This review focuses on the second of the two oddities paired here: THE LIMPING MAN (1953).
Is it a noir? Let's call it a near-noir.
Lloyd Bridges, having survived his encounter with Nabura in the 1945 serial SECRET AGENT X-9, flies into Heathrow and into this British mystery looking a bit older but no worse for wear. As Frank Pryor, he's The American, a fact which unsettles most of the other characters, including one fascinated barmaid who seems to think America is located somewhere out beyond Venus. Scotland Yard has a reason to be interested, though, because the minute Frank steps off the plane the guy walking beside him, who proffers a light, is ventilated by a rifle bullet. Frank hasn't even had a chance to inhale, and suddenly he's looking down at a corpse.
How do we know the bullet came from a rifle? Easy--we see the shooter. Actually, it's not a rifle, it's a crutch; well, not a crutch, but more like a walking stick--a walking stick that you can shoot when you take the little rubber cap off the bottom. Remember when canes all had swords in them? Well, by 1953 they could shoot bullets, which is handy in this instance since the shooter, crouching behind his car, is way too far from his victim to throw a sword.
No one else glimpsed this guy, or his car, sitting by itself in plain view in the field adjacent to the runway, so Scotland Yard naturally interrogates all the passengers on the plane (thankfully we are spared these interviews). They show particular interest in Frank, whom they grill in a cordial, mildly curious way. He's en route to see his wartime girlfriend, Pauline French, so the Yard boys note her address and send him on his way. Then, in an abrupt reversal of cordiality, they put a tail on him.
Pauline, played by Moira Lister (a sultrier name than Pauline French!), is strangely underjoyed to see Frank, though she does her best to put some oomph into her kisses. He learns that Pauline and the dead man, a sleazy character, were . . . well, you know, Frank was way off in America, and the years were long, and the London nights were so foggy and cold. . . . Frank is perplexed: what was she mixed up in? Scotland Yard is suspicious: what other shady connections does she have? And Pauline is a puzzle: why should she be lying to Frank, the American?
There are several good reasons to watch this movie. One is the sheer lunacy of the musical interludes, both of which take place during an onstage magic act. While the magician thrusts knives and other sharp objects through boxes enclosing a supine woman, the woman herself breaks into song ("Hey Presto!" is the engaging title of one number) and keeps it up throughout the act, which we are forced to watch even though we know that the important stuff is happening elsewhere. (When we tire of the singing we can at least distract ourselves with the magician's props, one of which resembles a larger version of the finger chopper that was once every kid's first purchase from the Johnson Smith catalog).
Another good reason is the brief appearance, but only the appearance, of Jean Marsh (she is onscreen for a couple of minutes but has no lines). This was her first movie role (as the landlady's daughter), and she didn't appear in another movie for several years. It's a delight to see this veteran of theater, movies, and TV ("Upstairs, Downstairs," "Doctor Who," FRENZY--it's a long list) as a winsome but saucy 19-year-old in the pointiest bra this side of HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL.
The ending of THE LIMPING MAN: I can't talk about it, and not because I don't want to spoil it for you. No, I want you to watch this thing all the way through so you will suffer as I did. And suffer you will, in the 75th minute of this 76-minute movie. Trust me.
If you can't bring yourself to shell out the asking price for the VCI release, the movie is also available on Alpha and on one of Platinum's Disc's "Mystery" collections.