Birt Evidence

I was happy to pick up a DVD of BURNT EVIDENCE, directed by Daniel Birt, partly so I could title a blog post in a weak fashion, but also because I quite liked Birt’s two Dylan Thomas scripted movies, THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS, a sort of Gothic, and NO ROOM AT THE INN, a surprisingly fierce social justice piece.

BURNT EVIDENCE is co-scripted by Ted Willis, who is no Dylan Thomas but did work on THE BLUE LAMP, FLAME IN THE STREETS and WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN. The story suggests film noir but the treatment is rather desultory. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no villain, just a series of unfortunate events that get cleared up by the police. They clear them up by wrongfully arresting an innocent woman, quite intentionally, to force a witness to come out of hiding. They don’t tell the poor woman she’s not really in trouble. It astounds me what audiences will accept from their fictional cops… and their real ones.

Another astounding thing is the way Detective Inspector Donald Gray answers the phone: “Hellospeaking?” No pause. No time for anyone to ask if this is D.I. Gray or whatever the character name is. This makes no sense. Even saying “Speaking?” with a question mark on it makes no sense, like he’s asking whether he’s speaking. Clear grounds for a retake.

This isn’t a very interesting blog post but I’m trying to rescue something from the ashes of the experience of watching this film. We made so many like it. The sole bright spot is Irene Handl (top, left), making the best of a makeshift supporting role. She’s always dazzling, and as such threatens to capsize the whole shoddy vehicle. Amusingly, I then watched I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE and “leading man” Duncan Lamont turns up in that for about thirty seconds and isn’t up to the task even in that tiny context. Here he has to carry half the film.

Fortunately the same disc has THE BLUE PARROT on it, which looks like an agreeably louche tale of Soho night life.

4 Responses to “Birt Evidence”

  1. Lamont didn’t have star quality, I agree, but he had his moments. I remember liking him in The Golden Coach and The Man in the White Suit. Perhaps the explanation is that Renoir and Mackendrick brought out the best in everyone they worked with, and Birt settled for what came naturally: colour from the colourful, blandness from the bland.

    I hope you write about I Was Monty’s Double.

  2. Yeah, I forgot about those. He’s well-suited to his part in Man in the White Suit. He’s supposed to show signs of alarm in Monty and Burnt, and he just looks doleful. He seemed OK in his various Hammer films, though. Just not somebody you want as the main attraction.

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