Jack HawkinsCol Hyde Contre Scotland YardOn the Film Poster Art site we don’t really have enough space to wax lyrical about the films that we have amazing posters for, so here is a blog to discuss both the poster and the film. Because I can, my first blog will be about one of my all time go to films, a favourite for many years – The League of Gentlemen from 1960.
This terrific British caper comedy is a prime example of the style of comedy that made Ealing such a force in the 1940’s. Directed with style by Basil Dearden this film was once to be a star vehicle for Cary Grant but producer at that time, Carl Foreman deigned it too slight for a star of Grants magnitude. When Jack Hawkins, Bryan Forbes, Michael Relph, Basil Dearden and Richard Attenborough formed Allied Film Makers they bought back the rights, Forbes wrote the script, Dearden directed and Attenborough, Forbes and Hawkins starred in the film with Michael Relph taking over producing duties. From the swirling opening with a score by Phillip Green, the clunky AFM logo and into a dark London street where Jack Hawkins (who was sadly struggling with ill health due to cancer emerges from a manhole, pops back down to avoid being soaked by a street cleaning lorry (where did they all go to?) and then smoothes down his dinner jacket and sets off in his Roller. Cool start to great film.

His recruitment of ex-army types is, like him, organized, meticulous and a bit sneaky. All of his recruits are a bit down on their luck or have been “found out” by the authorities. Not unlike Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File  five years later, our anti-heroes were all a bit naughty while in the army.
I love the idea of a man dissed by his employers (in this case the MOD) who decides to exact some form of revenge by using the skills he has learned in the army to rob a bank. Also using the army’s in depth detail he discovers the way to find just the crew he needs with the skills he requires to make his nefarious scheme a reality. I’m sure everyone has a favourite character in the gang (mine is Major Race played by the suave if slightly camp Nigel Patrick, “my old darling”) and they all have faults and foibles that make them “everyman”. One gay, one a real ladies man living with an older woman, one a dodgy “dirty old man” vicar, poor Rupert who has a wife who teases him about her lovers, all damaged souls who get to be in charge of their lives again with a chance of riches to boot.
The light tone of the film is in keeping with the time but Col Hyde contre Scotland Yard (as the Belgian poster is titled ) has enough subtext to keep everyone interested. Oliver Reed as an ultra gay Babes In the Wood dancer is an amusing side note and the sexual predilections of some of the team are ahead of their time.
All in all, a thoughtful, whimsical, enjoyable British crime comedy with dark undertones. Enjoy and the. Enjoy again. I will.