Drama, Thriller

23 Paces To Baker Street (1956)

0 Comments 23 June 2013

23 Paces To Baker Street coverStudio: 20th Century Fox

Theatrical Release: May 18th, 1956

DVD Release: March 1st, 2013

Rating: UnRated!

Directed by Henry Hathaway

Review by Craig Sorensen


A tightly plotted thriller in a ‘Hitchcockian’ vein, Henry Hathaway’s 23 Paces to Baker Street almost plays like a proto-giallo.  And what could have been a great DVD is completely fucked by 20th Century Fox.

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Van Johnson (Battleground) stars as Phillip Hannon, a recently blinded American playwright living in post-war London.  He’s moved to London to escape the emotional pain of his affliction, breaking off his engagement with his former secretary Jean (Vera Miles of Psycho).  She of course has followed him and meets him in his new apartment.  Again avoiding his problems, Phillip shuns her and heads for a local pub.  While there he overhears two people sitting behind him plotting some kind of crime.  He can’t tell what kind of crime or what the people look like so there’s not much that the police can do.  So Philip, Jean (seeing a way to connect with him again) and Phillip’s servant (Cecil Parker of The Lady Vanishes) set out to solve the case themselves.


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20th Century Fox hates Cinemascope.

The film has all the tell-tale calling cards of the giallo genre.  When Phillip gets back to his apartment he records himself reciting the overheard conversation onto a tape deck.  Throughout the film he returns to this tape over and over trying to figure out what he missed, trying to remember that one clue that will finish the puzzle.  Phillip is stalked by a killer wearing a black trench coat and hat at the end in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘70s Italian film.  The film does borrow heavily from Hitchcock (I would assume that it’s intentional to some degree), but isn’t overly derivative.  It stands on it’s own as a fun thriller.  Of course, I’ll probably always give Hathaway a little slack after Kiss of Death.  Anyway, I really didn’t know where the plot was going so there are some surprises here and there.  And that’s what it’s really all about I guess.

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As much as I like this film I’m going to say don’t buy this shitty DVD-R.  This is just fucking lazy.  This thing is Pan & Scan and it was shot in Cinemascope.  That’s just unacceptable.  I would cut them a little slack if there were no other elements at hand but this film is available in it’s original aspect ratio in two discs from England and Spain.  Fox didn’t care enough to just take that transfer and dump it onto a shitty DVD-R (let alone a Blu-Ray, which would look fantastic I’d imagine).  No, they just took an old fucking tape master (either for VHS or television I’m assuming) and hoped that no one would notice.  So skip this release.  They are charging 20 bucks for this shit and you can get the Spanish DVD for 22.  It’s in PAL but it’s pretty easy to get around that now (download VLC).

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

DVD-R Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

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- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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