Mirror Mirror – Rediscovering ‘The Man in the Back Seat’ (UK 1961 – 57 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - February 18, 2016
Mirror Mirror – Rediscovering ‘The Man in the Back Seat’ (UK 1961 – 57 mins)

A nifty London-based B-movie with a surprising twist, the genre-changing ‘The Man in the Back Seat’ is one of those late night relics that takes you by surprise and, at just under an hour in length, wastes no time with its set-up and execution.

After robbing a racetrack of its takings, bickering thieves Tony and Frank (Derren Nesbitt and Keith Faulkner) find themselves lumbered with the unconscious body of the bookie (Harry Locke), who’s still chained to the briefcase they’ve just stolen. After some tricky obstacles and finally freeing themselves of the bookie’s body, the pair suddenly have a spine-chilling encounter, leading to an explosive ending for the dangerous duo.

Adapted from an Edgar Wallace mystery, ‘The Man in the Back Seat’ is very well directed by B-movie stalwart Vernon Sewell, who would reunite the following year with lead actors Nesbitt and Faulkner, for the superb thriller ‘Strongroom’. Sewell would go full-blown supernatural that same year with the terrific and genuinely scary ‘House of Mystery’ (’61), a hard-to-find ghostly tale, but well worth tracking down.

Although this is mainly a two-hander between the clumsy crooks, there are a few scenes featuring the devoted wife of Frank, played by a young Carol White, and moments of tension, notably when the pair attempt to dump the bookie outside a hospital, before realizing they’ve left their fingerprints behind. Most of the action takes place from inside the getaway car, but it all leads to a surprising and quite memorable ending.

With a smile-inducing sting in its tale, ‘The Man in the back Seat’ is a taut B-movie that’s best viewed without knowing too much about it. The two leads are perfect in their roles, and the solid direction elevates the basic plot, which thankfully keeps the running time nice and short.

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