Hell Is Sold Out (1951/VCI DVD)
C+ Sound: C Extras: D Film: C+
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.
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.
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.
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