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British Film Noir Double Feature: (The Slasher (Cosh Boy) / Twilight Women (Women of the Twilight))
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THE SLASHER (Cosh Boy): A swift moving, no punches pulled exposé set in London's tenement district, with a ruthless teenager (James Kenney, reprising his stage role) blackjacking an old woman to get her purse, and graduating to gang leader whose young cutthroats spread terror over the entire city. At the start of her bad girl career, Joan Collins is the girl he loves and leaves, with tragic results. A controversial motion picture in its era and still potent today. Based on the play, Master Crook. 1952 | 75 min | B&W |1.33:1 | NR TWILIGHT WOMEN (Women of Twilight/Another Chance): Originating on the London stage, this hard-hitting tale is set at a boarding house-haven for unmarried mothers, owned by a woman (Freda Jackson) whose outward show of upstanding character hides her true personality: a fiend who abuses the women and farms out their babies! Madness, squalor, bedbugs and a dead baby add to the atmosphere of shock. Lois Maxwell (James Bond's Miss Moneypenny) and Laurence Harvey co-star. 1953 | 89 min | B&W | 1.37:1 | NR
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Note - VCI touts its print of 'Twilight Women' as being the uncut 89-minute version (versus the 79-minute U.S. release), but in my player it timed out at just over 84 minutes.
THE SLASHER (aka COSH BOY, 1953) is the lesser of the two films, but it has some merits. James Kenney fully lives up the lead role of a hardened young gang leader. He's got carry the film and he does with exemplary flair. Some moments in Kenney's performance may remind viewers of Richard Attenborough in BRIGHTON ROCK. Joan Collins makes a good appearance in one of her earliest films, and we have both Hermiones, Baddeley and Gingold in supporting parts. This film has lettle true depth, it's mainly making a statement about corrupt youth of "today", but it's well worth at least one look
Far superior is TWILIGHT WOMEN (aka WOMEN OF TWILIGHT, 1952). A taut, engaging little thriller. Laurence Harvey fans may be disappointed at the actor's small role in this film, still his character's fate looms large over one of the other characters. Fine performances all around, in a story set in a boarding house for unwed mothers. This film could never have been produced in the US at the time, it's quite frank about the women's circumstances and even has a healthy dose of humor. Freda Jackson is top notch as the deceptively humanitarian landlady. René Ray is good (she looks like a British Tallulah Bankhead) and Dora Bryan is in typically fine form as is Vida Hope. Harvey's two scenes are very well acted and it's easy to see what a superb actor he would soon prove himself to be. His singing is surely dubbed, but he handles that well too. This is high melodrama, well worth seeking out.
Kenney plays Roy, the anti-social, selfish, cunning and manipulative thug, about whose short career as a petty criminal the film is about. One highlight of the film is the corporal punishment meted out to Roy by his new stepfather in the final scenes, something strikingly and splendidly un-PC. It's much more more intense and yes, satisfying in effect than any amount of more establishment-accomodating endings familiar from other films of this ilk. No attempt to improve the lad, it's too late for that - just give him what for! I'm no supporter of the belt, but by God you will be crying out for Roy, who has betrayed his girlfriend (a very young Joan Collins) his mother, his grandmother and almost everyone else) to get the taste of it by time of the end. THE SLASHER may have its weaknesses, including such an obvious black-and-white view of behaviour, but with such a poweful ending, together with Kenney's memorable performance it is a must-see.
TWILIGHT WOMEN is undoubtedly the 'better' film than this, in terms of acting, script and moral sensibilities but ironically next to the intensity and street-feel of its companion presentation feels a little anaemic. A tale of baby-farming featuring a cast of nearly all women, TWILIGHT WOMEN is still well worth seeing, even if the social mores have moved on a bit. Lawrence Harvey gets to mime a song as a club entertainer. Look also for a very young Lois Maxwell (later Bond's Miss Moneypenny) as part of the cast. Dora Bryan does well too as a prostitute (a profession only hazily alluded to) and the whole thing has a downmarket Cukor feel to it - think THE WOMEN, but as a disreputable boarding house drama.
Picture quality is excellent, although my copy has some soundtrack drop-outs during one or two moments at the start of THE SLASHER - not enough to ruin the film though.