Monday, 18 April 2011

Hell is Sold Out (1951)

This movie has the intriguing premise that an author, Dominic Danges (Herbert Lom) returns after the war having been in a POW camp to find that not only has he been declared dead, but that a young woman called Valerie Martin (Mai Zetterling) has not only ghost-written a best-selling book and published it under his name, but is also currently living in his house pretending to be his widow. When Dominic return home, the only thing Dominic wants is for Valerie to get out of his life, though his agent, Madame Louise Menstrier (hilariously played by Hermione Baddeley) convinces them that it's in both their interests to continue the charade for a while - but it can't last. Of course when Valerie does leave, Dominic begins to realise that maybe getting rid of her isn't what he really wants...

Valerie finds solace in the company of Dominic's friend Pierre Bonnet (Richard Attenborough), who begins to think himself in love with her. Can it all turn out right in the end? Well, you're not really left in much doubt despite all the angst, but it's a reasonably effective storyline. The characters don't always quite ring true, but the humour stemming mainly from Hermione Baddeley's character and general atmosphere of the whole thing sees it through. Herbert Lom doesn't have much to do really, but few people have ever been able to look stern quite the way he does (and that's the main thing he does in this movie); Richard Atenborough gives a fine, sensitive performance, and Mai Zetterling was fine in her role.

A good film, perhaps not really living up to the strength of the initial premise, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.


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