Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Obscure and Underrated British Films # 2 - Yield to the Night

Yield to The Night isn’t quiet what I expected. All I’d seen of it was a clip of the sensational (in both senses of the word) opening sequence, where a cold, beautiful busty blonde shoots down a woman in a fur coat. It more than lives up to the rather wonderful US title - Blonde Sinner. It’s fast, flashy, amoral, all strange angles and sharp cuts, like something from a Sam Fuller film. But as the film develops, it becomes something deeper and richer, and the last scene is complete contrast - sombre, intelligent, moving and deeply moral.

This is perhaps writer Joan Henry and director J Lee Thompson ‘s greatest trick - wrapping a political message and a sensitive character study in such an appealing package. The film is an anti hanging polemic, but the filmmakers doesn’t make it easy for themselves. Thompson said “For capital punishment you must take somebody who deserves to die, and then feel sorry for them and say this is wrong. We…made it a ruthless, premeditated murder."

They succeed brilliantly - not only does Mary Hilton kill in cold blood, she doesn’t repent. She’s moody, temperamental, but ultimately utterly sympathetic. A lot of this is down to Diana Dors, who is incredible. She was more known at the time - and since - for her figure and her private life - her to delivering this kind of performance is like Kelly Brooke or Abi Titmus suddenly turning into Kate Winslett.

And it’s her performance, her presence, that ultimately make the film iconic (Morrissey used an image of Dors from the film on The Singles cover.) In the prison scenes, without make up, she’s even more beautiful than in the more glammed up flashback scene - this is a real old fashioned, light-up-the-screen star performance. Apparently not many of her films stretched her as much as this, but if this is her one great role, then it‘s enough.

I met Diana Dors once, when I was young (she died in 1984, so I must have been under 12.) She was opening a Fun Run that my Dad was taking part in. I remember being told to go up to get her autograph. Of course, I had no idea who she was. All I remember is a a big lady in a fur coat with a huge white Rolls Royce. I wish I remembered more. She seemed like someone who enjoyed life and had a sense of humour about herself - she once described herself as “rather like Britain's naughty seaside postcards”

I’ll try to do this more often. Later.

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