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Flying Fifty-Five 1939


Director: Reginald Denham

Writers: Edgar WallaceVictor M. GreeneVernon Clancey

Rôle: Charles Barrington


Release Date: 1 May 1939

Synopsis: Bill Urquhart, a young wastrel disinherited by his father, tries to get a job as a jockey, just about the only thing he’s really good at. His name and position work against him, however, so he adopts an alias and prevails upon the charity of a drunken friend, Charles Barrington, through whom he meets Charles’ sister, Stella Barrington, who not only has inherited her father’s racing stables but also his debts. Still incognito, he takes on the job of stable lad for Stella but little does she realise that he could be the man to finally put an end to her money worries forever.

Comment: Marius shows off his considerable comedic skills in this film, portraying a very amusing drunkard. His scenes at the pub with Derrick de Marney as they both get progressively more inebriated and then as they make their way back to Charles's house and attempt to avoid his aunt by climbing up the trellis to his bedroom are hilarious.

Flying 55 1939 film poster

Reviews: Harry Martineau on

What's that you say? A careless, carefree young man-about-town who works in his father's factory and jockeys horses for fun? My word - it must be the '30s! 

Derrick de Marney (who had previously done turns for Hitchcock in Young and Innocent and William Cameron Menzies in Things To Come) turns in a highly personable performance as idle loafer Bill Urquhart - a man to whom responsibilities mean nothing and work is just something to bunk off from whilst playing with the horses. When his patrician father (quite rightly) has enough of this selfish behaviour, the disowned playboy finds himself tramping the streets and has to rely on the generosity of his dipsomaniac friend - stables owner Charles Barrington. This being an Edgar Wallace story, Barrington (the always-watchable Marius Goring) wanders drunkenly through an immediate vicinity which sports a headstrong-but-vulnerable sister, a matronly aunt, two dastardly baddies and, of course, a case of mistaken identity over a dead tramp.

Totally unrelated to the Edgar Wallace murder mystery sub-genre, Flying 55 nevertheless contains a fair smattering of Wallace's snappy patter and is undeniably a rather fun watch. If nothing else it shows that an Edgar Wallace story doesn't have to be (yet another) straight-laced murder mystery.

Availability: DVD (Network) Release Date: 22 April 2013.

Flying Fifty-Five review in the Kinematograph Weekly 27 April 1939
Flying Fifty-Five review in the Waterford Standard 2 September 1939
Flying Fifty-Five review in the Evesham Standard & West Midland Observer 10 February 1940

Bill and Charles at the pub

Bill and Charles wake up the morning after

The Spy in Black 1939

(US title: U-Boat 29)


Director: Michael Powell


Writers: J. Storer CloustonEmeric PressburgerRoland Pertwee

Rôle: Lieutenant Felix Schuster


Release Date: 3 August 1939

Synopsis: When a German U-Boat captain is sent on a spying mission to the north of Scotland during World War One, he finds more than he bargained for in his contact, the local schoolmistress.

Comment: This is the first of the four Powell and Pressburger films that Marius made. He is very amusing as Conrad Veidt's first officer, especially in the scene where they arrive back in port after sixteen days at sea expecting a nice meal after having nothing to eat but tinned sardines.

Reviews: Excerpt from Timeout on the DVD/Blu Ray release: "Darkness, foreboding and regret, rather than any sense of propaganda, dominate this extraordinarily atmospheric World War I spy story made on the eve of World War II. It signals the end of a peacetime era even more clearly than The Lady Vanishes. Daringly, the audience is asked to sympathise with the 'enemy' as the magnificent, shadowy Veidt moves through remarkable Scottish sets on a mission to Scapa Flow to destroy the British fleet. Intrigue, uncertainty and confused loyalties build to a bitter, ironic climax, and along the way Powell effortlessly produces more memorable shots and scenes than can be found in a dozen contemporary films."

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Reader: "This offbeat 1939 British B film was the first collaboration of director Michael Powell and writer Emeric Pressburger, whose partnership would continue through the 50s (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus). Most of the Powell-Pressburger perversity is already in place in this story of a German spy ring at work in England, told entirely from the villains' point of view. The film is dark and beautifully textured, though not as visually rich as the later, higher-budgeted Powell pictures. With Valerie Hobson and Conrad Veidt, Mabuse-like in a black slicker and slouch hat."

Trivia: This is first of his many film and television rôles where we see Marius smoking. He is rarely seen in behind the scenes and publicity photos without a cigarette or cigar in his hand. He must have smoked heavily from his youth and then switched to cigars in his later years.

Availability: DVD/Blu Ray combo - French version with English (Elephant Films: Cinema Master Class) Release date: 2013

The Spy in Black 1939 film poster
The Spy in Black review in the Daily Mirror 28 July 1939
The Spy in Black article & illustrations in The Sketch 16 August 1939
The Spy in Black review in The Times 31 July 1939
The Spy in Black article & photos in The Sphere 12 August 1939
The Spy in Black review & photo in The Sketch 2 August 1939
The Spy in Black review & photo in The Bystander 9 August 1939
The Spy in Black review in the Nottingham Journal 29 July 1939
The Spy in Black (U-Boat 29) review in The Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin) 27 October 1939
The Spy in Black (U-Boat 29) advert in The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama) 12 October 1939
The Spy in Black (U-Boat 29) review with cinema advert in the Times-Advocate (Escondido, California) 13 November 1939
The Spy in Black advert poster in the Evening Standard 15 August 1939
The Spy in Black (U-Boat 29) review & advert in The Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) 22 November 1939
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