Tick… tick…tick – Rediscovering ‘Seven Days to Noon’ (UK 1950 – 94 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - December 19, 2013
Tick… tick…tick  – Rediscovering ‘Seven Days to Noon’ (UK 1950 – 94 mins)

The tense 1950 nuclear suspenser ‘Seven Days to Noon’, may be over sixty years old, but this intelligent doomsday drama seems to get more and more relevant as the years pass.

Disillusioned research scientist Professor Willingdon (Barry Jones) absconds from work with an atomic bomb. A letter to the Prime Minister reveals a threat to blow up the centre of London, if the Government does not declare the end of all research in this field within one week. Superintendent Folland (André Morell) from Scotland Yard, with the aide of Willingdon’s assistant Lane (Hugh Cross), try desperately to find and stop the fevered scientist, before the catastrophic events can unfurl.

A thought-provoking movie with a timely message, ‘Seven Days to Noon’ is required viewing for lovers of suspense and realistic drama. 57 year old character actor Barry Jones is excellent as the troubled Willingdon. A stage actor since 1921, Jones had many roles in both British and American movies. His most notable films being ‘Brigadoon’(1954), ‘Saint Joan’(1957) and ‘The 39 Steps’(1959). The always dependable André Morell plays Superintendent Folland with his usual stiff-upper lip. Morell would later give memorable performances in many productions including Hammer’s 1959 version of ‘The Hound of the Baskerville’s’, as Dr Watson, and 1961’s superb little thriller ‘Cash on Demand’ (both with Peter Cushing).

For British film buffs, the movie has a ‘spot-the-actor’ feel to it. Future ‘Miss Marple’ Joan Hickson crops up, as do the likes of Joss Ackland, Patrick Macnee, Sam Kydd, Marianne Stone, Rupert Davies and the prolific Victor Maddern, who can all be spotted in minor but mostly crucial roles.

Directing twin brothers John and Roy Boulting would later, largely be remembered for their satirical comedies of the 1950’s and 60’s. Such popular titles being ‘Private’s Progress’ (1956), ‘Heaven’s Above!’(1963), and most famously the wonderful ‘I’m All Right Jack’(1959 – which boosted the career of Peter Sellers). Here they do justice to this serious drama, creating both tension and a sense of dread, as the clock slowly counts down to midday on Sunday.

The movie is atmospherically shot by the talented Gilbert Taylor. The shadowy, night-time scenes of Willingdon strolling through London, with the viewer aware of the bomb in his bag, are genuinely unnerving. Then there are the gripping scenes of frightened people evicting London, and the eerie aftermath shots of the empty streets.

Winning the Academy Award for Best Story, ‘Seven Days to Noon’ is a clock-ticking time-bomb of suspense that still grips after all these years. Even when you know the final outcome, it still holds up to repeated viewings.

 

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