BLACK MEMORY. Ambassador Bushey, UK, 1947. Michael Atkinson, Michael Medwin, Frank Hawkins, Winifred Melville, Jane Arden, Moyra O’Connell, Sydney James, Arthur Brander. Story, screenplay, assistant director: John Gilling. Director: Oswald Mitchell.

   I’ll go out on a short limb here and say that most of the names in the cast are as unknown to you as they were to me, unless you live in the UK. For several, it was one of their earliest appearances on film.

   It’s a very minor film, a crime drama, but on the other hand, what was the movie industry like in the UK in 1947? You will have to tell me, I’m sorry to say, but maybe making films this soon after the war was low on the list of the country’s priorities.

   The beginning is rather confusing. This is one of the movies in which the explanations come only as the film goes along, and good luck with that if you live in the US and British accents are sometimes decipherable and sometimes you don’t fare so well. A bigger problem, though, is that the copy I have of this rare film is not the best; the picture is somewhat faded and the sound had to be cranked up to ten.

   But given the luxury of watching the first 20 minutes or so of this film again, I took advantage of the chance I had, and I’m fairly certain I can tell you something about the story line.

   During a local disturbance of some sort (drunken louts egged on, perhaps) a man is killed, and another man who is actually innocent is arrested for the crime, tried, found guilty and hung. This takes up all of five minutes or so of running time.

   The son of the man found guilty, perhaps ten or twelve years old, is faced with a dying mother and a gang of local boys his own age who pick on him before they follow him off to a sort of orphanage/reform school, from which he quickly decamps through a open window. Another five minutes has passed.

   Ten years later, story time: The boy (now a young man) returns, takes a room with the family of his mother’s best friend. Of the two adopted daughters, one takes a shine to Danny (that’s his name), but the other, running with a tough crowd, takes up with Danny’s former tormenter, Johnnie Fletcher (Michael Medwin).

   To complicate matters, Johnnie has plans to rob the sewing factory where the two girls work. Assisting him – willingly or not – is one of the men on or near the scene where the murder took place ten years earlier.

   This was billed as a “noir” film when my copy was sold to me on DVD, and if the production values could only have been higher, it may have been a very effective vehicle in showing what life was like in postwar England for the lower classes.

   Unfortunately, it’s only in bits and pieces and occasional places that the plot rises above the purely pedestrian. If I were Leonard Maltin, the best I could give this movie would be 1½ stars out of five and I still think I’d be just a little bit generous if I did. Nonetheless, its historical significance is high, so I was glad to have had the opportunity to have seen it, and you may too.