Richard Attenborough plays a man falsely accused of a child’s murder in this 1950s courtroom drama, recently shown on TV in the UK, and also available here on DVD from Network. I had high hopes of this British Lion production from under-rated director Lance Comfort, which is based on a true story, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Despite some powerful moments, Attenborough doesn’t get enough scope to portray a man under pressure as memorably here as he does in The Angry Silence . This is an anti-capital punishment film, and the main question is whether innocent man Tom will take the “eight o’clock walk” of the title” (I won’t give away the answer!) – yet the tension never really builds to breaking point. Despite a short running length of under 90 minutes, the film moves at a slow pace.
At the start, kindly London taxi driver Tom Manning (Attenborough) is delayed on his way to work by Irene Evans, a little girl from the neighbourhood, who pretends she has lost her doll on a nearby bomb site. She persuades him to go to the wasteland with her, but then announces that it was all an April fool and runs away, giggling. After briefly giving chase, an indignant Tom heads off to work and forgets the whole thing. But, as Irene lingers by the riverside, a shadow looms behind her and the jingling nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ sounds. This whole scene is excellently done, creating a tense and creepy atmosphere, and child actress Cheryl Molineaux is very good as Irene. The fact that we never see her attacker makes the whole scene all the more disturbing and memorable.