No Trace (1950)
Happening across a collection of British Noirs from VCI allowed me the opportunity to give this low budget feature clocking in at a swift 75 minutes a look. It turned out to be time well spent as director John Gilling delivers a first rate tale of murder and deceit.
Our story begins by introducing us to a successful British mystery writer played by Hugh Sinclair. He’s the toast of literary circles who has a lovely secretary in the form of Dinah Sheridan. At a diner party he fences in a jovial way with local Yard inspector John Laurie and his assistant Barry Morse aka Inspector Gerard of televisions The Fugitive.
Once the dinner guests move on, Sinclair finds himself cornered by an old underworld associate from the United States who has some rather incriminating evidence from a past life long thought forgotten. It’s time for a little game of blackmail.
Sinclair pays up but when our unsavory character from his past pushes for more money Sinclair chooses to concoct the perfect murder utilizing one of his mystery thrillers “No Trace” as a template. It’s all rather ingenious how he goes about silencing his tormentor and making off with nary a witness in sight who can pin him to the crime.
The stakes are raised when his friend from the Yard, Laurie invites him along on the case to see who is the quicker at solving it. Real life police methods or that of a fictional detective story writer. Once Sinclair realizes the two women who actually seen him on the night of the murder don’t make the connection, his arrogance rises up a notch and his secretary Sheridan notices a change in her employer.
It’s when Sheridan herself begins offering suggestions as to how the case may be cracked that worry sets in on our killer. Worse yet is when he can’t seem to get Barry Morse out from under his feet. It seems that Morse is quite taken with Sheridan. With Morse constantly hanging about, the guilty conscience begins preying upon Sinclair. His answers and wild explanations to Sheridan are becoming a little too much like the fiction that he writes.
I must confess when I first put this film in the player I had to wonder if I was watching a grace C programmer from Monogram as the opening credits and score from John Lanchbery sure seemed as if they were borrowed from a Lugosi thriller of the mid forties. I was quickly put at ease as the plot developed quickly and kept me interested.
The film is book ended quite nicely and the final clip is well worth the wait as Sinclair …… no I can’t spoil it. Lets just say I thought it a marvelous way to approach the fade out of this surprising low budget gem that also credits the screenplay to our director Gilling.
I think it’s fair to associate director John Gilling with the horror genre thanks to his efforts with Hammer films including the underrated Plague of the Zombies. He also helmed the top notch independent thriller from 1960, The Flesh and the Fiends with Peter Cushing. Of note then is that Fiends was produced by Monty Berman and Robert S. Baker. Both of whom are credited to this Noir thriller.
It would seem that Gilling, Berman and Baker made for a nice trio.