relies on dialogue and interaction between his main stars Ray Milland, Patricia Roc, Hugh Sinclair and Marius Goring.
More suspense drama than tense thriller, the film sees Welsh actor Ray Milland on one of his rare visits back to his native land after establishing himself as a top Hollywood star. Here he plays American trawlerman Clay Douglas who is aboard a trawler in Florida waters when the ship's deep-sea diver (an uncredited Peter Butterworth) discovers tungsten – a valuable metal - on the ocean bed. Rather than hanging around for more tungsten to be discovered, Clay cashes in his share straightaway and sets off to Ole Blighty in order to investigate the death of his younger brother, who died under somewhat mysterious circumstances during WW2. Said brother had come to Britain in the early 40's and signed up to join a British Commando regiment. Clay had discovered from a member of his brother's regiment (who has since died) that his brother was killed by a bullet wound to the head, however, the bullet in question was not fired from a German weapon but from an English one…. Not only strange but a clear case of a cover up! Obviously, Clay suspects his brother was killed by one of his fellow unit members.
Unearthing the truth is not going to be an easy task for Clay - that is to say finding all of the men who were in his brother's unit. Managing to get a connection after making inquiries at the War Office, his first port of call is Wales where a miner (who used to be in the same regiment as Clay’s brother) provides Clay with the name and the address of the former commanding officer. As a result, Clay travels up to Scotland to meet Hamish McArran (Hugh Sinclair). Landed Scots gentry seldom have Scots accents and McArran and his family are no exception. While in bonnie Scotland, Clay meets children's author Elspeth Graham (Patricia Roc) who must be pretty successful at what she’s doing, seeing how she has a place in Scotland and a Mews flat is London’s South Kensington. Needless to say, romance is in the air from the off. The fact that Hamish is in love with her as well is a clear no no.
Despite his apparent reluctance, Hamish does give Clay a list of fellow commando troop members - one of whom he describes as a rather fantastic fellow. This is Sholto Lewis (a waspish Marius Goring) - the Matthew Bourne of his day. Clay gets less than little joy from the rather catty Lewis when he visits him at his Hammersmith home cum studio during a rehearsal. Gradually, Clay starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together after he meets other former unit members who thankfully are a little more helpful. The Scottish tune that Clay first had picked up from Hamish is later repeated by shady vintage car salesman Reggie Sinclair (Naunton Wayne), who is 'temporarily out of funds' and which offers a vital clue to the mystery. Meanwhile, Sholto Lewis also utilises it for his new theatrical extravaganza… Soon, Clay will be on his way back to Scotland for a showdown. However, things may not be quite what he had expected them to be...
Competently directed by Jacques Tourneur, Milland gets strong support from a cast of Brit stalwarts. Goring does a nice ott routine and performs a charming little pirouette with a rapier (well he had been in 'The Red Shoes' a few years before). Patricia Roc’s character is rather dull as the nicey-nicey lass who is let down on numerous occasions by Clay due to circumstances. Written by respected crime novelist Philip MacDonald (who seemed to have a thing about lists like in ‘The List of Adrian Messenger’) it is well constructed but deeply lacking in action like many British films from that period. No fights, no killings (we never saw the shooting - not even in flashback). Mind you, there are some us who are content without violence in film. It also boosts some nice photography by top cinematographer Oswald Morris.
With a brand-new restoration and available on Blu-ray, CIRCLE OF DANGER offers the following Special Features: Introduction by Jean-Baptiste Thoiret, Circle of Control: Interview with Christina Lane, Culture Clash: Interview with Imogen Sara Smith, Trailer plus Stills Gallery.