The Long Haul (1957)
For the better part of an hour, this noir like tale of British gangsters running the truck industry delivers a punch that is only enhanced by American leading man Victor Mature starring opposite the blonde bombshell, Diana Dors. If only it had stayed the gritty course it was on as opposed to a safe Hollywood ending come the final reel it might be considered a minor classic.
Big Vic is a military man stationed overseas with a British wife and young son. When his military duty ends, he stays on in Liverpool and takes a job as a truck driver moving freight. He is quickly going to find out that cigar smoking Patrick Allen has a neat little scam going and a few hoods in his employ to enforce his rule. Allen runs the trucking office and hands out the assignments. Plenty of the truckers are paid to look the other way while freight is stolen. Allen then turns around and sells the items on the black market while collecting from the insurance companies thus doubling his profits.
Mature runs afoul of Allen from the start and takes a back alley beating for his being difficult meaning essentially honest. Allen’s trophy girl, Dors takes pity on Mature and does him an act of kindness helping him to find medical attention. Vic is now indebted to the dressed to thrill Dors and will return the favor when Allen plays rough with her. While Vic may be married to the girl next door, Gene Anderson, the lure of Diana is too strong and he will find himself headed down the path of adultery.
When Mature is accidently given a load of freight that is to be outright stolen, he resists only to find Allen’s thieves make off with the prize while he has stopped overnight along the road with Diana. His credibility is sunk with the truck companies and he suspects Dors was leading him along on behalf of Allen’s mob. The police are beginning to take notice as well. With no jobs in sight and a tragic accident occurring as the result of the next heist, Mature slowly turns to Allen for criminal work.
The criminal aspect of the film works well and all four leads deliver solid performances. I’m always under the impression that Mature gets a bit picked on for his performing and that may be in part due to his famous quote, “I’m no actor, and I’ve got 64 pictures to prove it.” But while watching this one, I was very impressed with his tired working man act who is at heart an honest man caught up in a bad situation and giving into temptation in the form of a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. It’s hard not to disagree with Dors comment, “Usually when a fellow takes a girl out and buys her a meal, he thinks that she’s the dessert.” Dressed like Dors is throughout this movie, I shouldn’t have to wonder why. I’m no authority on Dors the performer but I thought she was very good here as well.
It should also be noted that Dors was very much on the minds of the producers attempting to sell the film. Much like Sophia was the same year as she took center stage opposite Alan Ladd in Boy on a Dolphin.
While Mature and Allen become uneasy allies, the film will take a turn toward a Wages of Fear (Sorcerer) style finale that somehow breaks up the very Noir feel that the film had working for it and of course the feel good Hollywood fade out that comes across as a bit unbelievable. For that matter so is the reason for Mature’s attempt to turn his back on the little wife back in the flat in the first place. Yes, the melodrama rears it’s head around the one hour mark.
From director Ken Hughes, this is a worthy flick to add to your list of titles to look into when the chance arises. It does show up on TCM and is also out thanks to the MOD line from Columbia. There’s a line in here from Big Vic that best describes the characters in the film that I’ll leave you with.
“We’re out of road.”