Noirvember 2018, Episode 24: Bang! You're Dead (1954)
Bang! You’re Dead (aka Game of Danger) (1954)
Directed and produced by Lance Comfort
Written by Ernest Borneman, Guy Elmes
Cinematography by Brendan J. Stafford
British Lion Films
(1:28) New to me - Network (UK) DVD
Two young boys in rural England have found the perfect playground: a decommissioned American army munitions dump filled with treasures. Willy Maxted (Sean Barrett, right) is quiet and introverted, always playing records on his portable gramophone, while the younger Cliff Bonsell (Anthony Richmond, left) is fascinated with guns.
One day Cliff finds an old army revolver, delighted to have the real thing instead of toy guns and sticks. When a young man named Ben Jones (Philip Saville) rides his bike near the area, Cilff decides to play highway robber with him. Jones plays along, but Cliff fires, not realizing the gun is loaded. When Jones falls over, Cliff thinks he’s playing, and walks away. Jones, however, is dead.
Flashback to a scene in which Jones - not a very well liked person in the community - fights with Bob Carter (Michael Medwin) over a local barmaid (Veronica Hurst). Since the fight was witnessed by several people, Carter becomes the prime suspect in Jones’s murder. But Police Detective Gray (Derek Farr) isn’t so sure the case can be wrapped up so quickly.
Bang! You’re Dead is a strange little film that doesn’t overtly try to be a social commentary or a fast-paced thriller, although it certainly contains elements of both. The issue isn’t so much over gun control as it is postwar squalor and economic deprivation in rural Britain. Both Willy and Cliff have adults in their lives (a grandmother and a father, respectively) who are trying to do the best they can. Although total opposites, Willy and Cliff are best friends, even when they disagree on what games to play and how to play them.
It’s not surprising that the film’s title was changed to Game of Danger for U.S. distribution. In fact, I’m surprised the film received U.S. distribution at all. If it were filmed today, it would (sadly) have to be a documentary.
Although Bang! You’re Dead appears to contain a weak finale, I’m not sure any other ending would’ve worked. This is a film worth seeking out, especially for the wonderful performance of Sean Barrett, who went on to star in The Dark Crystal (1982) and Return to Oz (1985) and lately provides voices to video games such as the Dark Souls series, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, and others.
This is my first encounter with director Lance Comfort, whom I’ve learned was one of England’s most prolific directors, making mostly B movies that were by all accounts far better than they had to be. This one certainly is. I’ll definitely seek out more of his work and keep you posted.
Next time: a stunning Japanese noir/police procedural you must not miss
Photos: DVD Beaver