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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Romance > Drama > British > Hell Is Sold Out (1951/VCI DVD)

Hell Is Sold Out (1951/VCI DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: C+



Michael Anderson is a Gentleman British director who has had an interesting career, from epic Academy Award winners (Around The World In 80 Days from 1956), to notable literary adaptations (Orwell’s 1984 in 1956), to cult films (the 1975 Doc Savage), to underrated thrillers (The Quiller Memorandum (1966, reviewed elsewhere on this site), to Sci-Fi action hits (Logan’s Run (1976 reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) among others, so to see him effectively direct a simple film like Hell Is Sold Out (1961) is interesting and proof he can handle that kind of project too.


This is a sort of romantic drama/comedy without phoniness as a famous book author (the great Herbert Lom in his early leading man days) turns up alive after being assumed dead.  A book with his name on it is his biggest-selling work yet, but he did not write it!  Instead, it is by a mysterious woman (Mai Zetterling) who has even moved into his house pretending to be his wife.  This comes as a shock to his publisher/agent (comic genius Hermione Baddeley) who does not want anyone to know about the almost literal ghost writing and so the madness begins.


Never surrendering to any idiot plot formula, this adaptation of the Maurice Dekobra novel (by Moie Charles, Guy Morgan and Nick Salamon) is smart and mature, though it has dated in ways that it cannot help, it is well made and even charming at times.  It also shows the kind of classy films British cinema was producing al the time and never becomes a big screen sitcom (they did exist before TV in network radio form), thanks to Anderson and a supporting cast that sports no less than co-star Richard Attenborough, Kathleen Byron, Joan Hickson, Eric Pohlmann, Laurence Naismith and Olaf Pooley.


This is top rate product and it holds up much better than many films its age (almost 609 years old), so if you like this kind of film and have been as unhappy as we have by the vast majority of the current wanna be imitators of such storytelling, you might enjoy seeing it done well here.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image is not bad for its age, though it has some moments of softness and smearing, it also has some nice shots for the format and was shot by Director of Photography Jack Asher, who later lensed many early key thriller and monster films for the Hammer Studios.  Here, he shoots this romantic drama with ease.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is more aged and distorted, though VCI has apparently tried to fix and clean up the track.  There are no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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