Val Guest is one of the unsung heroes of British cinema. Working exclusively in the commercial sector he successfully tackled the major cinema genres of crime, musical, and horror, as well as war and comedy. The Showroom cinema pays tribute to him during November with three screenings of his finest films , each of which will be introduced by Dr. David Patmore of the Music Department.
First off on November 15 is Hell is a City from 1960, starring the popular Welsh actor Stanley Baker as the implacable Inspector Martineau investigating robbery and murder in Manchester and the Peak District, with a nod towards neighbouring Sheffield. Shot entirely on location, Hell is a City presents a vivid picture of Northern life in the late ‘50s, supported by a superb jazz score from Stanley Black. One of the great British crime films of the period.
Fans of rock and roll legend Cliff Richard will not want to miss the screening of Expresso Bongo on November 22. Based on the hit satirical stage musical of 1958 Expresso Bongo stars Laurence Harvey as a hungry Soho-based pop music agent looking for new stars, and finding them in the shape of the young Cliff, backed by the legendary Shadows and the alluring Sylvia Sims. With much location shooting in Soho and Central London, Expresso Bongo gets right under the skin of the world of popular music of the time.
Val Guest’s breakthrough as a film director came in 1955 with the release of The Quatermass Xperiment, to be screened on November 29. Based on Nigel Kneale’s phenomenally successful television serial broadcast to a terrified nation in 1953, The Quatermass Xperiment chronicals the impact on British society of the return from space of an infected astronaut, who mutates into a ghastly new organism that threatens to destroy life as we know it.
Val Guest’s films are notable for their vivid, fast paced story-telling, news-reel influenced photography and sharp characterisations. They are well worth re-discovering.