Mills Does Mean, Moody and Menacing
Movies about men looking for revenge are quite common and so when I saw that the "The Long Memory" was about a man who having been released from prison looking to put right the wrong done to him I didn't expect much. Surprisingly the storyline ended up grabbing me because whilst we have this character Phillip Davidson looking for revenge the focus of "The Long Memory" is on those who need to fear him and how they react. Unfortunately whilst the storyline ended up better than expected and director Robert Hamer does a nice job of directing this moody little thriller it has one huge problem and that is dialogue which is false, dialogue which is unnatural and sounds over crafted and theatrical, it is this which sadly lets "The Long Memory" down.
Having spent 12 years inside for a murder he didn't commit Phillip Davidson (John Mills - The Way to the Stars) is out and looking to get revenge on those who lied in court to save their own skins. But his release doesn't go unnoticed as Supt. Bob Lowther (John McCallum) has his men follow him because in those 12 years Bob has married Fay (Elizabeth Sellars), a former girlfriend of Phillip's and one of the people who testified against him.
So as already mentioned, movies about revenge are not new but because "The Long Memory" focuses on those who need to fear revenge it is a little more interesting. It also gives us a nice tangled web as Phillip is looking for Fay who just happens to have married Supt. Lowther who knowing Phillip will come looking for her so has his men tail him. It is not just how Bob reacts because it is also how Fay reacts when she learns that not only is Phillip looking for her but also that Bob knows she lied on the witness stand. It becomes a case that "The Long Memory" is about what people will be driven to do when they fear something or in this case someone.
And director Robert Hamer does a nice job of bringing this story to life with some brilliant locations. you may initially think that Phillip taking residence in an abandoned boat on the beach to be a bit quirky, especially with the old beach comber he meets but the abandoned boat is not only a great location it expands when later on the movie inevitably gets to a chase, well what revenge movie doesn't have a chase. Hamer also gets across the desperation of those who fear Phillip and a scene in the London underground is terrific at getting across the sense of desperation.
As such "The Long Memory" has some terrific performances especially from Elizabeth Sellars as Fay because she delivers so much fear it is wonderful. John McCallum is just as good as her husband Bob who whilst being protective also has to deal with the conflict of being a Police Chief. Ironically the star of the movie John Mills ends up almost disappointing because as Phillip Davidson his character is just mean, moody and menacing and as such Mills' performance is all about the look, that inner rage more than anything.
The trouble is that one thing lets "The Long Memory" down and that is the dialogue, this is a movie where nearly every line a character has to say is a speech. It is false, too over the top and crafted so there is barely a character who sounds like a normal person, even the thuggish Pewsey says things that a character who is meant to be a bit slow wouldn't say.
What this all boils down to is that "The Long Memory" will grab your attention with its storyline of revenge because it approaches it slightly differently with the focus on those who need to fear it. But because the dialogue is false and over scripted it becomes a little too corny.