Brian Neve on his new study of the director, and a review by Barry Forshaw:
The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist and Zulu (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015)
Brian Neve writes: Cy Endfield’s career was often a struggle. His wartime MGM short was banned, while he left Hollywood for Britain on being blacklisted in 1951. His left-wing associations contributed to the post-war interest in crime dramas that explored class inequality and ‘false values’. The Underworld Story and The Sound of Fury/Try and Get Me! (both 1950) were elegant film noirs that discussed how class and unemployment impinged on crime and justice. As a London expatriate (like Joseph Losey) he again found work in the (low budget) crime genre. Colonel March Investigates (1953, with Boris Karloff) began as three US television pilots. From stories by John Dickson Carr, it has the suave detective (from the Scotland Yard Department of Queer Complaints) investigate bizarre crimes. Also of interest on the crime front are his The Limping Man (1954); Impulse (1954, a variation on De Toth’s 1948 Pitfall); and The Secret (1955). Hell Drivers (1957, with Stanley Baker) also deals (unusually, for The Rank Organisation) with labour competitiveness and corruption in British trucking. My book, drawing on his papers, interviews and archival sources, is the first on Endfield’s work.
… and Barry Forshaw reviews the book:
Of the director Cy Endfield, I wrote (in British Crime Film): Looking at Hell Drivers (1957) today is a reminder that the House Unamerican Activities committee did British cinema a favour by consigning left-leaning directors such as Joseph Losey to professional exile in the UK in the 1950s. Another casualty of the communist witch-hunt was Cy Endfield, who similarly produced excellent work when exiled to Britain — as with Hell Drivers, one of the most incisive Britcrime movies ever made. Endfield’s lean, taut movie about corruption among truck drivers (as aficionados will know) is clearly indebted to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, with its truck-drivers-in-peril scenario (here matched to criminality and cruelty) but so what? Endfield (whose symbiotic professional relationship with blue-collar actor Stanley Baker was to result in the memorable Zulu) rings the changes very satisfyingly — and there’s the matchless cast (one that would not have been affordable a decade or so later): Baker as the ex-con protagonist, Patrick McGoohan as a sadistic, cigarette-chewing heavy, a pre-007 Sean Connery, Peggy Cummins, Sidney James, Herbert Lom et al…
Considering that the above is hardly a minority opinion, it’s something of a surprise that the director has had to wait so long for a serious full-length study (although his career has been considered in various books on the activities of the HUAC). But in the case of Brian Neve’s highly accomplished examination of the director’s chequered career, the wait has been well worthwhile. As well as considering the exigencies of Enfield’s stop/start career, Neves is particularly sharp in his analysis of Enfield’s film work; never hagiographical (Neves is more than prepared to criticise the misfires in the filmmaker’s career – of which there are relatively few), but always ready to celebrate this maverick talent. Finally, Cy Endfield has a book worthy of his sizeable achievement.
The Many Lives of Cy Endfield by Brian Neve is published by University of Wisconsin Press