Another malevolently delightful appearance by Thesiger (BRIDE OF FRANKENSEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE) marks this superior and rarely seen British thriller directed by Arthur Woods, a highly promising filmmaker who was killed while serving in WWII. The film opens as a petty crook, Williams, is released from prison. He drifts back into the London underworld,...read more
Another malevolently delightful appearance by Thesiger (BRIDE OF FRANKENSEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE) marks this superior and rarely seen British thriller directed by Arthur Woods, a highly promising filmmaker who was killed while serving in WWII. The film opens as a petty crook, Williams, is
released from prison. He drifts back into the London underworld, meeting up with old cohorts to see if there are any good "jobs" available. Williams pays a visit to one of his old girlfriends and, finding her inert on her bed, discovers to his horror that she has been strangled with a silk
stocking. Panic-stricken, he flees the apartment, but is spotted by the nosy landlady. Fearing he will be caught and accused of murder, Williams hitchhikes out of town with friendly trucker Jeayes. At a truck stop, Williams runs into another former girlfriend, Konstam, who is herself hitchhiking
back to London. In the city Konstam, who was a close friend of the dead girl, hears about the murder and believes that Williams is innocent. Later, she and Williams run into each other again when Williams (with Jeayes) rescues Konstam from a truck driver who is attempting to force himself on her.
The thwarted rapist gets revenge by telling the police of Williams's whereabouts, forcing the fugitive and Konstam to flee back to the urban jungle of London. Williams hides out in a deserted mansion, while Konstam goes back to her job as a dance-hall girl, hoping to pick up a few clues as to the
identity of their friend's murderer. At the dance hall she meets Thesiger, a rather eccentric amateur detective and criminologist who takes a liking to Konstam and follows her home when she gets off work. While Williams eats the food Konstam has brought him, she explains to him how Thesiger may
help them find the real killer. Suddenly she screams in terror, and Thesiger is shown peering through the window. Williams manages to capture Thesiger and knock him out, bringing him inside the house. When Thesiger comes to, he is happy to meet the man wrongly accused of murder. He promises to
help the couple prove Williams's innocence and suggests that they move their hideout to his own house, where the police would be unlikely to search for Williams. The plan is agreed to and the couple soon find themselves Thesiger's guests, but several surprising turns of events await the threesome.
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT is a superbly atmospheric film that uses darkness, fog, and almost constant rain to give audiences the chills. Contributing to the mood is a magnificent performance by Thesiger as a man who can seemingly alternate between friendly, harmless charm and deadly evil in a split
second. The film was never distributed in America; instead, Warner Bros. borrowed the title and truck-driving milieu for their film starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, released in 1940. Perhaps the British thriller was lost somewhere in the shuffle, because no one saw fit to retitle it and
release it in the US.
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