Saturday, July 5, 2014

MAN BAIT

With a title like MAN BAIT (and the one sheet pictured above), one would expect this 1952 film noir from Britain's Hammer Studios to be much more lurid and sleazy that it actually is. It's not a bad little crime film, just a somewhat restrained and proper one. Of course, when it was originally released in Great Britain the film was titled THE LAST PAGE. Blame the U.S. distributor for the misleading and sensationalistic new title. Once again, a case of selling the sizzle, not the steak.

George Brent stars as a bookstore manager who is being blackmailed by one of his employees, the sultry Diana Dors (who was being touted as the British Marilyn Monroe at the time) and a newly paroled convict played by Peter Reynolds. When Reynolds kills Dors, he plants her body in a box of books that are delivered to Brent's house. When Brent discovers the corpse he goes on the run (actually, more like a brisk walk) to avoid the police and clear his name. He's aided in his quest by his stalwart secretary, the beautiful Marguerite Chapman. Chapman has carried a torch for the married Brent since the days of WWII and now that his invalid wife has died (a result of the blackmailer's schemes), she can finally confess her love for Brent. She does so by tracking down Reynolds herself before she's imperiled by the killer in a raging fire in an apartment.

MAN BAIT was directed by Terence Fisher who went on to become the studios' top director for horror films. It's fun to see what Hammer Studios was doing before they struck box office gold with their series of color, Gothic horror films that launched in 1957 with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. MAN BAIT is worth seeing once for both Hammer and film noir fans.

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