Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:         

IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY. Ealing, UK, 1947. Googie Withers, Edward Chapman, John Slater, John McCallum, Jimmy Hanley, John Carol, Alfie Bass, Jack Warner. Written by Angus MacPhail, from the novel by Arthur La Bern. Directed by Robert Hamer.

   I hate to keep doing this, but here’s another movie few if any of you ever heard of that you must go out and watch immediately, if not sooner. Dealing with twenty-four hours, dawn to dawn, in an east-end London neighborhood, it’s crammed with sub-plots more criminous than you might think: an escaped convict (John McCallum) hiding out with an old girlfriend (Googie Withers), a few crooks who have pilfered a warehouse trying to dispose of the loot, and a wonderfully patient and droll British cop (Jack Warner) tracking things down, all this set against a detailed background peopled with characters who seem wonderfully well-realized.

   No one is unusually good or bright or heroic, nor compellingly nasty; just ordinary folks making mistakes (the stolen loot turns out to be crates of roller skates) and muddling through.

   With all the characters and their interrelations, this could have easily have gotten very confusing, particularly since everyone speaks in an East End argot hard for a stranger to decipher, but director Hamer (remembered for Kind Hearts and Coronets and part of Dead of Night) sets it all pretty straight, mainly by differentiating the cast so clearly. John Slater is particularly effective as a predatory bookie given to fits of charity (but not too many) and Hanley, Carol and Bass make a memorably inept trio of bungling burglars.

   Then too, there’s a beautifully understated scene where Withers is trying to provide for her fugitive boyfriend: she digs deep in a drawer, comes up with a carefully wrapped ring she’s been keeping ever since he gave it to her years ago, so he can pawn it. And what happens next is too good for me to spoil for you. Suffice it to say that everyone involved manages to reveal character and get the point across with a muted pathos I found quite moving.

   And then there’s the ending, a sardonic arrest in a pub (“Have one for the road boys.” “We aren’t leaving.” “Oh yes you are.”) followed by a riveting chase that just about defines film noir: all rain-swept streets, dark alleys, and a tense finale in a train yard.

   This is filmmaking at its absolute best, and one you should not miss.