Review: The Long Memory

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The Long Memory is a British classic film noir from 1953. The film is directed by Robert Hamer based on a book by Howard Clewes.

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The main plot of this film is nothing new, Phillip Davidson, played by John Mills is falsely accused of murder and sent to prison for 12 years. When he gets out he seeks justice on those that framed him. The added spice to this plot comes from its smaller characters. Fay, played by  Elizabeth Sellars, is Davidson’s girlfriend at the time of the murder. Davidson and Fay go to a ship to meet Fay’s Father. The Father is smuggling people out to sea for a small price. Boyd, played by John Chandos is the brains behind this scheme. When Boyd and the newest person needing smuggled get in a fight on the boot, Boyd kills the man. Davidson tries to stop Boyd, but in the scuffle the boat catches on fire. Fay and her Father get off the boat, along with one of Boyd’s thugs. Davidson is rescued, but when the body is found he is accused of murdering Boyd, though the body belongs to the man needing smuggled.

Fay decides to testify against her boyfriend to protect her father. During the 12 years Davidson is in prison, Fay marries a police officer, Bob Lowther played by John McCallum.

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This sets up many questions to be answered, Will Lowther do anything to protect his wife or will he do what is right? Will Davidson get his revenge on Fay? Did Boyd survive the fire on the boat?

Along the way Davidson helps Ilse, played by Eva Bergh. Ilse has had a horible life, loosing her parents at 12 and forced to work at a criminal’s hangout as the barmaid where she sufferers even more at the hands of evil men. Ilse has little to do with the main plot, but adds a bit more grit to this tale and is played wonderfully by Bergh. She was one of the high points for me in this film. Ilse isn’t the mirror image of Fay in this like we see so often in film noir. Fay isn’t exactly an evil femme fatale and Ilse isn’t the good girl from the right side of the tracks either.

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This film is worth watching and has its charm, it is a pretty decent and fun classic film noir to watch. Though it does have some originality and is well filmed it is by no means an all time great film noir, but does deserve to find more of an audience among noir fans.

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