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March 15, 2008

Never Let Go

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John Guillerman - 1960
MGM Region 1 DVD

There are two reasons to see Never Let Go. The first is to see Peter Sellers. The second is to hear John Barry's score. The film isn't too bad either.

Made after his BAFTA winning performance in I'm All Right, Jack and the hit The Mouse that Roared, I have to assume Sellers was chomping at the bit to show off his dramatic side. This is not simply Sellers in a serious role, or even Sellers as a bad guy, but Sellers as a nasty, take-no-prisoners, menacing heavy. Even though the plot involves a bunch of young car thieves led by Adam Faith, it is Sellers and star Richard Todd who get ready to rumble. Sellers is armed with a crow bar while Todd swings a heavy chain. In comparison, the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story seem so gentlemanly.

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The film is about Todd as the worst cosmetic salesman in England. The car he just bought the week before gets stolen by a gang who work for Sellers. Sellers runs his own car repair shop that he loves to stress is a legitimate business, while the hot cars get recycled through a nearby chop shop. Much to the chagrin of the police, his wife, and almost everyone else, Todd becomes obsessed with recovery of his car, which unsurprisingly was not insured. Snooping around, he gets on the trail of Faith and his gang, which eventually leads to Sellers.

Sellers lives in a well appointed pad above the garage, complete with mistress Carol White who clearly would rather be with Faith. Sellers character of Lionel Meadows may have a small fiefdom, but everyone who knows him is also in fear of him. Sellers performance is of a person so fearlessly nasty, shoving women standing in his way, breaking Faith's hand, that for a moment I thought that had his career gone a little bit differently, Sellers would have become one of the all time great James Bond villains.

Which takes us to John Barry. Never Let Go features Barry's first film score. Not exactly rock but percussion based and rockish. Not quite as good as his score for his next film, Beat Girl which was good enough to be sampled by Fatboy Slim, but more fun to listen to than almost everything he did once Hollywood came calling. Coincidentally, Adam Faith and Carol White both appeared in Beat Girl as well, a film still in need of a decent, and complete DVD edition.

Never Let Go is also one of John Guillermin's better films, made in the period between I was Monty's Double through The Blue Max, with a couple of detours to make Tarzan adventures. Bosley Crother's detested this film which may be for some reason enough to see it. Released in New York in 1963, Crowther's sums up: "How come he (Sellers) was caught in this nonsense? That itch to play Hamlet, I suppose; a desire to change his pace, which Mr. Sellers has often proclaimed he likes to do.
Anyhow, this little terror was made more than three years ago. Since then, no doubt, Mr. Sellers has resolved to avoid yielding to his whim."

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Posted by peter at March 15, 2008 12:46 AM