Circle of Danger

Circle of Danger Blu-ray cover

Six years after the war the dust has settled but questions remain unanswered for Clay Douglas, his younger brother having relocated to Britain to sign up to fight against the Germans before America became involved; the War Office reticent to divulge information, all that Clay knows is that Hank died at Saint-Celeste in Brittany just a few days before D-Day, the only man on the clandestine operation who was killed, but he is determined to track down his surviving comrades to learn more.

The journey taking him first to Wales then to the Highlands and lochs of Scotland and back to London in search for information, beyond scant leads he is blocked although he makes a friend in Elspeth Graham, courted by Hank’s former commanding officer Hamish McArran, but even accepting that the memory fades and there is a reticence to relive the events of the possibly secret mission Clay suspects there are details which are remembered but being kept from him.

Circle of Danger; Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) takes a Highland shine to Elspeth Graham (Patricia Roc).

Shot on the rainy streets of London and around Devon and Cornwall which double for the remote wilderness of Scotland, Circle of Danger is revisited by StudioCanal as part of their Vintage Classics range, remastered and looking so fresh in crisp monochrome glory that it is easy to overlook that when originally released in 1951 it was only six years since the end of the Second World War and that the feelings it provoked in an audience living in the aftermath would be very different from the detachment of a modern viewer considering what are now distant historical events.

Written by mystery novelist Philip MacDonald and directed by Jacques Tourneur whose resumé includes the horrors Cat People and The Comedy of Terrors, The Uninvited’s Ray Milland stars as Clay opposite The Wicked Lady’s Patricia Roc as Elspeth, supported by The Rocking Horse Winner’s Hugh Sinclair as Hamish and most interestingly Odette’s Marius Goring unexpected turn as Sholto Lewis, a former soldier incongruously turned menacing ballet choreographer to whom Clay takes an immediate and fully reciprocated dislike.

Circle of Danger; Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) is given short shrift by soldier turned theatrical producer Sholto Lewis (Marius Goring).

A long and frustrating road conversing with men whose post-army careers have seen them become miners and canal lock gate attendants, other than Dead of Night’s Naunton Wayne as an odious dealer of upmarket second-hand cars who is happy to divulge secrets in return for remuneration they are on the whole honest but unhelpful, the result being that Circle of Danger is repetitive through the first hour even as the investigation is counterpointed by what is almost a romantic comedy between a man who becomes increasingly distracted and unreliable and an independent woman who is his intellectual match, the verbal sparring between the two drawing attention from what should be the focus.

Predating Tourneur’s classic Night of the Demon by six years, there are unexpected but fascinating parallels between the films in the relationship of Clay of Elspeth, in an antagonist who lives with his mother (here played by The Lavender Hill Mob’s Marjorie Fielding) who makes ice cream for children’s parties and even the use of the exclamation “most peculiar,” and this new edition is supported by an enthusiastic introduction from Jean-Baptiste Thoiret and discussions of producer and Hitchcock collaborator Joan Harrison by Christina Lane and of Circle of Danger as a work of film noir by Imogen Sara Smith.

Circle of Danger will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from StudioCanal from Monday 5th February

Circle of Danger; Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) finds himself outflanked by Sholto Lewis (Marius Goring) and his former commanding officer Hamish McArran (Hugh Sinclair).



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