Never Let Go (1960)
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On the violent streets of London, thieves steal cars, remodel them and sell them on the black market at the blink of an eye but this time they've met their match. OscarÂ(r)-nominee* Peter Sellers (Being There) stars as the head of a vicious auto-theft gang in this gripping underworldthriller full of grit, defiance and suspense. It's hard making a living, and for downtrodden cosmetics salesman John Cummings (Richard Todd), it gets even harder when his brand-new car ispinched. Drowning in debt and desperate to prove to his wife that he's not a failure, he'll stop atnothing to get his wheels back. But when his snooping ticks off the gang's ruthless boss (Sellers),a final showdown between the two men becomes inevitable. The only question is, who will drive away? *1979: Actor, Being There; 1964: Actor, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; 1959: Live Action Short Subject, The Running, Jumping and Standing-Still Film
Remembered dimly as Peter Sellers's only venture into "serious" acting, Never Let Go has a lot of other things to recommend it, mostly because it manages to include a lot of the lurid elements that gained it an X rating in 1960. It has a near-demented melodrama plot, as two desperate obsessives collide in a bizarre feud. Richard Todd, doing meek and put-upon, is a sales rep for smug Peter Jones's cosmetics firm whose life is turned upside down when his car is stolen by Adam Faith. Looking like an inhabitant of Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen, Sellers plays a grinning small-time crook who runs a legitimate garage that serves as a front for the car thieves and is sugar daddy to teenage tartlet Carol White. Typical of Sellers's demonic rottenness is a scene in which he breaks down-and-out Melvyn Johns's heart by stamping on his beloved terrapin. "Peanut" Todd's crusade to get back his auto (catchphrase "what about my car?") brings trouble too: he gets repeatedly beaten up, abandoned by his wife (Elizabeth Sellars), and dragged to the edge of madness for a final punch-up in a garage. With a delightfully sleazy, jazzy John Barry score, lots of the color of criminal London circa 1960, and a parade of welcome character actors (John le Mesurier, David Lodge, Noel Willman, Nigel Stock), Never Let Go has its soapy spells, but it's a fascinating relic. --Kim Newman
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The early 60s is kind of a distinct period for films from the few I've seen. Hitchcocks "Psycho" came out that year and so did the Twilight Zone.. Paul Newman's "The Hustler" in '61.. Maybe it's the just the black and white, or the cinematograpy. Or is it the styles and edgier themes? Another very good movie which I saw recently from this period (1962) was "Walk on the Wild Side" with a beautiful Jane Fonda and Laurence Harvey. I'm getting off track.. sorry. I liked this movie. Richard Todd's persistence was inspiring. And it felt somewhat historical seeing Peter Sellers in a role like this.
In a rare dramatic role, he is a ruthless and sadistic leader of a gang of car thieves. Filmed in atmospheric black and white with a jazz score (by John Barry), this is definitely a must see for fans of the genre and Sellers.
By all accounts, Sellers was a genius, but also a strange man who inhabited his characters and stayed in persona even when the director called "Cut!"
He also brought his work home with him. I read in a biography that his wife was very happy when this movie wrapped production! When you see his performance, you'll understand why.